A team of high school students from the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) won second place at the May 20 to 23 Destination Imagination Global Finals in Kansas City, Missouri.
Destination Imagination (DI) is an international organization that aims to promote science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mechanics (STEAM) education for K-12 students. The Global Finals event is the final round of DI’s Challenge Experience competition where teams from around the world develop unique and creative solutions to one of six challenges.
The team, which is entirely extracurricular and is not affiliated with any schools, consists of six teens from LWSD high schools with a passion for creating awareness about the quality of school lunches. They chose to compete in the DI Service Learning Challenge, which centers on addressing community issues.
Arin Barde, 16, is a student at Eastlake High School who has been involved in DI for the past nine years. He and his team have been working on this project since last August, sometimes meeting for up to eight hours a day. The project involved using STEAM skills learned from DI to develop a solution to a problem.
“We learned a lot of skills over the last few years, so we’d like to see how [they] can actually make a change in our community,” said Barde.
The team’s project included components such as an Instagram page that posts nutritional information and LWSD high school lunch schedules, and most notably a self-sustaining vertical garden that grows bean plants at the Eastlake High School greenhouse. Barde explained that, in his years of participating in DI, he has specialized in the circuitry technology Arduino, which he used to build a motorized sprinkler system that turns over once a day and waters the plants for a specified amount of time.
To encompass their efforts over the past year and present them to an audience and a panel of appraisers, the team decided to create a musical play.
“Something has to tie it all together, and we figured nothing really hits people like music,” said Barde.
Utilizing engineering principles, the team built a complex two-story backdrop with up and down mechanisms, created sets, and props. They first performed the number at the regional and state events, which allowed them to successfully advance to global finals.
Over the four-day finals event, in addition to assembling their props and preparing for their presentation, the team was able to participate in engaging workshops, explore Kansas City, and attend the event’s keynote address, given by Daniel Scheinert, an Oscar-winning co-writer and co-director of the film Everything, Everywhere all at Once.
While the team did surpass their goals for the global competition, Barde said that the real success was being able to showcase and raise awareness of their efforts to a larger audience. He explained that the more people they reach as part of this challenge, the more people they are able to educate about school nutrition.
Team member Arisha Gupta, 16, has participated in DI for nine years and has been to four global finals in the past. She says this year was one of the best finals she has attended because of the connections she grew with her team and the experience of seeing other teams perform.
“Not only do you get to learn a lot about what else you could do, but it’s so cool how other people use their creativity in different ways and how one challenge can result in so many unique projects,” said Gupta.