Most middle school and high school competitions culminate with league or state championships.
The Destination ImagiNation team from Judkins Middle School in Pismo Beach blew those competitions away over the weekend by winning a world championship in the event’s Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn.
The 50-Watt Light Bulbs — Ian Alvarado, David Hughes, Jane Summers, Kiana Underwood, Andrea Zachrich and Gabe Zachrich — beat 46 other teams from around the world to win the competition.
Destination ImagiNation is a nonprofit organization that provides a competitive challenge for students from kindergarten to college, helping them develop problem-solving and team-building skills.
It features regional, state and global competitions. Teams must finish either first or second to advance from regional and state competitions to the Global Finals.
The 2010 finals, held at the University of Tennessee campus, featured 1,000 championship teams from 48 states and 17 countries competing in elementary, middle, secondary and university divisions. Each team competed in one of six challenges.
“Our team won, which is an amazing thing. It’s like winning the Olympics,” said Mike Liebo, drama teacher at Judkins.
The Global Finals was old hat for the girls on the team. Jane, Andrea and Kiana, who attends Paulding Middle School in Arroyo Grande, have been there the last four years.
Andrea joked that the addition of the boys to the team seems to have put them over the top in their quest for a championship.
A team from Judkins has captured a state championship and reached the Global Finals every year since 1993, except one – 1999.
The 2002 team of Brogan Sterns, Anthony Martin, Chris Reinacher, Daniel Angel, Bryce Blue and Zac Efron, called “The Art of Improv,” won the school’s only other world championship.
The 50-Watt Light Bulbs chose Project Outreach-Band Together as its challenge. To address it, they had to find a need in their community and help solve it using music.
The group produced the musical “The Three Piggy Opera” with special-education students from Ocean View Elementary and Oceano Elementary. Over several weeks, they taught the students the words to the songs and character development. They also created sets and costumes.
The result was a pair of performances for parents, teachers, kindergarten students and members of both the Pismo Beach City Council and Lucia Mar Unified School District Board of Education.
All of the Light Bulbs said the performance was both fulfilling and educational.
“It was really interesting to see them come out of their shells,” Ian said of the special-ed student-actors. “Sometimes people with disabilities are discriminated against. This showed people that they can do all sorts of things.”
“I liked how much we influenced the children, and how much we influenced the community. This allowed them to share what they could do,” Gabe added.
The DI group compiled an album documenting their effort and experiences, which they presented at the Global Finals.
Maggie Summers, who coached the team, thought it was the group’s work with the children and conquering their “instant challenge,” an impromptu exercise that required them to make a device to pick up tennis balls, that pushed them to the championship.
“Whatever the project was, for most of the other groups it was about raising money. Everyone knows we need money,” Summers said. “But I only saw one other team that interacted with the people they were trying to help. To watch this team and watch them work with the kids was really interesting.”
The largest part of their reward for winning both regional and state tournaments was the trip to the Global Finals, where they met students from all over the world.
“I liked looking around and sharing all of the same interests with people from all around the world,” Jane said.
“All of the countries came together,” added Kiana. “Some of them didn’t even speak the same language, but they all came together.”
Three other Central Coast teams competed in the Global Finals.
Arroyo Grande High School’s “Do or DI” team placed 10th out of 55 teams in the secondary level. Judkins Middle School’s “DI in the Sky” placed 41st of 64 teams. And San Luis Obispo High’s “AHAA!” team was 42nd of 60.