Bedford MADI Earns 4 medals and 14 Successful performances at State Tournament

March 16, 2023
Some of the near ninety Bedford Students preparing for the parage and awards ceremonies at the Massachusetts Destination Imagination tournament at Beverly Middle School on Sunday. Courtesy Image.

This past Sunday 14 teams of Bedford students took part in a Massachusetts Destination Imagination (MADI) competition at Beverly Middle School in Beverly. 

Destination Imagination (DI) is a worldwide STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) team competition for students from kindergarten through college. Students in teams of two to seven choose one of seven problem-solving challenges to prepare throughout the school year, and present their technical solutions within a theatrical performance at a tournament in front of a panel of judges. 

The students are not allowed any coaching or assistance on ideas or hands-on help in creating solutions from adults or anyone outside of the team of students. Solutions and presentations typically include engineering and design projects, combined with team constructed costumes, scenery, and props, presented using theatrical and musical skills, all limited to a small budget that encourages the use of recycled materials. 

In addition to presenting solutions worked on over the course of five months, as part of the competition, teams also perform in a spontaneous contest called the Instant Challenge that appraises quick thinking teamwork, creativity, and improvisational acting and/or engineering skills. 

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The fourth-grade team, The Star Streakers, chose to perform in the Engineering Challenge that required constructing a roller coaster from a limited number of materials. Courtesy Image

For almost everyone involved in Destination Imagination, tournaments are about showcasing and celebrating creativity, ingenuity, innovation, talent, resilience, and teamwork gained throughout the year’s work, rather than competition. At tournaments, teams and families watch other teams’ performances, and the hallways are full of people complimenting and marveling over each other’s costumes, scenery, and challenge solutions. The day culminates in a team parade and awards ceremony. 

The nearly 90 Bedford students who participated in DI this year ranged from first grade through high school juniors. The youngest students (kindergarten through second grade) perform in a non-competitive showcase, while the other teams vie for the opportunity to advance to the Global Finals competition (May 20-23 in Kansas City), which historically includes thousands of students on teams from 42 U.S. states and 28 countries across six continents.

Massachusetts held two tournaments this year. Bedford MADI competed against teams from 29 other communities in Massachusetts, sorted by the team’s chosen challenge (technical, engineering, scientific, fine arts, improvisational, or service learning) and age group (elementary, middle school, or high school). The first-place teams in each division are invited to represent Massachusetts at Global Finals.

After receiving a first-place medal at a regional competition in 2020 and a third-place medal at the state level in 2022, Destination Procrastination manager Kao said this year the seventh-grade team was “determined.” They received first-place medals in the middle-level Scientific Challenge on Sunday achieving the goal they set at the start of the season. Courtesy Photo

Three Bedford teams, The Space Spies (elementary team managed by Amy Smith and Gretchen Heid), Destination Procrastination (middle level team managed by Chialin Kao), and the Skittleworms (senior level team managed by Jenn Cunningham), all competing in the Scientific Challenge, received first place medals and an invitation to Global Finals. 

A scoring element of the high school team The Skittleworms, was a parrot costume with from wings created from recycled plastic bags, and a helmet with a beak that moved when the parrot talked. Courtesy Image.

The Skittleworms, high school juniors who started competing together as far back as first grade, received the highest Instant Challenge score of the tournament and a Renaissance Award, one of the highest honors in DI. A Renaissance Award recognizes the demonstration of “extraordinary amounts of effort and preparation in their solutions or outstanding skill in engineering, design, or performance.” 

Sarina Younger, a fourth-grade student on the Star Streakers team, said, “The tournament was really fun and exciting. DI is also really hard. You have to solve challenges and improvise if something goes wrong.”

Kym Bullough, co-manager with Leslie Savoy of the elementary team named Team United Fat Tails, had to watch her team struggle with something going wrong at the tournament. With outside intervention and assistance not allowed, the adults could only watch. “Right before our team’s presentation, one of their technical tools stopped working and the backdrop fell apart. As a team manager, I was so nervous that their presentation was going to be a disaster. But the team worked together to help put the backdrop back up and troubleshoot fixing their tool. In the end, everything went smoothly and they did fantastic!” The team did fantastic enough to collect Bedford’s only other medal at the tournament, a third-place finish for their solution in the Technical Challenge. 

Bullough said the team’s first-year of participation was a great opportunity and experience. Bullough’s third grader on Team United Fat Tails, Nathan, said that his favorite part of DI this year was “being able to use lots of stuff to engineer and build things.”

Three other Bedford teams came close to crossing the awards stage with fourth place finishes. The Star Streakers (managed by Anne Caron and Kelly Korenak) performed in the engineering challenge requiring teams to build a roller coaster for a ball using a limited number of materials and create a performance integrating the coaster. Team Faziwackteem, a middle level team managed by Leah Walton, performed in the Fine Arts Challenge that required integrating theatrical and literary techniques into a performance with changing scenery. And the Taco Thursdays, a fifth-grade team managed by Maureen Lally, earned fourth place in the largest division of the competition, the Fine Arts elementary level challenge. 

A 5th grade team, The Taco Thursdays, built a 15-foot Hogwarts Express as part of their team solution in the Fine Arts Challenge. Courtesy Image.

Lally, talking about the Taco Thursdays’ solution, said they “flipped the script of Harry Potter and told a new tale from Ginny’s perspective – complete with handmade costumes and train snacks; two very funny similes for comedic relief; and most impressive of all, a 15-foot long replica of the Hogwarts Express that held four kid passengers, one hidden driver, and rolled across the presentation area on wheels.” The Taco Thursdays also received the top score in their large division’s Instant Challenge, which Lally cited demonstrated “incredible teamwork, creativity, patience, and collaboration.”

Arden M. Randazzo, a student on the Taco Thursdays, has been involved in DI for three years and explained “DI requires a lot of teamwork and dedication, from the planning process to script writing and building, to putting it all together, but seeing the finished product after 4 months of hard work is one of the greatest feelings.”

Other teams representing Bedford MADI this year included The Creative Cobras, The Bedford Baddies, The French Fry Fridays, The Holy Cheese, The Champion Tigers, The Golden Lions, and The Chaotic Cacti. 

After the tournament, Bedford MADI Board President Jenn Cunningham reported, “We are so happy to be celebrating the end of a successful season! Each year, kids stretch themselves in unexpected ways as they learn new technical and artistic skills and also learn how to collaborate and communicate to create a product together that honors each student’s individual contribution as a whole that winds up being so much more than the sum of its parts.  Every year, I find the teamwork a little bit magical.”

For families interested in participating in Destination Imagination during the 2023-2024 school year, Cunningham said that “enrollment opens in September and new teams start meeting in October or November.” To be notified when registration opens, interested parties can fill out the interest form at https://forms.gle/KH8M1kwmj2XtCvN76”  

Randazzo said, “I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to make friends and work together to find solutions to difficult problems.” Younger added, “I’m already looking forward to next year’s challenges and hopefully winning!”

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