Milan team earns First Place honor at DI Global Finals contest
Goon Platoon Destination Imagination team won Instant Challenge
By Steve Short
A group of students from Milan High School earned distinction May 27 in Knoxville, receiving a First Place score in the Global Finals of the Destination Imagination problem solving competition.
Milan’s “Goon Platoon” team received First Place medals during an exciting awards ceremony Saturday attended by an estimated 15,000 people in the Thompson-Boling Arena at the Univ. of Tenn.
Goon Platoon members were Jake Beals, Grant Hensley, Hanna Hill, Jacob Landers, Jack Parr and Zach Scarbrough. Teammate Dylan Thomas was unable to attend the Knoxville contest. Team managers were Jean Hill and Laurie Beals.
“Hearing our name called was mind-blowing, because we not only represented Milan High School, but all of Milan, as we walked across that stage in front of teams from all over the world,” said Hanna Hill.
About 8,000 students on nearly 1,500 teams participated in the international competition, with teams traveling from as far away as China, Argentina and Australia.
“The arena was packed,” added team manager Jean Hill. “All of the Tennessee teams were sitting in one section. When they got to our challenge, and announced the highest Instant Challenge score for Secondary Engineering was the ‘In It Together’ team from Milan High School, the entire Tennessee section stood up and turned around and looked at us. We were at the top. They mispronounced ‘Milan,’ but everybody was jumping up and down. The whole section went wild. We were all in shock and couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go, because we hadn’t paid that much attention. The greatest thing was walking across that stage and representing Milan in front of the Global Finals teams.”
“Goon Platoon” won their Instant Challenge, which requires quick wits and improvisational problem solving. Handed an engineering challenge, the Milan students quickly figured out a way to make a Styrofoam ball hover for 10 seconds in a confined space, held aloft with air from a leaf blower.
The Goon Platoon outscored 63 teams from 20 U.S. states and 7 foreign countries. In overall scoring for their contest category, including a Central Challenge, which required teams to construct a balsa wood structure supporting weight, the Goon Platoon tied with a China team for 25th place.
The First Place award in Instant Challenge rectified disappointment for the Goon Platoon members two days earlier in their Central Challenge. At state competition, the Milan team’s balsa wood structure, weighing under 25 grams, supported 500 pounds. In Knoxville, rainy weather caused the balsa to absorb moisture. The team dried the structure, making it brittle and unable to support more than 300 pounds.
“After we completed our main challenge Thursday, we didn’t feel too enthusiastic,” said Grant Hensley. “But we thought if we were perfect on our Instant Challenge, we could place much higher, since the IC score affects your overall score. On Friday in the IC room, we were worried, because it felt like we had failed the Central Challenge. But after the Instant Challenge, we cheered and danced like there was no tomorrow, because we knew we bombed that IC.
“A team member told us that an award was given for the highest Instant Challenge score. So on Saturday night at the awards ceremony, we had high hopes for that award,” added Hensley. “When it came to the Highest IC Score Award, I knew it was us, when they mispronounced ‘Milan.’ We didn’t care! We screamed and shouted and danced on the stage in the middle of fifteen plus countries and 17,000 plus people. Our regional director, Mrs. Becky Reeves was in tears when they placed the medals on our necks. She and our team knew that it was a great accomplishment for Milan and for the whole state of Tennessee. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and we have God to thank for all of this.”
“We are so excited to have a first place team!” said Becky Reeves, Milan teacher who has coordinated the school system DI program many years. “The Goon Platoon team competed in the engineering category and placed 25th in the structure part, but first in the Instant challenge part. The team was announced and went to the stage to receive the coveted trophy and have photos made. The team was also interviewed by the ABC news affiliate, Channel 6 as they followed them from the prop room through the awards presentation. The entire Tennessee delegation, with over fifty teams stood and applauded as the announcer mispronounced ‘Milan!’”
“This (Goon Platoon) team came to Globals two years ago as an improvisational team, but decided this year to change to the engineering challenge,” added Reeves. “The Instant challenge part of the competition requires on the spot decisions and teamwork within a short time span.”
The team’s first place award is evidence of the high caliber of education and students in Milan, said teacher Jean Hill. “We are challenging our students at such a level that they are able to perform using creative problem skills to come up with a solution so quickly. It speaks volumes about the teachers in Milan and our school district. A lot of credit goes to teachers who have taught these students creative processes to solve challenges. Becky Reeves gets a big ‘shout out’ for teaching creative processes. She’s the one who taught these students how to think outside of the box.”
