FARMINGTON — A slightly chaotic scene unfolded Wednesday morning at the McGee Park Convention Center as hundreds of students competed in challenges to test their creativity, critical thinking and teamwork skills.
About 850 students solved instant challenges during the fourth annual San Juan County Instant Challenge Fiesta. The challenges are a part of the Destination Imagination program, an international competition.
Organizer Emily Foose said the goal of the event is to give students an opportunity to work on the instant challenge component of the total Destination Imagination competition. The competition includes the instant challenges and a main challenge in which students work on a project for months before the regional competition.
"The program was started because we had very few students who were doing well in the instant challenge," Foose said. "This is a good way for the teams to interact with each other and learn their strengths, so they become stronger when they perform at the regional tournament."
The Northwest Regional Destination Imagination competition will take place before the state tournament in April 2014.
The San Juan County Instant Challenge Fiesta has grown from 30 teams in its first year. This year, the 180 teams included students from third to 12th grades from Aztec, Bloomfield, Central Consolidated and Farmington school districts. Students competed in 180 different challenges spread between the main convention center and the multi-use building nearby. Each team completed six challenges during the event.
Each team brought its own challenge to the event, devised by the students with minimal teacher assistance.
One team passed candy between teammates using only a straw. In another challenge, a blindfolded student stacked cardboard boxes guided by teammates' voices. Meanwhile, another team used tulle netting, plastic wrap and tin foil to create an outfit on a fellow teammate.
Ryan Boddy, a seventh grader at Heights Middle School in Farmington, worked with his team to form a human pyramid.
"We had to figure out how to form a base, and we put three people on the bottom," Boddy said.
Initially, the team members struggled to balance on top of the students forming the base. But with time running out at the station, the team eventually completed the task. Boddy said the challenges are good for strengthening teamwork and problem solving.
Plus, it's fun to work out problems as a team, said Faith Hathenbruck, a senior at Piedra Vista High School in Farmington.
"Everybody has something to put into it," Hathenbruck said.
Her favorite challenge was when her team transported balloons using only their knees.
"Since we could only use our knees, other team members helped move the balloon along with their knees so it didn't fall and we didn't have to start all over again," Hathenbruck said. "It's really cool to work as a team."