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A little imagination goes a long way – to Tennessee, actually

The team was tasked with creating an “Incredible Sound Machine”

A little imagination took a group of Carihi students all the way to Tennessee last month, as finalists in the global Destination Imagination science challenge.

The quintet of students, assembled by teacher Brittany Renooy and spanning Grades 9 through 12, qualified with placement in both regional and provincial contests in the international challenge.

“It celebrates creativity, imagination, collaboration and creative thinking,” said Renooy. “It’s really a 21st-century learning model, and what the job force is looking for.”

In trying to round up students interested in the science-based challenge, Renooy found willing participants in students Austin Chiasson, Arlen Cox, Dawson Jordan, Gurleen Mann and Kristine Osachuk.

The team was tasked with creating an “Incredible Sound Machine” that created two distinct sounds. The students further had to create visualizations for each sound, and to narrate two different stories about the sounds.

The challenge did not demand a high-tech masterpiece with application in industry. Rather, Renooy said, with a budget limited to $100 CN the students assembled a “Rube Goldberg” contraption with vacuum hoses, a hammer, marbles, tin can, bike wheel, ceramic bell and various weights. The visualization element added ribbon and tiny LED lights.

“It took them a while to get started,” Renooy admitted. “There was definitely a learning curve. With each of them coming from different grades, they had to get to know each other, figure out how they were going to tackle it and who had the best ideas.”

In the end, the quintet divided responsibilities, with different leaders taking on the machine, the visualizations and the stories.

Each of the competitions also included an “instant challenge” in which the students enter a room with no idea what to expect and are given five to six minutes to come up with a solution to a problem. At the provincials, that involved using props to tell a story, with props representing building supplies that in turn were used to build a boat. The boat’s seaworthiness was tested by loading marbles into it until is sank.

The team placed in the top three in the B.C. finals to earn a berth in the global challenge at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Despite sponsorship help from several local businesses, only Jordan, Mann and Osachuk were able to attend because of travel expenses and scheduling conflicts. Also, baggage restrictions for the international trip forced the Carihi team to reconfigure a scaled-down version of their machine.

“To get it there, they had to fit it into a suitcase,” Renooy said. “And they had to change a story because one of the characters in the original was one of the students who couldn’t go on the trip.”

The reduced team spent six days in Tennessee, sharing their project and taking in the other entries. They also toured a traveling exhibit set up by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldren of Apollo moon-landing fame, workshops by both NASA and Walt Disney animators and even an appearance by Paula Abdul.

“There was so much to see and do at the university,” said Renooy.