School News

Success at International Problem-Solving Competition

After winning top scores at the state Destination ImagiNation creative problem-solving competition, 6 teams from Maharishi School joined more than 18,000 participants from 12 countries at the international competition May 22-26 at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Maharishi School’s team of high school girls came in 7th place overall in the science category. Also of note for Iowa, a senior-level team from West Des Moines received the top score for their solution to a short-term technical challenge in the improvisational category. These teams competed with 1,276 of the world’s best teams from elementary schools through university. The challenges confronting the teams involved science, technology, engineering, math, theater and community service. All challenges required problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and teamwork.

Maharishi School’s winning team was managed by Nita Travis and team members are freshmen: Kadie Roberts, Jacqueline Leete, Alina Knight, Dia Huggins, and sophomores: Leanna Miller, Avery Travis, and Hifza Akbar. In addition to solving a short-term 10 minute technical challenge, the team spent months creating an extraordinary solution to a challenge involving solar energy. They created a prototype which would use gravitational solar energy to slingshot the solar vehicle into orbit, and presented research about solar energy in an engaging story. They were also required to provide stage lighting to create special theatrical effects.

“These freshmen and sophomore girls competed with juniors and seniors in a scientific challenge against schools from all over the world,” offers Mark Willkins, the program coordinator at Maharishi School for the last 12 years. “They were up against teams from China, Korea, schools with some of the strongest science programs in the world.”

“Globals is an amazing experience,” said Leanna Miller. “We meet thousands of kids from all over the world and we’re all sharing our ideas and perspectives.” Leanna has participated in the DI program for 6 years and this is the fourth time she has competed internationally. “For me DI is like life-school, working as a team helps us develop communication skills. No one’s going to judge you for coming up with crazy ideas because that’s part of the creative process. We learn to approach a problem from all angles and we transfer that mind-set to other areas of life.”

“There is no opportunity like this anywhere else,” said teammate, Dia Huggins, “It is so fulfilling to solve a challenge after working really hard. You learn what you’re capable of.” This was Dia’s third time competing at the international competition, although she has attended multiple times with her parents and 3 older siblings. The Huggins siblings have competed a total of 17 consecutive years at the international level.

“DI offers the unique focus of developing and celebrating children’s creative intelligence,” said Sue Huggins, Dia’s mother. “My sons tell me that from the moment they left for college they noticed how much of an impact DI had on their lives. They are much more solution-oriented than other college-age kids.”

“Some of most critical skills in life: team-work and problem-solving, are developed through the DI program,” explains Dia’s father, Peter Huggins. “Those skills are integral to the success of every business.”

“The kids gain an incredible sense of accomplishment from applying their own skills and knowledge to formulate and implement ideas about solving a challenge without adult intervention,” explains Mark Wilkins. “The program provides an arena for kids to identify and develop their best qualities. My former students tell me that in college they are far more competent and resourceful in completing project-based and group assignments than their peers. Their professors are blown away by the ideas and leadership skills these students exhibit.”

Dominic Borg graduated in 2011 from Maharishi School but volunteered this spring to support the program and accompany the teams to the international competition, “It’s rewarding to facilitate the process that I went through as a student. DI allows the students to apply knowledge and skills to real life situations, a process that complements academic education. DI helps the participants to take ownership of developing their skills, in other words they take responsibility for achieving their goals.” Borg competed in DI Globals 8 times with 4 top 10 finishes. He is pursuing an education in engineering and psychology.

Destination ImagiNation CEO Chuck Cadle said, "The DI competition requires students to work through some very demanding critical-thinking and problem-solving assignments that strengthen our educational systems by enhancing the learning processes taking place in the classroom.”

In a survey of 1,500 chief executive officers conducted in 2010 by IBM, CEOs responding said that creativity is the most important leadership quality. “To succeed, (the successful CEOs) take more calculated risks, find new ideas and keep innovating in how they lead and communicate,” the report concluded, describing top-performing CEOs.

Appreciation for Community Support

Every year families of Maharishi School students who qualify for DI Globals also have to get creative to raise the $1200 it costs to send each student. This year 35 students attended, meaning $42,000 had to be raised. The parents and students put on a giant garage sale, fundraising dinner, showcase and silent auction and raised $15,000 as a group. Many individuals and businesses contributed to DI. “We appreciate all the donations and volunteer hours,” said Wilkins. “This program would not be possible without the generous support of the community. It makes a world of difference to these kids.” The most substantial contributions have come from Creative Edge, Everybody’s Whole Foods, Green Building Supply, Main Stay Inn, The Raj, Two Roads Educational Arts & Theater, Danaher Oil, and so many more.

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