If you were on campus a few weekends ago, you would have seen hordes of children trooping around campus, some in costume, some practicing lines, some even lugging pieces of scenery, but all of them were absorbing memories of UTD that will influence how they see our university.
On March 3rd, UTD held a regional competition for a creative problem solving competition named Destination Imagination (DI). A modern offshoot of Odyssey of the Mind, DI involves teams of five to seven schoolchildren and ranges from firstgraders to university students. These teams choose from one of five ?Challenges? and spend several months to create a ?solution? in the form of an eight minute skit. Some challenges are theatrical, some technical, and others structural. Also, every team, nomatter what challenge they choose, competes in an all-improvisational portion of the competition that counts for a quarter of their total score.
The combination of long-term and short-term components test and develop team?s creativity, teamwork and organizational skills.
If any collegiate recruiter heard this short description of DI, they would be positively foaming at the mouth. What is easier than sending all of the DI kids a letter inviting them to campus? We could just have the competition here!
UTD has one of the few well-supported collegiate DI programs. Although we do compete against a hand-full of other colleges at the global competition, the main goal of the program here is recruitment. DI gives away a hefty scholarship each year at the State level competition.
In previous years, UTD?s DI teams were content simply representing our university well and putting UTD?s name in the minds of DI kids and parents alike; however, recently we decided to proverbially ?kick it up a notch.? Last year we held the Dal-Rich regional competition that was usually held at a local high-school that was situated next to a middle school.
Instead of squashing into high school hallways and worrying about limited parking, we decided it was time for our region to graduate to something better. We opened up our arms and with a significant amount of convincing, brought the competition to UTD.
We used the conference center for something it is rarely ever used for, a conference! Also the galaxy rooms, activity center, and a few assorted lecture halls in Jonsson were used, but we had more than enough room to accommodate the 1,200 people who were brought to campus.
During the whole competition, everyone was talking about our beautiful campus, our spacious classrooms and our friendly students, something you rarely hear about from students, true comments that are rarely made at UTD.
The rave reviews by kids, parents and organizers alike eventually filtered to the ears of the state level competition, which was scheduled to be held by the Dallas region in 2007. (The Dallas region is separate from the Dal-Rich region in which UTD is situated) The head of the Dallas region was in a quandary as to where to hold the competition; generally considered too big to be held in a single high school (even the giant ones in Dallas).
It was only a matter of time before she came to us and asked if we would be willing to hold the competition. Ironically enough, at the 2006 State competition award ceremony UTD was presented with the Crusader Award, for its involvement and continuing support of collegiate DI. How could we turn down this amazing opportunity to bring thousands of bright, creative, hardworking prospective Comets to campus?
Needless to say UTD accepted and plans were almost immediately put into motion for the competition.
To put the State competition into perspective, the award ceremony is being held at Lows Fieldhouse because it is simply far beyond the capability of our Activity Center.
So this year UTD has kicked our DI involvement into overdrive. When the regional competition was first held at UTD, we relegated our roles to facilitators, rather than direct organizers. This year, however, students took on much more active roles within the competition. In fact, of the eight or nine leading roles, seven were held by UTD students.
The competition went so well last year that in this year?s competition, more teams showed up than ever before.
All this is leading towards the big challenge: how will UTD respond to State, a competition nearly four times larger than our regional one? We definitely have the space, but UTD?s resources will be tested beyond anything in recent memory. This competition is larger than anything that has visited UTD in at least the time I have been here, and it is therefore the largest chance we have of showing off our university and bringing these bright kids to our student population.
So here it is? you knew it was coming: a competition of this size needs an incredible number of volunteers. Here is your chance to finally pay back that housing scholarship you?ve been wasting away on beer. Shoot me an email if you want to be officially involved, but even if you don?t want to be on the roster, be helpful. When you see campus swarming with kids that look excited and enthusiastic, but don?t quite understand the difference between the Student Union and the Activity Center, give them a hand! Remember, you are showing off campus. We want each of these people as a future Comet, so treat them like it.