Have you ever dreamed of making a skirt out of pipe cleaners?  How about a cloak made out of napkins?  Maybe you dream of building structures out of wood and glue that weigh less than 3 nickels but can hold the weight of more than two grown adults?


Impossible you say?  Not if you are part of the Destination ImagiNation (DI) teams from Calhan School District.  These are just some of the feats these elementary and middle school students have accomplished this year.  Both the Zany ZigZaching Zuo and What Are They Called Again? won the Pikes Peak Regional Tournament in their respective challenges and qualified for Global Finals at the State Tournament.


The Calhan Elementary team, What Are They Called Again?, chose to conquer the problem of building a wooden and glue structure that not only holds as much weight as possible, but also contains golf balls delivered into their structure.  This team then created their own script, set pieces and costumes.


The Zany ZigZaching Zuo not only made their costumes out of pipe cleaners and napkins, but had the more technical challenge of building a piece of equipment that not only moves objects, but also carries the full weight of one team member while moving the team created objects.  In addition, the team has created their own set pieces and script for a play about something that happens just in time.


What Are They Called Again? will return to Global Finals, the largest creative thinking and problem solving competition in the world,  for the second year in a row and traveling to Globals for the fourth time, The Zany ZigZaching Zuo have placed in the top two in the State of Colorado for the last  four years and were 12th in the World last year.   While both teams have been immensely successful over the last few years the real story lies with their failures.  Coach Mark McCrary talks about how DI “gives my kids a way to learn life skills – success and failure.  It teaches them a lot of life’s lessons that they can use now, but more importantly when they become adults.”


The impressive “Z” team of two has spent more than 500+ hours since September in one of their coach’s basements.   They have carved their time out of their incredibly busy schedules – after school and most weekends to find a solution that meets the demands of this year’s mechanical engineering challenge.  Many of those hours have been spent learning that failure is what it takes to succeed!


The team decided to build a pedal car as their technical equipment element.  They built a steering system from scratch out of pvc pipe, made their own axels (both the front and back), had a forklift device to move their boxes of parts and finished products to the correct zones set in their challenge.  It only took them nineteen versions to assemble their final piece of equipment.  All from scratch and all with only the brains and hands of a thirteen year old boy named Zach McCrary and a fourteen year old girl, named Zayna Pieper.  They were so excited and ready for some practice runs to get ready for the State tournament.


They had eight minutes to move their team created products from the launch site to the “parts depot” and then move them on to the “assembly area” where they had to assembly twenty of each of their two products (with 8 and 9 parts each) and finally deliver the completed products to the “Delivery Area.”  All while putting on a play about something happening just in time.  That first run through – it took them over fifteen minutes!  They were crushed, what were they going to do?


After some time, they realized that their beloved equipment, although solidly built was made for long distance runs and not for quick starts and stops, which is what they needed for the solution to their DI challenge.  “The night that they decided to discard this car that they had spent hour after hour working on for their backup vehicle, was one of the hardest things I have ever watched.  Not only were Zach and Zayna emotionally distressed, but Coach Mark and I had our fair share of tears too,” recalls Coach Debbie Pieper.  The duo finally reached the conclusion that the only way they could meet their goal of getting back to Global Finals and trying to make it into the top 10 was to take their back-up equipment.


The challenge the team had with their equipment was not the only obstacle they faced this year.  The products they originally designed with eight and nine parts took too long to build, so at the Regional tournament they choose to use only four and nine parts which would lower their score and try to maximize all other point areas.  After winning the Regional tournament, they knew that they had to find a way to have the maximum number of parts for each of their products to meet their goal of moving on to Global Finals – which translated to a complete redesign of one of their products.


The redesigned product involved cutting 217 hole-sawed donuts of varying sizes.  The team found out that using the hole-saw for small sizes was MUCH easier to cut than the larger sizes.   Many hours later the holes cut, painted, glued, and glittered they were ready to try again.  This time after only a few practice runs with their old stand-by car and their new products they were successful!


When asked what he learned this year in DI, Zach said, “We drilled a lot of holes and pretty much made Swiss cheese out of things, but ultimately I learned that it is better to think things thru the whole way instead of just part of the way.” 


The Zany ZigZaching Zuo was second at the State tournament in mid-April and continues to work on improving their solution for Global Finals in Knoxville, TN in hopes of making the famed “Top 10 in the World.”


These two hard, working teams from the small community of Calhan, 35 miles east of Colorado Springs are continuing their learning about real world issues.  One of the biggest, is that winning isn’t enough.  They have to raise over $1,000 per team member to attend their final tournament for the season.  They are selling flowers and gift certificates to Harding Nursery in Colorado Springs, as well as several other smaller fundraisers to earn the money in the next 5 weeks.



To learn more about Destination ImagiNation or how you can help these teams reach Global Finals please call Coach Debbie Pieper at 719-347-2516.



Fund Raising Efforts by the Calhan DI Teams:


  • Bedding flower sales, May 12 and 13 at Pieper & Sons Insurance in Calhan.
  • May 17, Wii Mario Kart Tournament at Calhan School.  $5/person entry fee.
  • May 18, Texas Hold ‘em Poker Tournament at the Calhan VFW Hall.
  • Gift Card sales thru Script – on going.
  • Requesting donations

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