Hundreds of schoolchildren were at Simon Intermediate School Saturday, flexing their imaginations.

Student teams from schools in the northern region of the state were competing in Destination ImagiNation, a creativity and problem solving event for kids in grades K-12.

It’s an international event that this year has 15,131 teams competing around the world with the ultimate challenge set for May 25-28 at the Global Finals at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Winners of Saturday’s Conway event will travel to the state tournament in Hot Springs on April 2 where they’ll compete against teams of the southern region for the state championship.

Overseeing Saturday’s event was Brownie Mitchell of Bismarck (Hot Spring County) who has worked with Destination ImagiNation for 28 years. She’s the state director and chairman of the board for Destination ImagiNation International. She oversees the program in 50 states and 42 countries.

Strolling the school’s halls on Saturday, it was possible to see a pretty little princess who is always rejected; a group of hard-hatted youngsters intent on building a contraption that could move three times their weight; and a team of fourth-graders putting their heads together hoping they’d get an Instant Challenge they could all complete successfully.

Imagine that.

There are lots of rules, the chief of which is: Parents and teachers must keep hands off. Everything must be the work of the children.

Destination ImagiNation website says the program was created by parents and teachers and takes the concepts of creativity, problem-solving and teamwork and packages them in a fun and meaningful program.

It is based on the concept of divergent thinking -- understanding there is more than one way to solve a problem. It encourages children to work together as teams and discover technical, theatrical, analytical, comic, linguistic or musical talents.

The school was buzzing, and volunteers from this region were helping at every turn.

Bill Bradbury, a fireman from Hot Springs, said he’s been an official since his kids, now in college, were little. His son, Kyle Bradbury, is set to graduate from Hendrix College in May.

"It’s a great lot of fun," Bradbury said while wearing a Chinese lantern on top of a pith helmet. His job was to tell each group what to expect and give out some advice.

He had inked "Speak up!" on the top of his left hand. 

Imagination is catching.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at 505-1234 or becky.harris@thecabin.net)