Three teams of Bedford Public Schools students flew 1,400 miles to Kansas City, Missouri, last week to represent Massachusetts in an international problem solving competition.
And three teams of Bedford Public Schools students returned to Bedford this week after being recognized on Tuesday night as three of the top teams in the world in their age groups. It’s not a small feat.
As a global organization, Destination Imagination (DI) reports an impact on more than 150,000 students in 42 U.S. states, seven Canadian provinces, 28 countries, and six continents each year. Only around 0.1 percent of those students involved reach the level the Bedford students did this past week. The Bedford teams’ accomplishments, along with top 10 finishes from a Westborough and a Salem team, helped Massachusetts Destination Imagination (MADI) accomplish its most successful year in MADI’s history.
Teams of students involved in DI began preparing solutions to a chosen challenge in the fall and competed in regional and state level tournaments through the spring. Teams are scored on a rubric that includes not only a list of required technical elements, but also creativity, ingenuity, skill, and teamwork. The top ranking teams at each age level (Elementary, Middle, and Secondary) by state or country affiliate are eligible to move on to the international Global Finals competition.
The Space Spies, a team of fifth graders from Lane School, Destination Procrastination, a team of seventh graders from JGMS, and The Skittleworms, a team of 11th graders from BHS, all placed first in their age level in the scientific event of the Massachusetts competition in March and were invited to move on to the worldwide level competition.
The Global Finals competition is a four-day event celebrating creativity, planned to optimize and encourage interactions between teams of students from the Opening Ceremony parade of affiliates to the Closing Ceremony laser light show. The event included keynote speaker and DI alum Daniel Sheinert, celebrations, a block party with street performers, workshops, shows, organized activities, time to watch other teams compete, and time to browse the convention center space (over eight football fields in size) that served as a storage, work, and practice area for teams. Attendees also traded custom designed metal pins with other attendees that represent students’ team, state, interests, and/or country.
The Space Spies, the majority of whom found out about their second place finish while watching the Closing Ceremonies live stream in the airport heading home (Gretchen Heid, Team Co-Manager of the Space Spies along with Amy Smith, said, “We all just started screaming! The TSA agent was even excited for us!”) almost unanimously agreed that pin trading with kids from around the world was one of the best parts of Global Finals. Their other highlights during their first trip to Global Finals included “hanging out with teammates,” seeing the Bedford teams support each other and watch each others’ performances, and “strutting their stuff on the catwalk” as the team showed off their homemade duct tape costumes at the “Box and Ballers Bash” block party.
Destination Procrastination (the middle level team that placed fifth) team member Ridhi Yanala said, “Globals was an amazing experience because we got to see a bunch of new teams and make friends from different states and around the world.”
Yanala’s team member, Veronica Decerbo, said that her favorite part of the experience was “feeling really happy and relieved right after competing.” She said that Destination Imagination is very hard and added that “Teams really have to work together and concentrate, but the hard work pays off.”
As with the other Bedford teams attending Global Finals, some Destination Procrastination team members have been teammates for at least a few years to know how to work together. Destination Procrastination Team Manager Chialin Kao was “really encouraged” by the team’s fifth place recognition to know that after all of the hard work the teams’ props were “global level quality.” She reported that the seventh graders “had a blast” on their first visit to Global Finals. Kao said, “it was such a good experience” that the team is already motivated to work hard to make it back in the future.
2023 marks the fifth time qualifying and the third time attending Global Finals for The Skittleworms. The Skittleworms collected third place Global Finals trophies in 2017, 2019, and 2023, as well as a 10th place in a virtual Global Finals in 2021. This year was likely the last trip to Global Finals for the team of juniors since senior week events in Bedford tend to coincide with the timing of the international tournament.
Jennifer Cunningham, Bedford Destination Imagination Board President and team manager of The Skittleworms, said, “It was such a special experience for these three Bedford teams to be able to share in this event. At its heart, DI is about teamwork. I’m proud of the culture of collaboration we have created at every level of our program with both students and adult volunteers always ready to encourage each other and cheer each other on in Bedford and on the Global stage.”
Heid reflected on the Space Spies accomplishments, “The kids worked so hard this season. They are the nicest group of kids to work with and are so supportive of each other. We are so proud of them!” Cunningham believes this sentiment to be true, not only for all three Bedford Global Finals teams, but for the more than 100 students who participated in Bedford Destination Imagination this year.
Bedford DI thanks Ultragenyx, Massport, the Rotary Club of Bedford, Varallo Orthodontist, Empow Studios, Einstein’s Workshop, Cambridge Children’s Dentistry, Stoneham Bank, and Ginger Japanese Restaurant for grants and sponsorships to cover the registration and prop transportation fees to Global Finals.