James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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Discovering creative solutions to challenging problems

By Amanda Rivera
10/18/06

PHOTO: Competitors at Destination Imagination Global ChallengeTo the average bystander it may take the likes of MacGyver to build something useful out of merely some paperclips and rubber bands.  However, Destination Imagination (DI) is proof that anyone can learn to develop creative solutions to seemingly impossible tasks.  When current DI President Sydney Ryan first heard about the program, she thought, “It sounds kind of crazy, but it could be a good time.”  Attending the first meeting and those thereafter, this pre-physical therapy senior soon discovered that DI was just the kind of fun she had anticipated.

As the only university DI team in Virginia, JMU offers the program as a one credit course (ISAT 280) or towards participation as part of a club.  Sydney says, “Its one of those classes that you go to and you just enjoy, not really stress too much.”  Involving technical, mechanical, structural, and theatrical components, students are presented with various challenges.  During their scheduled time (Thursdays 5:30-7:30pm), DI members focus on both instant challenges and long-term challenges.  Instant challenges initiate on-the-spot thinking, in which, for example, teams are given several materials and asked to build a bridge that can bear weight.  On the other hand, long-term challenges require thorough planning to complete the challenge according to the constraints and allotted budget for materials.  Sydney recalls her favorite instant challenge in which the students were asked to build a boat out of paper plates and a plastic container.  When the boats were tested she realized the truth of the adage- "Don't judge a book by its cover." Looking at seemingly ill-constructed boats, she thought, “That’s never going to work, I don’t know what you were thinking;” however, Sydney says emphatically, “They [the boats] went on forever.”

The students meet the ultimate test of problem-solving skills at the annual Global Challenge, which encompasses both instant challenges and long-term challenges.  Attending Globals last May at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Sydney says, “You go in and you think its going to be a breeze….and then you get to the competition and you’re like, ‘O my goodness,’ [because] people have the most elaborate, crazy things.”  With about nine hundred other teams from all over the world, the two teams representing JMU DI, “Madison Creative Crew” and “Madison Entropy,” relied heavily on teamwork to solve the various problems presented to them.  Sydney states, “You really have to give and take when you only have 3 minutes…you have to [learn to] weed out and filter out all the bad ideas and grab all the good ideas,” a strategy she observes is also very helpful towards her required work with lab groups as a Health Science major.

With only twelve members the first year, Sydney hopes that this year will see a better turnout.  While the program may seem better catered towards specific interests and abilities, she assures that Destination Imagination is for all majors.  “Everyone just brings so much to the table, people over in the Languages and English department…they write scripts and you act and then you have the technical stuff which is great [for] people in ISAT,” she says.  While Sydney joined DI on a whim, she says that DI has proved to be a very rewarding experience, “It might put you a little out of your comfort zone, but before long your comfort zone grows…and that’s good for anyone.”