Student Competitions

Destination Imagination Launches Annual Challenge Program

Destination Imagination is launching its 2016-17 Challenge Program, designed to supply students with the skills they will need to survive in the 21st century economy and workforce.

The challenge is a school year-long program that begins with teams at local schools working on hands-on projects that emphasize science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). The teams of up to seven members then demonstrate their projects at regional competitions and eventually 1,400 finalist teams, made up of 8,000 students from kindergarten through college, compete in the Global Finals held each May in Knoxville, TN.

Begun in 1982, the challenge last year involved more than 150,000 students in 48 states and 30 countries.

Each year, Destination Imagination designates new challenges demonstrating different skills for students to work together to solve. This year's challenges include:

  • Technical (Show & Tech), which will ask teams to write and present a story on a stage they build, adding at least one technical effect;
  • Scientific (Top Secret) will require teams to research cryptography and steganography and then incorporate the techniques into an original script. They also design and build a gadget that appears to be an everyday item;
  • Engineering (In It Together) will ask teams of students to design, build and test multiple freestanding structures that work together to support as much weight as possible, all while developing and presenting a collaborative solution to a global issue;
  • Fine Arts (Vanished!) will encourage teams to research the meanings, roles and uses of color before presenting a team-created story about how the disappearance of a single color changes the world. The teams must use technical theater methods to create a vanishing act;
  • Improvisation (3Peat), which will ask teams to create and present three improvisational sketches from the same story prompt and present each sketch in a different performance genre;
  • Service Learning/Project Outreach (Ready, Willing & Fable) will require that teams identify, design, plan and carry out a project that addresses a real community need, then create a live presentation of a team-created fable that integrates information about the project; and
  • Early Learning/Rising Stars (Save the Day), students in preschool through second grade, will use simple machines to create and build a new invention and then present a play about how the new invention saves the day.

During the first part of the school year, teams will work on their projects. Then, in the first part of the calendar year, they will compete in regional competitions where they will be judged not only by category but by grade level. Team projects will be scored on originality, workmanship, presentation and teamwork.

High-scoring teams will advance to state- or country-level competitions and then finally to the global finals.

"Our annual Destination Imagination Challenge Program provides future scientists, engineers, artists, entrepreneurs and creators a fun opportunity to explore real-world issues," said Destination Imagination CEO Chuck Cadle, "while at the same time acquiring these important skills needed in the 21st century."

For more information on participating, go to

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.