Andover made its presence known in a big way this month as the Massachusetts Region 5 Destination Imagination Tournament was held in town for the first time.
The town fielded 36 teams — more than one-third of the total entries in the competition showcasing students’ creative problem-solving skills that was held March 14 at Greater Lawrence Technical School.
It was the highest participation ever for Andover, involving about 180 students from every public and most private schools in town.
Eight of the local teams won first place and the right to advance to the state competition set for this Saturday, March 28, at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In addition, four other teams placed in the top three in their age division.
In total, 92 teams of more than 460 young people from 15 Essex County communities, including Lawrence and North Andover, came to town to compete in the regionals.
Each team consisted of three to seven students who presented the results of their months of work spent solving their pre-assigned challenges. They were also tasked with performing quick, five- to 10-minute “Instant Challenges” that they were presented with at the competition to show how they can think quickly, react to new situations and use their teamwork and communication skills.
“Our purpose is to inspire and equip students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders,” according to the nonprofit Destination Imagination organization.
Andover has created a new nonprofit called Challenge Me, Inc., to lend support for its Destination Imagination program, which relies on parents, teachers and community members to serve as team coaches.
Dario Tagliaferri, a freshman at Andover High School and an eight-year veteran of the program, called Destination Imagination “one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
“It has allowed me to see problem solving in a whole new light and face challenges head on,” he said in a release.
His sister, Maria Tagliaferri, an eighth-grader at West Middle School and seven-year participant, added the program has “helped me to push my creativity to the limit, but to also shape it to mesh with the ideas of others to solve a problem.”
Stephanie Maze-Hsu, coordinator of Andover’s Destination Imagination program, said she was thrilled with not only the results, but the hard work by all the town’s participants.
Challenge A: Creature Feature
This technical, engineering-based challenge tasked students with designing and building a real or imaginary creature that performed three different tasks via technical methods. Eight Andover teams competed in the challenge, with two winners at the elementary level.
First Place: Fourth- and fifth-graders from Pike, Sanborn, High Plain and West Elementary schools Emily Addessa, Luke Bardetti, Nate Carriuolo, Hannah Jordan, Max McNeely and Gannon Sylvester; coaches Joe Sylvester and Karen Carriuolo.
Third Place: Fifth-graders Abhay Yajurvedi, Rishabh Dwarakanath, Claire Cahill, Reed Cahill and Aiden Warren; coaches Ramesh Dwarakanath and Karthik Yajurvedi.
Challenge B: Making Waves
In this scientifically based challenge, students had to create an “Incredible Sound Machine” that produced two different sounds. The sound waves had to be visually represented in some creative and theatrical way. Andover had four teams competing in this challenge, with first-place winners at both the elementary and middle levels. Andover High also has a Challenge B team competing next week at a different tournament.
First Place (elementary): Fourth-graders Ohad Mamet, Amber Banks, Mara Duran-Clark and Alex Shieh; coach Sue Yuen Kim.
First Place (middle): Eighth-graders Samantha Sylvester, Darya Lee, Florence Grenon, Josh Gordon and John Boyle; coach Melanie Auclair-Fortier.
Challenge C: Feary Tales
This fine arts challenge was the most popular challenge with 14 teams competing at both the elementary and middle school levels. The teams had to create a skit in the style of a fairy tale, including a character who copes with a phobia. Andover fielded 10 of the teams in three age groups.
First Place: Eighth-graders Susan Matteucci, Marilyn Cardin, Sabine Haskel, Sara Earl, Anna Higgins and Meghan McDonough; coach Ken Matteucci.
Second Place (senior level): Eighth- and ninth-graders Maddy Wagner, Mia Sonberg, Caroline Graham, Julia Mazzuchi and Becca Nash; coaches Kate Wagner and Stephanie Maze-Hsu.
Third Place (middle level): Sixth-graders Emme Pitts, Lizzie Jones, Katie Budinger and Abby Chou; coaches Jackie Ciriello Pitts and Katie Budinger.
Challenge D: The Improv Games
In this wild twist on the typical improvisational acting challenge, students had to research 18 improv games and 50 types of street performances. One was chosen by the judges and teams were tasked with creating skits with minimal preparation time. All three Andover teams competing placed.
First Place: Eighth- and ninth-graders Dario, Maria and Daniella Tagliaferri, Josh Combs and Emily Wagner; coaches Stephanie Maze-Hsu and Kate Wagner.
Second Place (elementary level): Fifth-graders Celia Schwartz, Caroline Pritchard, Hussain Mahesri, Eric Strong and Jacob Brundage; coaches Lisa Smith and Buffy Pritchard.
Second Place (senior level): Eighth- and ninth-graders Joshua Krinsky, Shawn Calabro, Delaney Fisher, Floyd Greenwood and Shana Jauhar-Anand; coach Lucia Krinsky.
Challenge E: Lose to Win
Teams had to design and build the lightest possible structure that held the weight of a pressure board and create a skit that told the story about a transformation that changed one thing into something completely different. Andover’s one entry took first place.
First Place (elementary): Third- and fourth-graders Meredith Shattuck, Kyla Foohey, Sana Godhani, Shreya Godhani and Isha Mehta; coaches Manisha Godhani and Nipa Mehta.
Project Outreach: Brand Aid
In DI’s newest challenge, a service learning project, teams were asked to identify, design and carry out a project that addresses at least one community need. They were required to use graphic arts and sounds to create an effective brand that marketed their project. Three Andover teams competed, with two firsts.
First Place (elementary): West fifth-graders Jackson McCarthy, Rawson Iwanicki, Sam Dougherty, Brendan Gruenberg and Miles Fraser; coach Kerrie Fraser.
First Place (middle): Sixth-graders Molly O’Handley, Olivia McCabe, Olivia Broderick and Lydon Kelley; coaches Don Gottfried, Brian McCabe and Joseph Vetere.
Andover had seven teams compete in this special challenge for children in kindergarten through second grade. This year’s challenge was called “Animal Mish-Mash” and teams highlighted an animal they created that used parts of two different animals.
The Doherty Middle School Feary Tales Team of eighth-graders received DI’s highest honor, The DaVinci Award, given to the team that most clearly demonstrates an adventurous risk in its solutions and that most creatively travels to reach new and unique destinations. The team created a 12-foot-tall tree that, through a system of levers and other simple machines, transformed into a “lively and active” T-Rex with a realistically looking tail that chased the villain of its story.
Andover High School senior Joseph Vetere received an individual Spirit of DI award given for Outstanding Spirit, Teamwork, Volunteerism and Sportsmanship. Vetere participates on his own high school team, is an assistant coach for a middle school Project Outreach team and has volunteered to appraise at several tournaments, including the recent one. He also won the Best Appraiser Hat at the tournament for his “High Five Hat” featuring two spinning gloves that was especially popular with the children.