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G.P. Vanier students top of the world in Destination Imagination improv category

Team Chance is the first Canadian team to win a Destination Imagination challenge area
Team Chance members beam after winning the improv challenge area. Photo submitted.

A team of Grade 9 students at G.P. Vanier Secondary School is in celebration mode after taking home first place in the improv category at the global finals of the Destination Imagination competition, held in Knoxville, Tennessee, last weekend.

According to G.P. Vanier vice-principal Greg Kochanuk, Team Chance is the first Canadian team to ever win a Destination Imagination category. In just their second visit to Knoxville — the team placed fifth last year in the same category — Team Chance managed to beat 78 teams from across the globe.

“They worked extremely hard all year,” said Kochanuk. “I’ve worked with them since they were in Grade 8 and they hit the ground running in September this year with this as the goal – they were going to make top five in globals.”

Kochanuk said the students were initially disappointed when the list of top 10 teams in their challenge area was being read aloud, before being shocked upon learning they were, in fact, winners of the whole thing.

“They wanted to be the first Canadian team to ever win this event. Out of 1,400 teams, only eight of these teams come away with trophies, so it’s an incredible achievement,” he said.

What’s more remarkable, said Kochanuk, is that Team Chance is composed entirely of Grade 9 students. Despite their youth, they managed to overcome older students from across the world.

“These are 13- and 14-year-old kids who have just beaten 17- and 18-year-old kids from around the world,” he said. “It’s huge.”

Annual skills competition

Destination Imagination is an annual tournament held at the University of Tennessee campus. The event aims to teach student-led teams the creative process through hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics-related challenges.

More than 17,000 students from 19 countries competed this year.

“They’ve squarely put this small town in western Canada on the map,” said Kochanuk. “They’re up against teams from China, Central America, and all over the United States, where this is a really big thing.

“It brings home that we have an unusually talented group of kids.”

The improv category involved researching a dozen explorers and cultural treasures prior to the competition. The judges selected two of the explorers the team had researched and one of the cultural treasures. The team then had seven minutes to come up with a skit incorporating those elements, using only a single sheet as a prop.

“[Improv] is a complicated challenge area and it’s amazing that they’re able to do it on the spot, which is the point of improv,” said Kochanuk.

2018 marked the 19th year of Destination Imagination.

Highland team takes 11th spot

Another positive showing from the Comox Valley at the global finals this year was Highland Secondary’s Team Palfunction. The team participated in an engineering challenge at Destination Imagination and finished in 11th.

The challenge area included merging structure building with criteria based on a weight-to-strength ratio, set design, script writing, and the performing arts.

Team Palfuntion participated against 67 teams from around the globe.

“They displayed tremendous resiliency in packing the equipment they needed the day they left, locating and finding the wood they needed in Knoxville, and building a structure to compete with on the first day of the competition,” wrote the team’s coach Dan Braidwood.

“That structure held the maximum amount of weight possible and their incredible efforts resulted in them placing 11th in the world! It was amazing to see them work together and problem solve their way to an excellent result on a global scale.”