Bedford Destination Imagination Teams Earn Skills, Fun, and 10 Medals at MADI Affiliate Tournament 

March 13, 2024
Bedford Destination Imagination had around 100 students across 20 teams participate in a state affiliate tournament last weekend. Ten teams received medals and six qualified to represent Massachusetts at Destination Imagination Global Finals in May. Courtesy Image

Last weekend, a marionette banana named Banana confirmed the existence of the Kingdom of Atlantis, a flying pig thwarted a jump rope contest, Mona Lisa was proven guilty of stealing the Girl with the Pearl Earring’s jewelry (to the soundtrack of ABBA and Michael Jackson), and art thieves named Peanut and Butter fell through a ghost portal while on a heist. 

These are just a handful of the original storylines Bedford students created and presented at the 2024 Massachusetts Destination Imagination Affiliate Tournament in Beverly on Sunday. 

Destination Imagination (D.I.) is a worldwide team-based problem-solving competition for students from kindergarten through college. Teams made up of two to seven students work without assistance from adults or non-team members to solve a challenge using research and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) techniques. Teams work throughout the school year preparing to present the results in a theatrical presentation at tournaments throughout the spring. 

Just under 100 Bedford students participated in D.I. this season (around half were brand new to the program) across 20 teams ranging in age from first grade through high school seniors, and supported by more than 60 adult and student volunteers. 

According to Michelle Winnett, co-Affiliate Director of Massachusetts D.I., Bedford’s students joined 1,031 students who participated on 157 teams across Massachusetts this year. It takes more than 200 volunteers to run the two state tournaments – including D.I. alumni families from Bedford, not to mention the volunteer team managers, and families that support the students each week with needed rides, many snacks, loud meetings, and messy workspaces as the solutions evolve throughout the season.

Gabe Favalora, a BHS freshman on the team French Fry Fridays, has participated in D.I. since he was in second grade. Gabe explained D.I. as the perfect mix of “creativity, problem-solving, challenges, team building, and learning.” Gabe said one of the best and most challenging parts of this season was figuring out how to use a gearbox to make one of their team props move. 

The French Fry Fridays also used computer programming, electronics, woodworking, furniture design, sewing and fashion design, painting, and even musical composition, and performance as part of their presentation that earned a first-place medal in the Senior Level Fine Arts Challenge. 

Favalora’s mother and team manager Jenn Cunningham, also the President of Bedford D.I., reported “Bedford continued our amazing track record of competitive success this year, with half of our teams earning medals at the competition.” 

The top two highest scoring teams in each age and challenge category at the state affiliate tournament were invited to represent Massachusetts at the international level in the Destination Imagination Global Finals in Kansas City in May. Ten of the Bedford teams received medals for first, second, or third place with six teams receiving invitations to the Global Finals. 

In addition, two teams (a successful veteran eighth grade team Destination Procrastination, and a brand new to D.I. third grade team – The Explorers) earned Renaissance Awards, one of the highest honors in D.I., for extraordinary effort and preparation of solutions, and a Bedford student (Jane Stewart) was awarded a competitive Jean Josie Scholarship Award for a graduating senior.

As significant an accomplishment as the honors, Cunningham explains “every student, parent, and team manager will tell you that it’s the process, not the outcome, that matters most in Destination Imagination.”

The Star Streakers, a team participating in the Engineering Challenge, are in their third year of D.I. Team managers, Anne Caron and Kelly Korenak, even before finding out about the team’s second place finish and the invitation to the Global Finals, said this was the team’s most successful year yet because the kids worked together and learned new skills through the season, including woodworking and sewing. 

The Star Streakers team and team managers celebrated a second place finish in the elementary level Engineering challenge. Photo Jenny Stewart

The kids – Sarina, Nina, Charlotte, Calvin, Eli, Peter, and Will – had a lot to say about their experience and what they learned as they built a device that could be taken apart and reconfigured in two different ways to propel beanbags as part of their performance. It wasn’t so much about learning woodworking, but learning resilience that left an impact on the fifth graders. 

Sarina said, “D.I. is about making mistakes and learning from the mistakes.” She explained a quote she’s learned in school that was something along the lines of “failure is the only teacher that you have to do it before it gives you a lesson.” 

Nina agreed and said she learned to “carry on,” and Charlotte “learned to fix the mistakes.” Calvin and Eli added that D.I. is about “determination,” “making challenges,” “learning,” and “having fun.”  

