May 15, 2015
Destination Imagination to Bring Nearly 17,000 People to UT Campus Next Week
KNOXVILLE—Destination Imagination's Global Finals Expo—considered the world's largest celebration of creativity and innovation—will bring a record-setting 16,700 participants to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, next week.
Destination Imagination will take place May 20-23. This is the 15th consecutive year that UT has hosted the competition.
Robert Gibbs, executive director of UT Conferences and Non-Credit Programs, said Destination Imagination has a huge impact on the campus—not only in the monumental effort it takes to house and feed participants and accommodate competitions, but also in the financial benefits and international exposure reaped from the event.
Destination Imagination participants will be housed in 32 locations, including 11 UT residence halls. Events will take place in buildings across campus, including the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center, the Clarence Brown Theatre, the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center, the Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Alumni Memorial Building and Thompson-Boling Arena.
"What better situation than to have nearly 17,000 youth and mentors and chaperones on our campus, on their own dime, experiencing what we have to offer," Gibbs said. "The exposure we get from that is incredible."
Eighty percent of the 1,400 Destination Imagination teams come from 48 U.S. states, including Texas, California, New York, Colorado, Michigan and Tennessee. International participants from 18 countries make up the remaining 20 percent, with China as the leader, closely followed by Canada, Turkey, Qatar, South Korea and Mexico.
This year, Disney is Destination Imagination's top sponsor. The event is also heavily supported by NASA, and Apollo 11 Commander Buzz Aldrin will participate in opening night ceremonies.
Over the years, Destination Imagination has involved more than 1.5 million young people and adults. This year, about 100,000 young people competed in tournaments in 30 countries to earn a spot at the Global Finals.
Among those making the trek to Knoxville is Turner Hubbard, 9, a third-grader at Sun City Elementary School in Bossier City, Louisiana.
Hubbard was one of the 14 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from his school to participate in the Louisiana state Destination Imagination contest, where his technical team claimed the gold medal and the right to advance to the Global Finals. Like the other competitors, Hubbard and his team will keep their project a secret until the day of the competition.
Destination Imagination students will compete in one of six challenges. While Hubbard's team will be involved in the technical challenge, others will compete in fine arts, scientific, improvisational, structural or service-learning categories.
The Global Finals Innovation Expo will give participants the chance to peruse hands-on exhibits from NASA, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, National Geographic, Oracle Academy and other innovative companies. Plus they will have the opportunity to participate in more than 100 skills workshops ranging from 3-D printing to Broadway dance to computer science.
For Hubbard, though, the chance to come visit UT and Knoxville is especially exciting. His grandparents, Mark and Lou Kerr, previously lived in Knoxville and have filled Hubbard's childhood with stories of Knoxville, UT and the Tennessee Volunteers.
"I am a huge UT fan, so he had grown up hearing about UT from me," Lou Kerr said, adding that her grandson and his parents will try to eke out time to sightsee a bit while they are here.
"My grandson has never really visited mountains before," explained Kerr, "so he's excited about that."
For more information about Destination Imagination, visit http://globalfinals.org.