SPMS Team Discord Heads to Global Finals

(Top from left) Jefferson Middle seventh-grader Kylie Wu, Dana Middle seventh-grader Emma Lin, South Pasadena Middle (SPMS) eighth-grader Victor Chen, SPMS seventh-grader Devin Shih, SPMS eighth-grader William Gao, (bottom from left) SPMS eighth-grader Nathan Hodson and SPMS eighth-grader Andrew Jin of Team Discord came in first place at the state tournament for the Destination Imagination technical challenge. Photo courtesy of Glenna Shih

Team Discord, a group of craftily intrepid students from South Pasadena Middle School (SPMS), San Gabriel’s Jefferson Middle School and Arcadia’s Dana Middle School, captured first place in the technical challenge division at the California state tournament for Destination Imagination (DI) held in Fresno on April 6. They also took home the DaVinci Award, DI’s most prestigious award for “exceptional creativity,” in building an aircraft which took off, flew and landed in addition to dropping a crafted payload on a bull’s-eye target zone.

The technical challenge, On Target, is a part of Destination Imagination, an educational nonprofit organization active in 30 countries that works to promote innovation and creative problem-solving through team-based tournaments. The tournaments explore STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) concepts in a hands-on environment.

Discord’s success qualifies them to advance to the Global Finals from May 22-25 which will be held in Kansas City, MO. They will join more than 1,400 top-scoring teams from more than 45 U.S. states and 14 countries to showcase their innovative solutions and glean additional skills in educational workshops. The team is managed by William Hodson, who serves as a construction crew volunteer for the South Pasadena City Tournament of Roses.

After some trial and error, the team built the award-winning aircraft from four balloons lifted by the power of four fans attached to a rolling vehicle guided by a rope. The craft was powered by a timed motor and guided by the rope on a pully system underneath. Under the middle of the craft was a hole which allowed for the payload to be successfully dropped.

True to their award’s namesake Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance inventor, the flying machine the team crafted served not only as an intellectual challenge with many dynamic variables to overcome but also helped them learn valuable life skills in collaborating with each other.
“I learned that by working in a team you can solve more problems because you have a bigger skill set,” SPMS seventh-grader Devin Shih said in an email to The Review.

SPMS eighth-grader Nathan Hodson added he “learned about some new aerodynamic principles” while Jefferson Middle seventh-grader Kylie Wu noted that “working together has made me realize how fast we are able to finish things or find solutions.”

Several of the students were veterans of the challenge and found that their previous experience helped them to become more efficient and effective.

“Something that surprised me was how much we accomplished compared to other years,” said SPMS eighth-grader Victor Chen.

They also leveraged that confidence to encourage their new teammates Kylie, SPMS eighth-grader William Gao, and Dana Middle seventh-grader Emma Lin into picking up new skills and they “went from not knowing how to use a drill to accomplishing their own projects,” according to Victor.

Looking toward the Global Finals right around the corner, Team Discord feels ready for their next challenges.

“We were very surprised we came in first during the state tournament,” said Victor.
“We were also very happy to give the experience of Global Finals to four new members on our team.” 

“It felt great,” effused Nathan. “It’s great to know we were the top of our bracket and maybe the best in the world!”

To support the team in their quest toward Global Finals, Blaze Pizza of South Pasadena at 1100 Fair Oaks Ave. will be hosting a fundraiser on Tuesday, April 30, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Supporters are encouraged to let the cashier know they’re there for Team Discord.