Jake Beals, the only MHS senior on the Goon Platoon, completed graduation ceremonies at Global Finals. “I’d like to thank all the parents and staff who worked countless hours in order to help send us to Global Finals,” he said. “I also want to thank Hanna Hill, Jacob Landers, Jack Parr, Zach Scarborough, Dylan Thomas and Grant Hensley. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten to go to Global Finals. As for winning First Place, the feeling is beyond words! Being able to say, ‘My team and I have the top possible Instant Challenge score against all other competitors from across the globe who tried the same challenge,’ is more than I thought I’d ever be able to say! I want to give a huge ‘thank you’ to the Milan DI staff, Becky Reeves and Jean Hill and Laurie Beals. These are phenomenal people and a blessing of a Mom. Without the encouragement and help, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to grab the gold!”
Other Milan teams
The “Shell Girls” team from Milan Elementary finished 13th out of 65 teams in their “Ready, Willing and Fable” Service Learning competition category at Global Finals, the best overall, division score of Milan teams. The team tied with a team from China and outscored teams from 18 states and 6 foreign countries. Team members were Addie Ruth Reed, Clara Reed, Caroline Hurt, Reagan Jones and Trinity Jones. Managers were Holly Jones and Allison Reed.
“The (Shell Girls) team’s focus was to encourage family time without interference from cell phone usage,” said Becky Reeves. “The team was honored to march in the opening ceremony with the Tennessee delegation. Team members Autumn Jones and Trinity Jones were chosen as student reporters to make a commercial about the upcoming challenges.”
The “Good Noodles” team from Milan High placed 23rd out of 63 teams in the “Show and Tech” category. Members were Michael Webb, Keizer Webb, Ethan Brasher, and Sam Fagin. Managers were John Hyde, and Autumn and Ed Webb. The team had to design and build a moving stage, complete with a performance involving technical elements. The team chose the music group “Kiss” for their storyline.”
The “Shloops Loop” team from Milan High placed 23rd out of 63 teams in the “Vanished” category. Team members were Abby Ramaker, Destinee Thomas, Brooklyn Barnes, Krysta Singleton and Matthew Doyle. Managers were Angie and John Ramaker. The team created a story with technical effects, imagining what would happen if a certain color disappeared from the world.
The “Ramen or RAmen?” team from Milan Middle finished 21st out of 48 teams. Members were Claire Nelson, Jaclyn Moore, Ella Reed and Autumn Jones, with managers Renee Nelson and Holly Jones. In the “Top Secret” challenge, the team had to create a gadget to encrypt and decode messages.
The “$ Menu” team from Milan Middle placed 48th out of 78 teams. Addison Caldwell, Jackson Beals, Matthew Nelson and Jackson Nelson made up the team, managed by Jim Nelson.
Milan Middle’s “Vanished” team placed 48th out of 87 teams. Members were Kendall Todd, Julianna Goodson, Haley Marcle, Haley Gibson, Layne Smith, Blaine Sitton and Brennan Potts, with managers Melanie Reeves and Jennifer Goodson.
Pat Pike and Will York of Milan served as appraisers at Globals. Jason Carter and Becky Reeves worked in the registration process for the 1,742 teams. When team members were not competing, they were able to experience hands on activities sponsored by NASA, including an appearance by Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, a former high school science teacher who was part of NASA’s space shuttle mission STS-131 in 2010. Events included activities by Oracle Academy, TVA, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Ford and STEM experiences. Team members also traded pins with people from around the world.
“Team members were able to make friends from around the world despite global conflicts with other countries,” said Becky Reeves. “Conflicts didn’t exist among the people from eighteen foreign countries, as team members made friends and competed in a respectful way, sharing their victories.”
“Milan’s team managers are now ‘veterans’ of the program and are already looking at the upcoming season’s challenges,” added Reeves. “As team members work together, they are building lifetime skills of work ethics, creativity and problem solving. Time management under stress, engineering and technological skills are some of the benefits of the DI program.”
“Our teams would like to thank the generous financial support given them to make this journey possible!” added Ms. Reeves. “Destination Imagination offers so much more beyond the walls of a classroom. For those interested in ‘thinking out of the box,’ there will be teams forming when school starts. Watch for dates and further information.”