The Banana-ramas, a Wylie Destination Imagination team of Middle School and Intermediate students, won the Global Championship in their division at the DI Global Finals in Tennessee in May.
The Banana-ramas are the first Wylie team to ever finish 1st in the world at the competition, which includes more than 1,400 teams from 20 different countries. The Wylie team’s division included 76 teams from places such as China, Singapore and Turkey as well as most U.S. states.
Members of the team are Ryan Blake, Wyatt Edmiston, Luke Frazee, Sarah Frazee, Caden Sauley and Cooper Mascarro.
The Banana-ramas were one of two Wylie teams to qualify for Globals. Simply Platonic, a High School team, finished 9th in the world. Team members are Jannae Delacot, Kiersten Cooper, Parker Alford, Close McCurdy, Nick Tindol and Jose Pacheco.
The members of the Banana-ramas started DI three years ago, and remarkably they have qualified for the Global Finals all three years. The first year, they finished 16th in the world, and last year they finished 4th in the world.
The goal this year was to do better.
“What we were aiming for was Top 3, so we could go on the stage, and get a cool trophy and some medals,” Caden said.
During closing ceremonies, teams who finished in 4th-10th places are listed on a huge Jumbotron. Then teams that finish in 3rd through 1st get to come up to the stage.
“It shows top 10 on the screen, and we weren’t up there,” Caden said. “We didn’t get 3rd. We didn’t get 2nd. We didn’t win the Instant Challenge. It’s like, oh no.”
Hope was beginning to fade. And then they announce 1st place.
“Once they call your name, it’s just like, oh gosh. What??? Us???” Caden said. “I got to hold the trophy walking across the stage. I just lifted it up as high as I could.”
The Banana-ramas started working on their DI presentation back in October when they chose from six different challenges outlined by the national organization. The Banana-ramas picked the Musical Mashup Challenge.
“We had to build a structure that held as much weight as possible and had to be as light as possible,” Luke said.
The team used balsa wood and super glue to build their structure. Because the structure is broken each time the team makes the presentation, they actually have to build numerous structures over the course of the year.
Wylie DI Director Kim Cheek said the Banana-ramas built more than 50 structures when most teams usually build 15-20 in a year. Their work paid off, however, as their structure held 935 pounds at Globals and weighed 16.7 grams.
The structure also had to play music for 30 seconds, so the team used a straw in the construction that sounded like a kazoo when played. The team also had to create a story and act out a skit.
“We had to incorporate the structure into our skit as much as possible,” Luke said.
So the team created characters that played instruments and sang songs from the 80s. Cooper and Luke were brother praying mantises, and Cooper was a rock star on the kazoo.
Ryan was a spider with maracas on his legs, and he did Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance.
“I got to wear a black body suit,” Ryan said. “It was awesome.”
Wyatt was a drumming donkey. He used peanut cans and a cymbal to make his instrument. Sarah was a tambourine-playing bird. She made an elaborate costume for her character.
“For the wings I used bubble wrap,” she said. “I covered it in cheese cloth. I hot glued feathers on it.”
Caden was a goat that played the Bongo, which he made from a movie-theater popcorn container.
“Each of these guys were extremely creative with their costumes,” Cheek said.
Amanda Frazee, who is team manager, said one of the group’s strengths is its ability to handle problems without blinking an eye.
During their presentation at Globals, just such a problem occurred.
“The mountain that we made, the top was supposed to fold up,” Wyatt said. “In the skit, it fell down, and me and Ryan had to take turns holding it up.”
“That’s one of the things appraisers look for,” Cheek said. “If something goes wrong, do the team members step up and not let it affect their performance. They were cool under pressure.”
Each team in the division is judged on its presentation as well as its structure and how the team performs in an instant challenge.
The Banana-ramas were 3rd in the world in instant challenge, and their structure ratio was 2nd in the world. When those two scores were averaged with their performance score, they won 1st place by a whopping 26 points.
“Out of all the things they were judged on, they did not win one thing, but they were strong in everything,” Frazee said. “They all had to do their part to be No. 1.”
Once the students returned home, their success brought them attention from local media. But they used their ability to adapt to handle the interviews like pros.
“They are all very inquisitive kids,” Cheek said. “They like learning. They like doing. Those kids are all witty, but they are high energy. If you compare them to a Winnie the Pooh character, they would all be Tiggers.”