Seven Ridgewood Elementary School students will travel to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville May 21-24 to compete in the Destination Imagination Global Finals.

Seven Ridgewood Elementary School students will travel to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville May 21-24 to compete in the Destination Imagination Global Finals.

The fifth-graders are coached by Gordon Fowler, a physical-education teacher at Ridgewood who said he hand-picked the team from among the students who applied.

"Each one brings a particular strength to the table that allows the whole group to be successful," he said.

Fowler, who has taught at Hilliard schools for 25 years, said he has coached Destination Imagination or Odyssey of the Mind, from which Destination Imagination evolved, for two decades.

"I got this gray hair from coaching ... but it's been so much fun each year," Fowler said.

The fifth-graders on the team known as the Mind Munchers are Henry Byrne, Audrey Cave, Eris Cilfone, Michael Herring, Avery Lawson, Lindsay Stull and Donovan Young.

The team members have grown close since January, often completing each other's sentences.

"I've made new friends on the team and it's been a lot of fun," Stull said.

Only fifth-grade students are chosen and a new team is created each year, Fowler said.

Participating teams choose one of six categories in which to compete: technical, scientific, structural, fine arts, improvisational and service learning.

Each of the categories has a theme associated with it. In the case of structural, the Ridgewood team's category of choice, the theme is "The Tension Builds" and refers to the anticipation of a structure collapsing.

For the competition, teams must build a balsawood structure weighing no more than 120 grams.

A board is placed atop the structure, resembling a cylinder with square sides, and evenly distributes the weight placed upon it.

A maximum of 650 pounds is used. The winner is determined by a ratio of the weight the structure can accept relative to the weight of the structure.

For instance, a 50-gram structure that supports 300 pounds would have a better score than a 60-gram structure that supported 350 pounds.

Fowler said he can explain the science and engineering of building the structure, but he is not allowed to assist the students with building it.

In addition to building the structure, students are graded in two other categories: performing a skit and an "instant challenge."

"The kids don't know what (the instant challenge) is until they get there," Fowler said. "They are given some material and told to build something with only the material provided."

The students are told not to discuss the instant challenge afterward because future teams could be given the same instant challenge, Fowler said.

Herring said he tried out for the team because he enjoys math and science and likes building things.

"My sister and I also make puppets," Herring said, so he knew he would like the performance component.

He also is in charge of transporting the team's structure in a decorated box. The team is using the same structure that won the state competition April 20 at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. It supported a maximum weight of 650 pounds and was the lightest, at 55 grams, to do so.

The team won the regional competition March 15 at Reynoldsburg High School's Summit Road campus with a 44-gram structure that held 380 pounds before collapsing, but still had the best score based on the applied ratio.

The team is raising money to defray travel expenses to Knoxville and the entry fee of $3,750 in the Global Finals, which will include about 16,000 students from the United States and other countries, Fowler said.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, 1835 Hilliard-Rome Road, will donate a portion of sales to the team from 4 to 8 p.m. May 13, and donations are accepted at Ridgewood Elementary School.