Updated: Austin ISD students raise funds for global science competition

Team Spaceballs—(from left) Owen Chance, Ben Milam, Sam Bowman, Alley Koenig and David Easter—show their Destination Imagination creation, The Thang. Team Spaceballs—(from left) Owen Chance, Ben Milam, Sam Bowman, Alley Koenig and David Easter—show their Destination Imagination creation, The Thang.[/caption]

Updated May 27

Team Spaceballs met its fundraising goal of $10,000 and headed to Destination Imagination Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee on May 17.

Team Manager Robbie Chance said the group competed against 68 international teams and ended the competition May 23 in 31st place. The competition allowed Team Spaceballs the opportunity to interact with peers from around the world, and workshops taught them new skills in forensic anthropology, 3-D printing, set building and water filtration, Chance said.

“Most importantly, they got the opportunity to really bond and grow as a team,” he said.

The team is already discussing next year's challenges, and the seven members plan to qualify for Globals again, he said.

In addition to donations from friends, family and local businesses, Longhorn Rentals lent the team a 15-seat passenger van free of charge to get to and from the competition.

"We're all very humbled by the generosity of our communities," Chance said.

Updated May 1

Team Spaceballs is just shy of reaching its fundraising goal of $10,000 to pay for a trip to Destination Imagination Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee. Through its GoFundMe campaign, the team raised $8,500 as of May 1.

In addition to donations from friends, family and local businesses, Longhorn Rentals offered to lend the team a 15-seat passenger van free of charge to get to and from the competition.

"We're all very humbled by the generosity of our communities," Team Manager Robbie Chance said.

He said there is still time to help send the team to Globals. To donate, visit  www.gofundme.com/teamspaceballs.

Original story, April 27

A team of Northwest Austin middle-schoolers is paving the way for Austin ISD to become a major contender in a global competition.

Team Spaceballs is the first Austin ISD middle school team to advance to Destination Imagination’s international competition, which will be held May 20-23 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The team has already placed in regional and state competitions.

Destination Imagination is a regional, state and worldwide competition that challenges teams of students to collaboratively solve problems. Teams have months to prepare for certain challenges, but other tasks occur only on tournament day. These instant challenges could require teams to put on an impromptu performance or complete a task using only provided materials.

The seven-member Team Spaceballs is made up of six boys from Murchison Middle School— Sam Bowman, Owen Chance, Liam Clarke, David Easter, Ben Milam and Josh Tidwell—and one girl from the Lamar Fine Arts Academy—Alley Koenig.

All seven students have participated in Destination Imagination in previous years, but until joining forces, none had ever made it this far in the competition.

“It feels really good,” Sam said.

Owen added, “It’s not winning Globals—it’s getting to Globals.”

The boys call Alley, one of the newer members of the team, their good luck charm. However, Alley does not credit luck. She said she has helped keep the team organized and focused, enabling the team to excel in the instant challenge portion of the competition.

Owen said for the predetermined challenge, teams have five different challenge categories to choose from; Team Spaceballs chose the scientific category.

“We had to create an amazing sound machine,” he said.

The machine had to create two different sounds and show a measurement of the sounds in two separate ways, Owen said. The team also had to create and act out a story centered around the sound machine, which they dubbed The Thang.

The team has eight minutes to act out their story in front of the judges. Between scenery, costumes and the sound machine, they nearly maxed out their $150 budget, Team Manager Robbie Chance said. Most of the wood used to build The Thang was salvaged from previous years' contests, he said.

An old car stereo speaker, a few rubber bands, wax paper, duct tape, wire, guitar picks and an upside down piece of Tupperware formed the sound machine.

“Basically we went dumpster-diving in our own garage,” Owen said.

Chance said when he was in high school, he participated in Odyssey of the Mind, a predecessor to Destination Imagination.

“I know I use those skills today,” he said.

Chance encouraged Owen to participate and took on the role of managing Team Spaceballs. However, he said Destination Imagination has a strict “no interference” rule when it comes to parents.

“I would go pick stuff up for them,” he said, adding he was not allowed to tell the team what to buy.

Last September, Team Spaceballs began meeting every Sunday. When the regional competition drew nearer, Chance’s garage had an open-door policy on weekends. Members of the team would drop in whenever they could and spend hours working on the machine and the performance.

At the regional tournament in March, the team placed first in the Capital Region for their division, the Middle School Science competition. At the statewide competition in April, Team Spaceballs earned the high score in their division for the instant challenge.

Because of its high instant challenge score at the state level, the team tied for fourth place overall, putting them in the running to compete at the international level. If the team raises $10,000, it can pay the registration fees to participate in the 2015 Global Finals and fund travel and lodging in the dorms at University of Tennessee.

Ben said the team has raised about $4,000 so far using its Go­Fund­Me site; it has until May 1 to raise the other $6,000. To help send Team Spaceballs to Global Finals, visit www.gofundme.com/teamspaceballs.

More Austin area teams head to Global Finals

Austin ISD is not the only area school district being represented at Destination Imagination’s Global Finals. Harmony School of Political Science, a charter school located on RM 620 near Lake Creek Parkway, is raising funds to send ScienceShrooms, a team of fourth and fifth graders, to the international competition.

Team members Evgeniy Agaev, Sidnee Bell, Tharun Ekambaram, Gabriela Martin, Brendan O’Mara and Anya Kureshi created a creature with three actions and an accompanying adventure story. To donate to the ScienceShrooms, visit https://bit.ly/1IfYyjK.

Round Rock ISD is sending an eighth-grade team called Unforgettable to Global Finals from Grisham Middle School. The team—comprising Abby Cravey, Madison Moore, Madhuri Neralla, Aditi Merchant, Alyssa Lam, Maddy Dietz and Katie Chung—participated in the Feary Tale challenge, in which they had to create a fairy tale about a character that deals with and overcomes a phobia.

Team manager Melanie Cravey said this is the second year Unforgettable has been invited to attend Global Finals.


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