By Jason Wesseldyk
The Destination Imagination team from Alamo Elementary School in Otsego has conquered the state of Michigan.
Now, it has its sights set on the world.
The five-member Bubble Buddies team took first place in their division at the 2022 State Tournament on Saturday, March 26. Next up is the Global Finals in Kansas City, Mo., from Saturday, May 21, through Tuesday, May 24.
Terry Webber and Jamie Siegler serve as team managers for the Bubble Buddies, which includes team members Melody Begeman, Jack DeBoer, Kyla Haak, Rowan Ingold and Cain Kortlandt.
“Jamie and I are so proud of our team,” Webber said.
Destination Imagination is a global competition focused on STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and math. DI focuses on creativity in problem solving and the importance of teamwork, communication and asking the right questions to find solutions.
Competitions include two challenges: a Central Challenge for which students have been preparing throughout the school year and an Instant Challenge that teams receive at the event and must work together to solve on the spot. Students are aware of potential Instant Challenges—during which they might be asked to complete a task, create a performance or do a combination of both—but don’t know which one they’ll be asked to complete until the competition.
The Bubble Buddies started the State Tournament with the Instant Challenge.
“The team performed well during the Instant Challenge,” Webber said.
Then came the Central Challenge, which proved to be a bit more nerve-racking.
Having selected fine arts for its Central Challenge from a list that also included technical, scientific, improvisational, engineering, service learning and early learning, the Bubble Buddies were preparing to head to the performance site. That’s when one of the team members began to feel ill and had to make a quick exit to the bathroom.
Rather than panic, though, the other four members began reorganizing the performance to cover for the missing individual.
“The team had previously prepared in case a team member was absent, so they pretty much knew what they needed to do,” Webber said. “They quickly started talking about who could cover the role of the missing team member. They had only minutes to prepare before they were asked to move into the performance area.”
As it turned out, the team member who had become ill returned just as the Bubble Buddies were being introduced and everyone was able to revert to their original roles.
“The team member was warmly welcomed back, put on her costume and prepared to perform,” Webber said. “The team was introduced and gave a stellar performance.”
The poise displayed by the Bubble Buddies during the situation didn’t escape the attention of the event officials. As a result, the Alamo team received the coveted Spirit of DI Award, which is given in recognition of being “superior role models in the areas of spirit, teamwork, sportsmanship and volunteerism.”
“When one team member took sick minutes before the performance, the team sprang into action and quickly reconfigured their performance,” officials said in a statement. “There was not one complaint or moment of hesitation. The team showed true concern for their teammate and had clearly developed deep and trusting bonds, knowing just what to do. In the prep area, one minute before performance, the sick team member returned and again the team adapted, celebrated, and demonstrated everything that is good about DI. Bravo to this team for embodying the motto, ‘The show must go on!’”
This marked the first time a team coached by Webber and Siegler had received the Spirit of DI Award.
“We were especially proud of how (the team members) jumped into action to figure out a solution to the missing team member dilemma and how they welcomed her back when she returned,” Webber said. “It didn’t seem to faze them at all, but we know that certain members were very nervous.”
The Bubble Buddies originally started in May of last year after it was announced Destination Imagination competitions would resume following a two-year hiatus due to COVID.
“Jamie and I missed being part of the Destination Imagination program, so we got a team together as soon as we could,” Webber said.
The team started meeting again once school restarted last August and, following a few personnel changes, the current team has been together since last October.
Practices took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with four-hour team meetings taking place on Saturdays in January and February to work on props.
The Regional Tournament took place earlier in March. Usually, the top three finishers from each of the seven regions advance to the State Tournament. With this being the return of the program following the COVID hiatus, however, the decision was made to treat the regional competition as a showcase and to allow all teams to compete at the state finals.
With the state competition now behind them, the Bubble Buddies are focused on preparing for the Global Finals.
“The Global Finals are run basically the same as the State Tournament, but with a lot more teams,” Webber said. “We had 11 teams in our level at the State Tournament. Typically, there are around 80 teams in each level at Global Finals.”
To help offset the cost of traveling to the Global Finals, the Bubble Buddies have been holding fundraisers. The next fundraiser is a Pop Can Drive at Alamo Elementary the week of April 11.
Other fundraisers have included selling Butter Braids and hosting a spaghetti dinner. The team has also received donations from local businesses and the Alamo and Otsego Foundations.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Bubble Buddies can visit www.otsegops.org/apps/form/DonateDI.
“Jamie and I appreciate all of the support we have had from our district, school and staff,” Webber said. “The journey so far has been very memorable. We are looking forward to a wonderful Global Finals.”