PARIS — “We’re going to kill you,” Eli Puelle yelled to Yarmouth middle school classmates Quinn King, Jonny Lamourie, Henry Hunt and Ben Clinton during Saturday’s Destination ImagiNation competition at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.
Playing the role of viral General Infectious, Puelle, and viral Artillery Capt. Francis Leith guided and operated a 7-foot wooden boom system dubbed “Infectonator 2000” to launch hacky sack viral bombs over a 6-foot wall and into target boxes they couldn’t see during the Direct Deposit challenge.
The seventh-graders’ self-designed skit depicted a dandelion plant cell — played by King, Lamourie, Hunt and Clinton — being attacked by a virus as classmate Ben Waterman performed self-composed background music on an electric guitar.
King, acting as the cell’s nucleus on the other side of the wall, directed Puelle’s and Leith’s positioning of the Infectonator through comic taunts that depicted locations of the cell’s grid zones in which targets were placed.
“In a way, we were rooting for the virus to kill our plant,” King said of team Ze Goat’s work.
In the allotted eight minutes, Puelle, wearing a black costume and helmet decorated with black plastic cups that resembled an octopus’ tentacle, and Leith, dressed in a black jumpsuit and sneakers, hit three targets in six attempts.
The audience erupted in wild applause each time Leith’s conveyor-belt-delivered “bomb” plopped into a box.
The overall effort of creating a device and a skit to solve the competition’s challenge earned them either a first- or second-place finish and a trip to the state competition on April 10 at the University of Maine in Orono, coach Dave Puelle said afterward. A third team failed to show.
“You guys did great for the first round,” he said. “You guys have the most complicated one yet.”
Coach Puelle said his team decided to construct a super-accurate solution in the Destination ImagiNation spirit of high risk, high reward.
“It’s not just about engineering and it’s not just about theater,” Coach Puelle said.
Direct Deposit’s educational focus combined engineering, cost/benefit analysis, innovation and design process, technical design and construction, experimentation, mathematics, communication, theater arts and teamwork.
A few hundred Maine elementary, middle and high school students on more than 50 teams participated in the six-challenge competition, wherein the top three teams in each level will advance to the state competition. That determines who competes in nationals in Knoxville, Tenn., DI Zone Imagination regional director Lorrie Benn of Hancock said.
Other challenges involved building a robot, interactive puppetry skits, improvisational skits, building a weight-bearing but lightweight newspaper-and-liquid glue structure, and community outreach, wherein students resolved community needs and explained what they did via a play.
“They’re given a paper from which they must solve its challenge, and they have eight minutes to set up and present that challenge,” Benn said.
Every challenge must include a theatrical, one-act skit.
“It’s as exciting for parents as it is for the children, because parents get to see their kids do something they don’t normally do,” Benn said.
In the Breaking News challenge, one elementary school team from Brunswick built a newspaper tube that didn’t crush despite having 240 pounds placed atop it.
Team Ze Goat youths and parents said Destination ImagiNation competitions are worthwhile.
“You learn to work with others better than before, and yeah, you have a lot of fun,” Lamourie said. “And you can figure out what your real skills are.”
They also had to overcome adversity.
During practice on Friday, a mistake toppled and broke the Infectonator, which is rolled along a wooden rail to precisely position it for each drop.
They repaired it, but on Saturday one rail was an inch off, skewing all but three drops, King said.
“I learned that everything doesn’t always go as planned, and the slightest error can make a big effect,” he said.
“My son learned that being a leader isn’t about being the most outgoing person, so it was a teachable moment for him,” Sabrina Murphy said of King.
“This is my son’s first year doing this, and I think it was really eye-opening for him to work as a team, because he’s not a big sports guy,” Jay Waterman said. “I think he learned a lot about himself.”