Instant Challenge and Destination Imagination

wonder_twins_powers_activate( Wonder Twins + Space Monkey Gleek… Powers Activate )

FIRST LEGO League and Destination Imagination are like mirror images of each other in the differing worlds of STEM and the Performing Arts.  Although Destination Imagination offers a variety of tech challenges and recently partnered with Oracle Academy to further expand into game programming for kids, it most known creative and performing arts.  Alternatively, FIRST LEGO League is best know for robotics.

As I finish my 5th year as a Destination Imagination Coach with 2 teams this year and begin training in my 2nd year as a FIRST LEGO League coach I see a lot of overlap and complimentary skill development across the two programs.  For example, both heavily emphasize teamwork, communication, presentation and creativity in a student-driven project-based format.

More concretely, both programs actively promote, score and promote teams in competition based upon their ability to work well as a team.  Both FLL and DI have Instant Challenges wherein kids are given around 5 mins to solve a problem they’ve never seen before, typically a construction, performance or hybrid of both project.  These are popular team-building exercises often seen in corporate retreats or on Company team-building outings.

For example, the team may be asked to construct the highest tower possible out of limited number of toothpicks and marshmallows and perform a 2 min play around it as the theme.   Judges score teams based upon how well they work together as a team as well as how creative and effective their solution is.  This Instant Challenge is 25% of the overall score for both FLL and DI.


The FIRST LEGO League Project is an analog of the Destination Imagination Central Challenge and kids in both programs can pick from a wide variety of options.  In Destination Imagination we’ve written plays, performed community service projects, created documentaries, and most recently done Improv skits.  In FIRST LEGO League we’ve worked on improving teaching a subject via augmented reality and this fall will come up with a more technical entrepreneurial solution to the problem of waste creation, recycling and/or disposal.

In DI the Central Challenge is worth 75% of the overall score while the FLL Project is worth 25% (but has a $20,000 and two $5,000 X-prizes to commercialize exceptional Project ideas).  Both require great research and presentation skills.  The component that FIRST LEGO League has that Destination Imagination doesn’t have is the Robot which is worth 25% for the Robot Table Challenge and 25% for the Robot Judging Room (Design, Programming, Lab Notebook, etc).

Because of this Wonder Twin relationship between FIRST LEGO League and Destination Imagination, there is a lot of overlap between what I post here and what I post on my DI blog.  One DI post worth replicating here is a recent one I did on construction-type Instant Challenges in preparation for our tournament tomorrow.  Without further introduction:

Solving Construction-type Instant Challenges

0) Team Work

– Work together as a team, listen – don’t talk over each other, only positive comments and a lot of them

1) Time Management

– 50% planning (do not tape, tear or build anything yet – measure twice, cut once)

2) Classify All Materials

– Some materials may have several applications, some better than others (e.g. index card: container-best, extender if folded accordion style-good, connector if wrapped or torn in slit-poor)

a) Extenders

– Identify and Use best

STRONG:chopstick > WEAK:straw

LONG:pencil  > SHORT:popsicle stick

SIMPLE:1 long object > COMPLEX:many shorter objects

b) Connectors

– Identify and Use best

STRONG:sticky label > WEAK:folded paper

FLEXIBLE:pipe cleaner > INFLEXIBLE:clamp

SIMPLE:1 strong connector > COMPLEX:several weaker connectors

c) Containers

– Identify and Use best

STRONG:index card > WEAK:newspaper

SECURE:folded/taped index card > INSECURE

SIMPLE:1 piece construction > COMPLEX:several pieces held together

3)Think of Ways Materials Can be Modified

– If Instructions don’t prohibit it, it’s OK to do:

Fold & Bend – added rigidity or to join or shape

Twist – connector

Rip & Tear – create more pieces (eg stickers/paper), longer pieces, etc

4) Optimize Material Use

– Pick best tool for the Job (eg for load bearing extender Chopstick > straw)

5) Utilize All Materials if Possible

– Go back and see if there are any left over materials that can be intelligently used

5) Build, Test, Build

– Leave time to build, test, slightly redesign and repeat


Here are how the Destination Imagination organization describes the purpose and scoring of Instant Challenges:

´ To put team’s creative problem solving abilities, creativity, and teamwork to the test in a short, time-driven Challenge.
´ Develop creative problem solving abilities
´ Develop performance techniques
´ Develop improvisational skills
´ Learn to analyze resources and use materials in new ways
´ Improve time management skills
´ Promote self-realization: Recognize and make the most of strengths
´ Promote team-realization: Recognize and make the most of a team’s diverse strengths
´ Teams will use provided materials to create a solution within the time limit and present the solution to Appraisers.
´ Teams will analyze the Challenge and any available materials and determine how best to use them in the solution.
´ Teams will use their collective and individual abilities and strengths to best advantage in solving the Challenge.
´ Teams will keep track of time during the solution and presentation phases of the Challenge.
´ Each Instant Challenge includes a non-intrusive scoring system that is completed by Appraisers to give team feedback on their solution. Feedback can also be provided by Team Managers and other supporters during practice sessions.
´ These Challenges are similar to Challenges used in Destination ImagiNation Tournaments and can be used to provide teams with “Tournament-like” conditions. Teams may choose to have an outside party, such as a Team Manager, evaluate their solutions in the categories within the Challenge. Feedback can and should be provided to the team when practicing with these Challenges.




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