From left: Sawyer King, Luke Levine, Avery Neill, Norah Horta, Isaac Cota, Drew Sloma

Destination Imagination (DI) is a global competition where students work together in teams to solve open-ended STEAM challenges designed to teach the creative process. Six students from Slack Elementary took their creative juices to the next level when they went to state competition in Arlington, Texas. The team won seventh place out of 19 teams after clinching first place at regionals in Dallas. Sawyer King, Luke Levine, Avery Neill, Norah Horta, Isaac Cota and Drew Sloma are all in fourth grade and five of the six have been competing together since first grade and are already looking forward to next year.

What did the students like about DI? According to Avery Neill who wants to be a lawyer when she grows up “EVERYTHING!”. Avery was the leader that would listen to the team’s ideas. The most challenging part of the competition to her was the contraption.

The team started working on the project at the beginning of school. The name of their project was “Piece by Piece”. Luke, who is interested in video games and wants to work at Epic Games one day, described the competition as making a puzzle but “not like a puzzle you’re thinking of,” he said.

“You make a puzzle and a skit. There are six pieces, and you make two machines. Oh, and one of the character’s points of view has to change,” said Luke. “And a water wheel in the Wild West with a Lego theme,” everyone chimed in.

“With a pulley crank that brought everything into place,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer is the master builder of the group. His favorite part of DI was going to a hotel with a pool, waiting to hear what place they received and the pizza party. He wants to be a lawyer, anesthesiologist or a video game programmer.

Drew, who participated as the narrator and a builder, mentioned the hotel stay, too. He said he loves to travel and wants to be a Major League Baseball player one day. He said the team learned a lot from this experience.

“We definitely learned teamwork because at our first practice everyone was talking over each other and the challenge didn’t get done,” Drew said. “Now we’re more on point with that.”

The team also learned perseverance.

Luke, who was a narrator, builder and timer of the group, said their second machine was having complications.

“It kept having a droopy arm,” he said. “We also had to use a horse trailer to take our props and stuff broke on the way there.”

Norah, who wants to be a software engineer, had the important job of making sure everyone uses materials wisely. She talks about a time at regionals when it was icy in Dallas and how bringing in their props was challenging with ice on the ground. She mentions several things that she enjoys about DI.

“I like spending time with some of my friends and getting to do skits. I also like to build stuff,” she said.

Isaac said they got to use some power tools to build “stuff”.

Isaac, who wants to be a candy man when he grows up making taffy and ice cream, was in charge of stats, learning how to get the most points. He said building the machine took lots of work.

“We learned how to use the jigsaw and cut PVC pipe with a table saw with supervision,” he said.

In DI timing is everything. Drew said when they first started, they were not timely.

“The first try we did the skit in 19 minutes. We had to get it down to eight!” Drew said.

Although the group didn’t advance to globals, they did receive the prestigious Renaissance award at regionals. According to the DI website, the Renaissance Award recognizes those among us who demonstrate extraordinary amounts of effort and preparation in their solutions or outstanding skill in engineering, design or performance.

Job well done to these outstanding students, coach Ashley Horta and their parents. Thanks for representing Lufkin ISD and the Slack Stallions!