Abby Dantas, a third-grade student on the Massachusetts Mischief Makers team, said her favorite part of D.I. is learning to do what the team wants to do without the help of parents. Abby’s favorite lesson this season was soldering a string of LED lights as part of her team’s set design. The team of five 8-and 9-year-olds also built a self-propelled robotic cat, made costumes, wrote and memorized a script and song, researched art history, and more as part of their solution. 

Abby Dantas, participating on Massachusetts Mischief Makers, shows off the robot cat her team of third grade students made for the elementary level Fine Arts challenge. Photo Jenny Stewart

David Dantas, Abby’s father who also has a fifth-grade daughter participating in D.I. on the team Raccoons Eating Moon Cheese, said the program is “awesome.” Dantas can see the “life lessons” his kids learn through the program, specifically “how to think, how to learn skills, how to coordinate with a team, and how to finish it all in time.”  

The middle level Fine Arts team Destination Procrastination qualified for Global Finals for the second year in a row, and is easily recognized (even before receiving the Renaissance Award identifying among other things, their extensive ornate hand-made spackle filigree on a prop piece) for the amount of time, detail, quality, and creativity put into the team’s props. The six Destination Procrastination team members said their key to success and time management is “a seven-hour marathon work session the day before the tournament.” 

Heather Cooprider, D.I. Board member, Team Manager, and a parent to three current or former D.I. kids, said, “This has been such an amazing program for my kids for the past 10 years.” Her son Peter Cooprider, a first-year D.I. participant on the third-grade team Creative Creatures, discovered he loves performing. “He really enjoyed the applause” in his first year, according to his mom. 

Cooprider’s eldest, a high school senior, favors art and is a 10-year veteran of D.I. on the Skittleworms team. Heather Cooprider explained that Ada has been offered scholarships to post-secondary art programs, and according to the admissions departments, the offers are due directly to Ada’s participation in D.I. 

Bedford MADI graduates five seniors this year from The Skittleworms, (L-R:) Evan Kelly, Rachael Hsu, Ada Cooprider, Jane Stewart, and Toby Favalora. The team received first place honors in the senior level Scientific Challenge this year. Photo Jenny Stewart

Ada explained that participating in D.I. has challenged her as an artist and without the interference of adults or the constraints of a specific assignment, materials, or ideas has allowed her a lot of freedom and inspiration in construction and concepts. Ada’s projects have combined engineering, functionality, and using recycled or low budget materials (D.I. projects must fit within a small budget encouraging the use of recycled materials) that can be seen on a stage. When applying to colleges, the feedback on Ada’s portfolio focused on her innovation in her creative process which is unusual in art and special in the way Ada carries it out. 

Ada said, “I have that skill because of D.I.” Although the first thing Ada mentioned is that D.I. has given her a great set of friends over the past decade.  

Ada, and her team, The Skittleworms – Toby Favalora, Rachael Hsu, Evan Kelly, and Jane Stewart – graduate this year after a decade of success together at the local, state, international, and personal level.

Cunningham said, “D.I. celebrates all the effort and persistence it takes to make what these kids see in their mind’s eye into a tangible reality. It’s magical to watch it all come together each season.”

Bedford MADI 2023-2024 teams included (by age): 

  • The Skittleworms (1st place medal) (12th grade students)
  • French Fry Fridays (1st place medal) (9th grade students)
  • Faziwackteem (8th grade students)
  • Destination Procrastination (1st place medal and Renaissance Award) (8th grade students)
  • Koo Koo Coconuts (7th grade students)
  • The Team that Wasn’t Prepared (3rd place medal) (7th/8th grade students)
  • Space Spies (3rd place medal) (6th grade students)
  • JEAVPED (6th grade students)
  • The Star Streakers (2nd place medal) (5th grade students)
  • Raccoons Eating Moon Cheese (5th grade students)
  • The Black Mambas (5th grade students)
  • Legendary Lions (2nd place medal) (4th grade students)
  • The Dream Team (4th grade students)
  • Toasted Bagels (3rd place medal) (4th grade students)
  • Crazy Bananas (3rd place medal) (3rd grade students)
  • Massachusetts Mischief Makers (3rd grade students)
  • The Wacko Warriors (3rd grade students)
  • Creative Creatures (3rd grade students)
  • The Explorers (1st place medal and Renaissance Award) (3rd grade students)
  • The Golden Eagle Imaginators (1st grade students)

Information on Bedford Destination Imagination, including being added to the mailing list, registration for next year, and to learn how to donate to teams heading to Global Finals (not all teams that qualify will be able to attend due to finances and/or scheduling) can be found at https://bedfordmadi.org.

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