It is that time of year again: Destination Imagination Season. The Colorado state tournament took place this past Saturday, April 1st, as always, I enjoyed experiencing the unique energy of DI once again.  Last year I explained all about what DI is, and why the program produces the innovators of the future that I’m always looking to hire.

There is another element to Destination Imagination competition that I didn’t talk about, but it’s also another key element to the success of these future innovators. That’s because it’s top secret! Every team member has to promise not to talk about their Instant Challenge experience until after Global Finals, when all teams have completed their competitions. This is because the Instant Challenge (or IC) is designed to be a surprise, open-ended task that tests the kids’ wit and creativity under pressure. With a time limit of less than 10 minutes to solve it, an IC could present tasks such as:

  • Building a free-standing bridge out of paper, pipe cleaners, straws, and twist ties that can support weight.
  • Designing a product out of marshmallows, paper, and toothpicks then pitch the product to appraisers in an infomercial style skit.
  • Fulfilling as many diner orders as possible by using only non-verbal communication with the team.

And yes, these are all actual instant challenges that have been given at past competitions.


Here’s a video of some teams practicing an IC. (You’ll never see a video of an actual competition IC- the secrecy is sacred.)

Instant Challenges foster innovation skills in a way no other part of the program can, and these skills are critical to future success. ICs prepare DI participants to work under pressure as a team to arrive at a solution that fulfills a set of requirements. Sure, a bridge built out of pasta may not be the ideal solution, but it still held ten pounds, and most importantly these kids learned that you can create a solution out of the most unlikely of resources. 

This lesson is what drives much of our product design here at Phase IV. It is why we have made our Leap Sensors line as modular as possible. We are ready to adapt to almost any request put before us by our customers and quickly provide them with a solution that fits their needs.

Phase IV has been a proud sponsor of DI for eight years, for this and so many other reasons. I encourage you to also get involved. If you have students who are interested in Science, Theater, Technology, Engineering, and Community Service, there is a place for them on a DI team. DI is always looking for volunteers as well: sponsoring a team, being a community member, providing workshops for teams, and volunteering at tournaments. You can find out more information at or

Give an Instant Challenge a try for yourself. They are great brain puzzles for activities to give your kids, team builders for colleagues, or just a fun way to switch up your next game night. 

Instant Challenge:

Best Supporting Structure
Challenge: Your TASK is to create a structure that is as tall as possible and
will support a baseball.

Time: You will have up to 5 minutes to use your IMAGINATION to create your
structure and then up to 1 minute to add a baseball for score.
Set-up: In the middle of the room is a taped square. In addition, there is a
table with materials.

•Part One (5 minutes): Use the materials to build a tall structure to support a
baseball. You may practice adding the baseball in Part One, however this will
not receive score. In order to proceed to Part Two, you must have a structure
within the taped square by the end of Part One. You will be warned when you
have one minute remaining and 30 seconds remaining in Part One.
•Part Two (1 minute): Add the baseball for score. No team member may
touch the structure during Part Two. The structure must hold the ball
without breaking for ten seconds to receive score. At the end of Part Two, the
Appraisers will measure the height the ball is from the floor.

12 toothpicks 5 Mailing Labels 6 Coffee Stirrers 3 Pieces of Paper
2 Pencils 3 Paper Clips 1 Glove 1 Plastic Bag

For more fun STEAM activities check out the DI blog