It was a mammoth, moving structure that needed to be witnessed in person.
A Destination Imagination (DI) team from Mercer Island High School constructed a 10-foot-tall Ferris wheel out of two-by-four wood boards, which was made to carry two people simultaneously and safely while being rotated by team members around a central axis.
Last year’s DI Globals finals competition was held virtually, so the locals went big during the return of the recent in-person event at the Kansas City Convention Center.
The A Toast to Bread squad saw its project come to fruition — after making a prototype at home and then shipping the materials to the event for on-site assemblage — and notched second place in the secondary level engineering challenge.
The Julie Langley-managed team consisted of Gareth Tatum, Keegan Wang, Ethan Cheney, Aidan Klein, Nandini Damodaran, Aditi Mannby and Helin Wang. A Toast to Bread was one of a record-number dozen Island DI teams that qualified for Globals finals, all rising to the challenge of putting their science, technology, engineering and math skills to the test and garnering top-20 finishes.
Keegan Wang reflected on the team’s cumulative experience: “With a lot of work and a sprinkle of all-nighters, the Ferris wheel along with other props had to be shipped, and the rest had to be finished at the tournament. With a few more days of work in Kansas City, everything was finished. Our entire DI season had culminated to this final day, and to much surprise, everything worked. Sometimes you just get lucky like that.”
Along with building the Ferris wheel, the team penned a story and composed, played, recorded and edited music to accompany its performance in front of the judges. The story goes, in part: “Gerald overcomes more than just being stuck on a Ferris wheel. Funville is an allegory for our society’s short attention span when it comes to issues that don’t have an immediate impact on us, and the height difference between Gerald and the ground while he is stuck on the wheel symbolizes how his problem is removed from the sphere of everyone else’s concern.” The story features emotional highs and lows — following the spinning route of the wheel, which took second to the winning team’s scenery props.
Music-wise, the songs reach into the rock, country, jazz, folk and show tunes realms to diversify the team’s skit and convey different emotions, according to a team document.
“I am thrilled to have ended my tenure as a DIer on such a high note and with such great teammates,” Klein said. “When we finally performed, everything went pretty much swimmingly: our structure did well, our Ferris wheel didn’t break, and everyone remembered their lines.”
Mannby said the team struggled and worked late into the nights to get its wheel rolling during the fortnight leading up to the Globals event. It took an even more intense effort once they arrived in Kansas City, but they pulled it off and reaped success.
“We managed to get our props ready and shipped, but once we got there, all our props all needed fixing. After three nights of working all day in prop storage and late into the night at the hotel, we competed and ended up taking second place at Globals,” Mannby said.
Langley, a fifth-grade teacher at West Mercer Elementary, managed three high-school teams and two eighth-grade teams at Globals. She said the Toast team members’ critical thinking skills were firing at a premium when they took the project from infancy to performance.
The manager felt butterflies in her stomach while watching the team assemble the wheel and as it gradually fell into place.
“That’s one of the exciting things about DI is that the more out of the box you think, the higher your score is going to be if it works,” Langley said. “They took the biggest risk and got the greatest reward. I was so proud of them for that.”
It was a multi-role process for the team, which featured a structure builder, script writers and more.
“Everybody did their part, but then the magic is when it all comes together,” said Langley, adding that a plethora of people lined up to ride the wheel after the performance.
Langley said the teams were elated to attend Globals in-person this year because they enjoy being together and visiting with the other teams from around the globe.
“It was just a relief for the kids because DI is about teamwork and being with your teammates and then working collaboratively,” said Langley, adding that A Toast to Bread was selected to carry the Washington state flag into the competition space at the start of Globals.
In the state DI competition earlier in the year, A Toast to Bread constructed a wooden playground-sized roller coaster — which transported a character dummy — and placed first in the engineering challenge. The team also earned the Renaissance Award for its coaster, which it described as “a metaphor for the pit of human greed and evil.”
OTHER MI PLACERS AT GLOBALS
* Plot Twist – Fine Arts Challenge – Third place and Renaissance Award (David Baxter, manager)
* Bread Bros. – Scientific Challenge – Ninth place (Julie Langley, manager)
* Contains 2% Juice – Service Learning Challenge – 10th place (Julie Langley, manager)
* Heroic Villains – Fine Arts Challenge – 17th place (David Baxter, manager)
* The Savage Cabbages – Scientific Challenge – Third place (Julie Langley, manager)
* Jazz Pizzazz – Fine Arts Challenge – Ninth place (Julie Langley, manager)
* Oh Shoot, I Forgot! – Engineering Challenge – Fifth place (Jamie Cooke, manager)
* Vector’s Girl Scout Cookies – Technical Challenge – 12th place (David Baxter, manager)
* Anonymous Chickens – Engineering Challenge – Third place (Justin Pae, Ting Ma and Susan Kim, managers)
* Rad Ravens – Technical Challenge – 10th place (Erin Ross and Tiffin Goodman, managers)