BHS duo compete in Destination Imagination finals

Two Bainbridge High School seniors placed fifth in the world finals of Destination Imagination in Kansas City, MO May 20.

The four-day event pitted Claire Ross and Kate Pellegrino against 37 other high school teams from across the nation and up to 15 other countries.

Coach Laurene Ross said while they were out of the trophy race they did get their names on the Jumbotron in the stadium for being in the Top 10, “which is an honor.”

“Most teams have five to seven members, but this team was two dynamic girls who portray five characters, moved props and flipped sets all while keeping the stage magic alive.”

She wasn’t the only one to mention magic. One of the judge’s remarks was, “A truly magical performance, loved the dragon chase scene.” Another said, “Your team of two filled the stage and kept us engaged.”

What made the accomplishment even more impressive was their sets arrived broken. “We had to spend the first two days of the competition fixing them and doing trial after trial to get the mechanics to work. It was frustrating and infuriating,” Claire Ross said.

When they went to bed the night before their performance, they weren’t even sure if they would compete. “We arrived at our set and prop location at 6:30 and fixed and repainted our sets. Kate had the solution to fix them just in time because we competed at 10:30 that morning. We learned if you ouch through the hard, discouraging times you can be proud of what you accomplished.”

Prior to competing, the pair talked about the teamwork they showed that morning.

“I love going to these competitions and being around others who are into creativity and teamwork as I am,” Ross said.

Pellegrino was equally energized. “I’m proud and excited to present to the judges. I think we put our best foot forward. It makes me proud just the two of us did it. A lot of the teams we’ve competed against are much larger,” she said.

To earn a berth in the competition called “The Globals” the students had to battle it out at regionals in February at Central Kitsap High School and the state finals in March in Kennewick.

The contestants

The local team features two top scholastic students.

Ross’ final year in high school was actually the first time she learned in a classroom setting. Previously, she had been homeschooled. Adjusting to classes was not an obstacle for the 17-year-old. She carries a 4.0 grade point average and participates in the music honors program, specializing in piano. She also takes ballroom dancing, singing lessons and enjoys acting.

She plans to attend Brigham Young University, in Provo, UT. Her major is up in the air, but contenders include music, history and education. “Teaching music or history would be awesome,” Ross said.

Pellegrino is taking advance placement courses at BHS to get a head start on college. The 18-year-old interns in the BHS sports medicine program, where she tends to minor scrapes and bruises of athletes on the football, basketball and wrestling teams. She wants to become an emergency room doctor or neurologist. After graduation, she will go to the University of Nevada, Reno.

The pair has raised $5,200 toward expenses, but could use more donations, Ross said, adding the number of entries overall was down this year due to the cost.

The Destination Imagination competition calls on students to work together to solve open-ended STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) challenges. When this year’s competition kicked off each team chose a STEAM category to compete in — the BI team selected “arts.”

The arts challenge called on the students to write an original eight-minute skit based on a well-known story. Competition rules presented participants with several twists – their story had to center on a minor character in the original story; budget for props and costumes was limited to $150; part of the scenery had to be capable of being transformed in some fashion; and the stage was limited to an 8- by 10-foot space. The students also had to utilize a literary device in the script; the BHS team used rhyme.

The team chose Harry Potter for their story and made wandmaker, Ollivander, the main character. Part of the scenery flips over to display a different backdrop. Props were created on a shoestring budget. A red Phoenix was constructed with ostrich feathers, plastic water containers, tissue paper and duct tape. A dragon was head made out of paper mâché, tin foil and ping pong balls for the eyes.

Instant challenge

A make-or-break portion of Globals will be the “instant challenge.” Here, the team is ushered into a room with judges. The challenge – which often involves building an item with random materials – is read to the students. The girls have two minutes to discuss the task as judges listen in. The team is given five minutes to complete the job. A past challenge involved using paper, tin foil, rubber bands and toothpicks to construct a bridge. Points were awarded for design, how much weight the bridge could hold, and how many of the provided items were used in its construction.

“It really teaches them to think outside the box,” said Laurene Ross, who along with Kate’s mom, Kelly Pellegrino, are the team managers. The moms cheer on their daughters but are not allowed to assist.

How well a team works together in the timed challenge is closely watched by judges.

“Judges are looking for no negativity. They are looking for you to recognize the other team member’s ideas and incorporate them into your ideas. You don’t want to say, ‘No, I don’t like that idea,’ or ‘That won’t work.’ You want to say ‘Yes. That’ s great idea, could we add this to it?’” Laurene said.

The two teens thrive on the creativity. “I just love all the opportunities to use your imagination to create whatever you want,” Ross said. In building the sets, “We went through many iterations of the kind of backdrops we wanted to build and how we wanted them to work. I haven’t done much painting, but I love I was able to learn how to paint.”

Working with a partner appealed to Pellegrino. “With Destination Imagination you really get to work with as a team and bounce ideas off of each other. You get to learn how to be a leader and communicate with others,” she said.

Creating an original play and presenting it to spectators helped the seniors develop new abilities. “Probably the biggest skills I learned is how to be creative and think on your feet.” With the instant challenge, “It goes fast and you have to think fast,” Pellegrino said.

For Ross: “I learned how to be more comfortable speaking in front of people and performing.”