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DI team lauded on world stage

HOLLIS – A Hollis-Brookline team took home special honors at last week’s Destination Imagination Global Finals competition in Knoxville, Tenn., winning the "Renaissance Award."

"It was great – it was the fourth time our team has made it to Globals, and the kids came back saying it was the best Global event they have been to," said Brenna McIlwrath, team manager for the Hollis Brookline group.

The team, dubbed "The Doors," was among five New Hampshire D-I teams to be recognized on the global stage. The other teams hailed from Londonderry, Southern New Hampshire University, Sunapee Middle-High School and Highbridge Elementary School in New Ipswich. The five crews scored numerous awards and were called to the stage in front of about 25,000 people at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-
Boling Arena.

McIlwrath said she and co-manager Carol Swanson were "blown away" by the project developed by the five students. "We can’t interfere; we can only guide, and what they come up with was amazing," McIlwrath said in a Monday phone interview.

The Hollis-Brookline team comprises five middle schoolers from four different schools. Christopher Swanson and Sarah Wilton are seventh-graders from Hollis Brookline Middle School, Craig McIlwrath is an eighth-grader from the Academy for Science and Design, Andrew Watson is a seventh-grader from the Derryfield School and Aidan Fournier is a seventh-grader who is home-schooled.

The Renaissance Award isn’t tied to a final ranking but recognizes outstanding design, engineering execution and performance.

Aside from sharing their work, McIlwrath said the team participated in hands-on activities while at the several-day event.

"The kids did a workshop with NASA to design a heat shield for satellite re-entry … they tested it with a blowtorch," she said. There were also experiments with dry ice and activities with virtual-reality goggles, she said. "There were lots of really fun things for all these STEM kids to try."

The Hollis-Brookline team competed in the structure challenge.

"They had to build a structure from a certain list of materials, and it had to be as light as possible but hold as much weight as possible," McIlwrath said, adding the project had to be accompanied by a story and performance. And for an added challenge, "It must also play music."

She credited team member Chris Swanson for innovating a way to turn wooden dowels into working flutes to comprise parts of the structure.

"The kids came into the challenge like no other team," she said, noting that’s why they earned the Renaissance Award.

At the end of the 2016 Destination Imagination season, 21 of New Hampshire’s 41 teams finished in the top 25 spots in their respective challenge and age levels.

More about the event can be found online at www.globalfinals.org.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, tforbes@nashuatelegraph. com or @Telegraph_TinaF.