Young engineering wizards go global

— image credit:
Sequim Gazette

A Cinderella team of fourth-grade engineers are readying themselves to rebuild the world.


Sequim elementary students in Team Lugnuts — Erin Gordon, 9; Riley Scott, 10; Blake Wiker, 10; and Johnnie Young, 10 — are going to the Destination ImagiNation global competition May 25-28 in Knoxville, Tenn.


“This is their first year for competing and we blew the socks off people that we did so well,” said Tricia Billes, the students’ teacher.


The team earned the honor of competing nationally by taking first in the Unidentified Moving Objects challenge at the state competition on April 2 in Wenatchee. They constructed an arm without any A/C power to move items up and down a six-foot tower.


All three teams from

Sequim’s Highly Capable class of advanced fourth- and fifth-graders placed in the top three at the Feb. 26 regional competition in Silverdale, with the Lugnuts advancing.


Destination ImagiNation brings elementary- to university-level students together by promoting student creativity, teamwork and problem-solving with team challenges in community service; technical/mechanical design; scientific exploration and theater arts; theater, literature and fine arts; improvisation; and structural/architectural design.


Sequim students have met every Wednesday morning during the school year to work on their project and presentations at the Sequim Community School.

Global prep

The Lugnuts said they’ve practiced their event several times and finished in four minutes compared to the eight minutes allowed.


Their goal is to use a specially made arm to move objects like a carriage bolt, soda bottle and CD to different levels using pincers and/or a magnet from the tower.


The challenge is amped up at globals with an eight-foot tower, objects on the lower level floating in six inches of water and higher-level objects required to go in separate quadrants.


The group feels the challenge is tougher but possible with more practice.


“We’ve been trying … it just takes a little bit more time,” Johnnie Young said.


For their project, they’ve added six inches of piping to the arm.


The team has their game plan down, with Young controlling the arm, Wiker the magnet and clip, Scott the mirror to see up top and Gordon the sales presentation.


Gordon said the sales presentation is another aspect of the contest where she must pitch the arm concept to sellers. The boys are dressed in overalls acting as farmers who need to transport hay in the dark because the power went out. Her presentation highlights the features of the arm.


She feels they are a pretty good team.


“Sometimes, I have to shout at them to listen because they space out a little,” Gordon joked. “But we do a good job.”


Instant challenge

A curve ball in the competition comes in the instant challenges, when judges give teams impromptu challenges to plan and build in five minutes and implement in two minutes.  


A practice challenge involved students dropping raisins from three feet, using objects to form a web so the raisins don’t touch the bottom of a laundry basket.


Gordon said they decided not to watch other teams because they wanted a surprise and not to worry about their turn. Students seemed much more excited than nervous to compete.


“It’s life-changing in a way to go to globals and see all these teams from all over the world,” Wiker said.


Gordon said it’d be awesome to win, but she’s looking forward to meeting new friends.


“If we win or lose, it will be a great experience,” Young said. “This is Sequim’s first year and I know I’m proud of us.”


For more on Destination ImagiNation, visit



Reach Matthew Nash at



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