Local Destination Imagination teams represent Texas at Global Finals 

Vandegrift’s VHS1 Destination Imagination team earned 1st place at DI Global Finals: Managers: Jake Leffler and Cindy Reynolds; Members: Sameeksha Jayaprakash, Xavier Leffler, Adrian Rapier, Rachel Reynolds, Adi Suresh, Gigi Suresh

Vandegrift HS 1 1st place – engineering challenge “Roll With It” (Global Finals) 1st place – engineering (Lone Star Finals) 1st place – instant challenge (Lone Star Finals) 4th place – extreme challenge (Lone Star Finals) 1st place – engineering (Heart of Texas Region) 1st place – extreme (Heart of Texas Region) Team manager: Jake Leffler and Cindy Reynolds Team members: Sameeksha Jayaprakash, Xavier Leffler, Adrian Rapier, Rachel Reynolds, Adi Suresh, Gigi Suresh For the engineering challenge this year, the team had to create a vehicle entirely out of wood and glue that would roll down a ramp, collide with a pole, and then see how much weight it could hold before it broke. They also had to create a story about a character that becomes a legend while overcoming an “insurmountable obstacle”. In addition, they had to build and include a rotating object in their performance. The Vandegrift team also received Renaissance Awards at region and state tournaments which “recognize teams who demonstrate extraordinary amounts of effort and preparation in their solutions or outstanding skill in engineering, design or performance.”

Vandegrift Destination Imagination team VHS1 won 1st place at Destination Imagination Global Finals, their second 1st place finish in as many years. Last year, they won 1st place in the scientific challenge. This year, the team tried the engineering challenge for the first time. This is the 8th year solving DI challenges for most of the team members.

“My favorite part about DI Global Finals was being back in person and having the opportunity to meet teams from all around the world. It was such a rewarding experience to learn about their different cultures and journeys through Destination Imagination,” said Sameeksha Jayaprakash, Viper team member. “Being able to walk around the enormous convention center, talking to those who share the same passion as me, and seeing their wonderful innovations was the most educational and rewarding experience that I could ever have.”

Destination Imagination hosted Global Finals in Kansas City May 21-24. This year was the first time since 2019 that teams competed in person for Global Finals.

There were 440 teams competing at Global Finals this year including four from the Four Points area, fewer than 2019 because there were still many countries that wouldn’t allow their teams to travel due to COVID outbreaks.

“It was great being able to see all the amazing teams and creations from around the world again in person,” said Jake Leffler, team manager for VHS1. 

Other local teams included a first year competitive team of 3rd graders made from a combined team of Steiner Ranch Elementary and Laura Bush Elementary team members (the “SteinerBush – Reading Robots”) received 4th place in the service learning challenge.

Another qualifying Vandegrift team, the Cowboy Pigeons, received 12th place in the fine arts challenge.

The International School of Texas team, Trailblazers, received 14th place in the technical challenge.

The local DI teams saw incredible costumes by a service learning team from Korea, a funny improvisation team from Pakistan, impressive devices created by a technical team from Poland, and a 12-foot ferris wheel created by a team from Washington, Leffler said.

“But we missed having Ukraine at Global Finals. This year, there were 49 Ukrainian teams, none of which were able to compete in any tournaments because the invasion started right before all their regional tournaments were going to begin,” Leffler shared.

There was a display dedicated to the teams from Ukraine featuring a video including interviews from several Ukraine teams describing their situation.

Getting to Globals has been in the works since September. 

This year, 18 teams competed in the DI Regional Tournament representing the Four Points area elementary schools, middle schools, and Vandegrift. 

Eight of the 18 Four Points teams qualified for state – Lone Star Finals – at their regional tournament, and four of those eight went on to compete in Global Finals.

The challenges are released in September, and the teams work on their solutions until their Regional Tournament. If they advance, they compete in the Lone Star Finals held at The University of Texas in Arlington at the beginning of April.  

At a tournament, teams are given 8 minutes or less to present their solution to a panel of appraisers, and their score from this central challenge is worth 75% of their score at the tournament. The other 25% of their score comes from an instant challenge that the team is given in a private room, and they have no idea what that will be until it is revealed right before they are given 5 minutes to solve it.

No one outside the student team members are allowed to contribute ideas or even help the kids fix anything in their solutions. The kids are taught early that they need to create everything themselves, and if a parent offers to help or offers ideas, they politely decline. 

“It’s amazing to watch them brainstorm, make decisions, overcome obstacles throughout the year, and create the most amazing solutions. The skills these kids continue to learn will make them incredibly valuable in the future.” Leffler said.

The local Global Finals teams received some support from Leander ISD and Heart of Texas Region Creative Problem Solving Organization throughout the year.