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Destination Imagination: 8 Reasons Why You Should Do It

For the innovators and creative engineers, welcome to the thrilling world of Destination Imagination (DI) competition, at the intersection of creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving. Destination Imagination (DI) is an internationally-renowned competition that challenges students to use their imaginations and innovative thinking to solve complex problems in various topics, such as engineering, art, or performance.

In teams up to 7 people, students will spend the year crafting creative solutions to real-world problems and have the chance to compete and showcase their ingenuity, craftiness, and creativity!

What is Destination Imagination (DI)?

Destination Imagination (DI) is an exciting and dynamic competition series that encourages students to unleash their creative potential. The challenges are all team-based and require critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork ability. Participants, ranging from elementary to university level, form teams and work together to solve complex problems from science, technology, engineering, arts, to mathematics (STEAM).

DI has grown into a global competition, with thousands of teams participating each year in regional, state, and international tournaments, across 36 states and 24 countries. Participating in Destination Imagination requires a diverse range of skills, from problem-solving skills in DI’s competition format, critical thinking and collaboration skills to be able to create novel and unique solutions with your team, and presentation skills to be able to confidently present your creation to an audience of judges and peers.

The competition's prestige stems from the rigor of the challenges, the top caliber of the participating teams, and the recognition garnered from teams successfully overcoming any barriers ahead of them, being able to come up with creative solutions to complex problems in a short amount of time, and showcasing one’s ability to the world ahead of them. Destination Imagination celebrates and rewards the unique talents and skills of its participants, fostering personal growth, resilience, and a lifelong love for learning.

Who is Eligible to Participate in Destination Imagination?

Destination Imagination is open to almost anyone, if they so wish to participate. The competition has participants ranging from elementary schoolers to collegiate students, but mostly middle and high school students. All one needs to do to participate is join their local chapter of DI, which does not have to be through a school. The registration process begins at this website, and after that, the adult advisor may start recruiting members for its 2-7 person team and participate in the regional affiliates, which will be discussed in the next section!

Timeline and Structure of Destination Imagination

Destination Imagination is split up into three different timeframes: preparation, competition, and if qualified, World Finals.

Teams can prepare for the year ahead in mid-July, which includes signing your team up and paying the associated fees with your local affiliate circuit and to DI overall, which is usually a couple hundred dollars total.

Questions for the year are released a month later in mid-August, scheduled around the beginning of the academic school year. Questions take the form of an abstract prompt, in technical, engineering, scientific, fine art, service learning, and improvisational fields. Teams will choose one of the questions and spend a couple months working on their solution to this problem.

Then, in February and March, teams will participate in their local competition circuit. Depending on their local DI affiliate, teams may have to compete in more than one competition in a series of local to regional, but all teams will have to showcase their solution at least once. The larger their local DI circuit, the higher the likelihood that teams will compete more than once.

Lastly, in May, teams who have qualified will have the chance to compete in the World Finals, held in various cities in an overnight competition, filled with various fun events, alongside the main showcase of competitor solutions. The World Finals ends with an awards ceremony, ranging from cash prizes to medals, certifications, and trophies. Participation in the World Finals and even winning the competition is an extremely impressive and prestigious feat, as so few teams are able to qualify for Worlds, and even fewer win, thus making it to this stage showcases to the world the teams’ talent with critical thinking, creativity, and ingenuity.

Top 8 Reasons Why You Should Participate in Destination Imagination

1. Unleash your creativity

Destination Imagination provides a platform for you to let your imagination run to wherever it wants to go! The competition prompts are

1) extremely varied, allowing you and your team to choose whichever want that suits your desires, and

2) are purposefully a bit vague, allowing you to interpret the solution in unique ways to get to the top!

2. Develop critical thinking skills

The challenges in Destination Imagination are designed to push your problem-solving abilities to the limit. The competition will force you to analyze problems from a top-down level, break the problem down into small pieces, and then work your way up from there.

These are all crucial skills needed for anyone’s professional progression, and this competition offers an extremely fun and low-stakes way to do so.

Not only will you have to think critically to create your prototypes, solutions, and performances, you will also learn to think deeply and quickly in a short amount of time, as you will also have to participate in an Instant Challenge, one that you will not know beforehand, but will have to think quickly and hard to come up with a solution.

3. Enhance your skills in teamwork, collaboration, and communication

Destination Imagination encourages you to work deeply and closely with your team of up to seven people.

In order to succeed you must work closely with your team members, you'll develop strong communication skills to showcase your own ideas or to delegate tasks, learn to listen and respect different perspectives as other people will also have ideas and thoughts about every part of the process, and collectively tackle challenges as a unified force.

The best teams are the teams where every member is able to feel that they are able to participate fully and have their own delegated role, allowing everyone to work towards their strengths and cover for each other’s weaknesses.

