Anna’s middle school and high schools were bursting at the seams over the weekend as they hosted an estimated 12,000 participants and visitors from all over Texas for the Texas Destination Imagination State Tournament on Friday and Saturday. Awards were given to the winning teams that competed among 4,500 students from schools all over Texas.

The core mission of Destination Imagination is to challenge student teams to solve open-ended challenges through the use of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and fine arts. While Anna High School did not have a team competing this year, the district hopes the positive reception from hosting the event will help gain support needed to implement the organization’s program into the schools.

Anna ISD was clearly excited to host the event, as evidenced by Superintendent Pete Slaughter.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to expose our community to an organization that promotes academics through creative and innovative thinking,” he said. “Anna ISD wants to bring positive academic programs to our students and allow them to be successful.”

The event required cooperation from an army of volunteers, AISD personnel and DI representatives. Feedback during the tournament was overwhelmingly positive, according to the district. AISD employee Christy McDonald said, “I was extremely impressed with the amount of student volunteers and organizations that showed up to help. All the volunteers I encountered were super-friendly to our guests, very hospitable and were great ambassadors of Anna.”

The event has been a year in the making and required coordination between DI Representatives, Anna ISD, The City of Anna and the Greater Anna Chamber of Commerce.

“The DI State Meet was a great event to host. We had over 150 workers and volunteers who help make this event possible,” said Executive Director of Anna ISD Dr. Bradley Duncan. “The event was bigger than expected, but Anna really made a good impression on our visitors. First time visitors from across the state, including Dalhart, Corpus Christi, El Paso and Texarkana were impressed by the facilities and the community of Anna.”

It was certainly a festive and positively-charged atmosphere. Those who competed in the tournament were encouraged to outfit their teams in vibrant matching outfits which filled the festival-like atmosphere with flashing lights and creative fun as part of the celebration.

“Everyone wears the costumes and hats because at awards you do not wear your team shirts, you wear your region shirt, so most teams get matching hats and costumes,” Clare Swindell of Katy High School said. Swindell and her team each dressed in a blue superhero theme for the event.

The tournament concluded in a large, bright and colorful closing ceremony where awards were presented to the winning team in each category, sending the hopeful students on to compete against their peers from around the globe in the world tournament. Coyote Stadium was filled with scores of students from elementary, secondary, and university schools from all over the state as they presented awards in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and fine arts categories. Each team named themselves and was assigned a task relevant to the category they competed. ‘Pi Dlers’ is the name chosen by honor students Swindell, Marshall Anderson, Mason Anderson, Grace Andrews and Christopher Martine from Katy High School, which won first place in the Texas Destination Imagination’s fine arts category titled ‘Close Encounters’ requiring the students to compete with a clever improvised comedy skit.

It wasn’t just high school kids competing. Ida McArthur, Fernanda López, Ethan Chirinos and Kindon Eliot, of Peters Colony Elementary, competed with their team coach Kim Turner and took home fourth place in the Meme Event, which challenged elementary-aged students to organize an environmentally beneficial effort in their community through the use of memes and social media. The team took home medals in the category after making their memes go viral in their local networks and through working with their local city council to organize new clean-up efforts and environmentally friendly policy revisions.

“The 2016 Destination Imagination Tournament was held in Anna this past weekend and was a wonderful experience for teams, team managers, appraisers and supporters,” said DI Affiliate Director Sue Shanks. “All participants thoroughly enjoyed the small town experience. [The] closing Ceremonies were a fantastic success with the video board and great sound system at the stadium.

“Dr. Bradley Duncan and Mr. Thance Springer were very willing to work with Texas DI and allowed Texas DI the ability to creatively solve any problems that arose. The Texas Destination Imagination Board of Directors praised Brad and Thance as the best administrators to work with in Texas. Our goal is to have students involved in the Destination Imagination program in Anna ISD in the future.”

Texas Destination Imagination’s is non-profit, volunteer-led problem solving educational organization that promotes creativity in Texas’ school-aged youth. The program involves more than 19,000 Texas students in its yearly competitions, making it the largest affiliate in the world with more than 3,200 teams in 2014-15. The rest of Destination Imagination is made up of more than 100,000 students in the United States with affiliates in 30 countries. All of the students involved in the organizations’ tournaments work their way up to compete with other teams of gifted problem-solvers from around the world.

More information about Texas Destination Imagination and a complete list of winners for each category is available at www.TexasDI.org.

Editor’s Note: AISD Communications & Marketing Specialist Melane Woodbury contributed to this story.