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A group of fifth-graders at John Gregg Elementary are celebrating after earning second place for their challenge at the state Destination Imagination competition.

   Destination Imagination, or D.I., is an educational program formerly known as Odyssey of the Mind in which teams in grades K-12 work throughout the year to solve open-ended challenges and present their solutions beginning with the regional tournament, which was held locally at Union Local High School in Morristown this March. Each challenge participant gains knowledge and experience in areas including creative and critical thinking, project management, team building, conflict resolution, STEM, perseverance and a completion mindset.

   Operation Escape, a team including Beckett Dopp, Connor Richardson, Nate Myers, Lillian Magby, Olivia Ferguson, Lindsey Howell and Daleanee Devore, earned top spot during the Region 17 contest and advanced to the state competition in Centerville. They were second in the technical challenge out of 18 teams during that event on April 2. District D.I. Coordinator Kelly Dopp said the team received an assignment last fall to build electronic and non-electronic devices for a challenge and interweave a story. The students’ plot involved taking an artifact in a cursed jungle and overcoming obstacles with the devices they created. Dopp was thrilled with the team’s success and said they worked hard to earn their achievement, plus many have served for a very long time.

   “The core group has been together since first grade and we added members over the years,” she said.

   Team members said it was amazing and they were very proud of their accomplishment, noting that they previously earned second place last year but were unable to attend a state competition because of the pandemic.

  “It felt pretty good. We were happy we got to go to the states,” said Connor Richardson. “We won first place in regionals before but couldn’t go because of COVID.”

   “We were happy to win,” added Lindsey Howell.

   “We all suggested things,” said Beckett Dopp of their assignment. “We got our assignment and worked on it since October and went to the regionals in March.”

    They added that the best part was teamwork, creativity and being with the people involved, plus they built things and gained confidence to perform in front of others.

   “We learned to work together,” added Daleanee Devore.

   “Sometimes a silly idea can go a long way and you can get an entire story,” Richardson concluded.

    There are a total of four D.I. teams within the district and the others include Peppa and George at John Gregg with Sydney Newburn and Willow Rhine, which placed first at regionals in the fine arts challenge; The Extemporaneous Edisons featuring Nate Kline, Nick Kline, Ronin Hartman, Mayelee Rawson, Silas Clifton and Payton Markert of Stanton Elementary that competed regionally in the improv challenge; and The Edison Engineers at John Gregg with Alise Patel, Casher Dopp, Madi Keister and Brody Champion, who took part in the scientific challenge.