4. Develop yourself into a leader

If you are reading this article, you are likely to be more motivated and ready to tackle the challenge in front of you. This makes you a natural candidate to be a leader for your team. You will learn how to be confident within your own abilities, delegate tasks amongst your team, and motivate others when they are feeling down.

You will learn about your own strengths and weaknesses, and that of your team, allowing you to be the one person to go for questions, to get new tasks, and to look up to. This competition fosters these leadership qualities in people, and the best teams always have the best leaders.

5. Experience learning in other disciplines that you may not be familiar with

All challenges span various disciplines, such as that even if you participate in an engineering question, you will likely need some form of scientific or artistic skill, and vice versa. By participating, you'll gain exposure to different fields, allowing you to broaden your knowledge and apply concepts from multiple areas.

This competition can allow you to find crossovers in your different interests, or show you that you excel and love a whole other field and subject you may not have been aware of beforehand.

6. Meet and network with like-minded individuals

At every competition, you will have the chance to meet other engineers, innovators, artists, etc., who all share the same talent for building and passion for ingenuity and creativity as you.

By participating in any DI competition, local or international, you'll have the chance to connect with like-minded peers, exchange ideas, and build lifelong friendships, who all love creating things out of nothing, enjoy critical thinking and challenge themselves, and who push themselves to the fullest. Alumni include people like the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, Andrew Berry, and Chris Colfer, award-winning actor, writer, and producer.

7. Gain real-world experience and apply classroom knowledge to real-world items

DI competitions mirror real-life situations, such as coming up with a novel solution to a hard or vague problem, and provides you with practical experience in building and creating solutions that extend the knowledge you have learned in the classroom.

You will develop project management, time management, creativity, quick-thinking, teamwork, and problem solving skills, which are all valuable for future academic settings, but also in life in general.

8. Showcase your talent on a global stage

Destination Imagination offers the opportunity to compete at regional, state, and even international tournaments. You'll have a chance to showcase your skills, receive recognition for your achievements, and have the chance to win scholarships and medals for your creative solutions.

At the World Finals, there are often media representatives to show your invention to the public and by qualifying to the international stage, you will have the chance to be a hometown hero and represent you and your team and all of the skills you have acquired and struggles that you have overcome.

This represents a great opportunity to bolster your future college applications, as you demonstrate yourself to be someone that is creative, a problem-solver, and a future innovator.

If you're looking for a real-world internship that can help boost your resume while applying to college, we recommend Ladder Internships!

Ladder Internships is a selective program equipping students with virtual internship experiences at startups and nonprofits around the world! 

The startups range across a variety of industries, and each student can select which field they would most love to deep dive into. This is also a great opportunity for students to explore areas they think they might be interested in, and better understand professional career opportunities in those areas. The startups are based all across the world, with the majority being in the United States, Asia and then Europe and the UK. 

The fields include technology, machine learning and AI, finance, environmental science and sustainability, business and marketing, healthcare and medicine, media and journalism and more.

You can explore all the options here on their application form. As part of their internship, each student will work on a real-world project that is of genuine need to the startup they are working with, and present their work at the end of their internship.

In addition to working closely with their manager from the startup, each intern will also work with a Ladder Coach throughout their internship - the Ladder Coach serves as a second mentor and a sounding board, guiding you through the internship and helping you navigate the startup environment. 

Cost: $1490 (Financial Aid Available)

Location:  Remote! You can work from anywhere in the world.

Application deadline: April 16 and May 14

Program dates: 8 weeks, June to August

Eligibility: Students who can work for 10-20 hours/week, for 8-12 weeks. Open to high school students, undergraduates and gap year students!

Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!

Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. 

These programs are designed and run by Harvard graduate students and alumni and you can expect a great, fulfilling educational experience. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of Python or are recommended to complete the AI scholars program before pursuing the fellowship. 

The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here

Location: Virtual


  • $1,790 for the 10-week AI Scholars program

  • $4,900 for the 12-15 week AI Fellowship 

  • $4,700 for both

  • Need-based financial aid is available. You can apply here

Application deadline: On a rolling basis. Applications for fall cohort have closed September 3, 2023. 

Program dates: Various according to the cohort

Program selectivity: Moderately selective

Eligibility: Ambitious high school students located anywhere in the world. AI Fellowship applicants should either have completed the AI Scholars program or exhibit past experience with AI concepts or Python.

Application Requirements: Online application form, answers to a few questions pertaining to the students background & coding experience, math courses, and areas of interest. 

Do research this summer

Conducting advanced research is another great way to build new skills, take charge and expose yourself to new perspectives. It can also boost your profile for scholarships and competitions! If you want an opportunity to build your own independent project and research paper, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 500 spots in the program. You can find the application form here.

Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students to get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.

Image Source: Destination Imagination logo



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