All it takes is a little imagination

"Photo: Daniel Shafer, a South Whidbey Intermediate School student, piles weights onto a structure made of pasta and glue. The structure failed after Shafer put about 200 pounds of weight on it.Matt Johnson / staff photoIt was so quiet in the South Whidbey Intermediate School's multi-purpose room last week that you could hear single strands of dry pasta cracking.More than 400 students, parents and teachers had gathered that Friday to watch three teams of second, third, fourth and fifth graders conduct science experiments with a theatrical flair. The experiments are to be showcased this week in Mount Vernon as part of Destination Imagination, a science learning program that takes the place of last year's Odyssey of the Mind. The South Whidbey teams gave their schoolmates, parents and teachers a sneak preview of the experiments during an assembly at the Intermediate School. The dry pasta came in at the beginning of the program, when the first team to present began placing iron weights onto a structure made entirely of pasta and glue. Working under the theme It's Not Impastable, the team had stressed the structure with 441 pounds of weight earlier in the week. The abused structure showed the wear and tear during the assembly, cracking and popping as students Daniel Shafer and Devin Baxter piled on weight after weight. Shafer and Baxter's teammates distracted the audience from the pasta's distress by acting out a fake television news broadcast in which experts and reporters talked about other structures made of food, including the Burger Dome -- a giant hamburger cum football stadium promoted by pint-sized Bill Gates and Paul Allen impersonators.Then, the unexpected happened. CRACK! In the space of a millisecond, the pasta structure disappeared under the strain of more than 200 pounds of iron, shattering into tiny shards on the floor and all over the front row of onlookers.No time to bemoan the crash, however. A G-force experiment quickly commanded attention. Members of this group had to make tennis balls loop-the-loop on a miniature metal rollercoaster track, then drop into a small barrel. Although the crazily-bent rails were barely stable, anchored in pieces of Styrofoam, the experiment worked -- sometimes. Figuring out how to make the experiment work every time will be the team's goal before the Mount Vernon test. The group's coach, Tim Economu, said the Destination Imagination experiments allow students to learn without the help of teachers and parents. A young person's mind, working without constraints, can do incredible things, he said.That's what's so cool about it, Economu said of the Destination Imagination concept.The final group to present was charged with moving a raw egg through an obstacle course in a remote control car, then sending it through the air via a catapult onto a soft landing pad. Needless to say, there were a few disasters along the way. If eggs exploding all over the floor did not inspire enough laughs, the group's members dressed as medieval chickens, complete with a armor, swords and a castle to defend.Group member Hanna Banks said she and her colleagues in science will have to find a better way to keep their eggs whole.It's better when we get it whole, she said.However, teammate Cameron Gray said the exploding egg show was not a total loss. He said the audience got quite a bit of entertainment value out of a catapulted egg that almost hit a group of student bystanders.We did get a lot of laughs out of the last one, Gray said.The Destination Imagination teams have worked on their projects and presentations for about four months. The program is international, and all experiments, theatrical, and comical aspects of group presentations must be created entirely by students with no help from teachers or adults."

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