How to Start DI in your school, community group or company…

Sponsoring Organization

While we can help you set up a “free agent” team, most DI teams have a sponsoring organization. This is usually a local school but it can also be a community group or business. The sponsoring organization usually pays the national and state DI membership fees. In addition, the team will have other expenses such as materials (there are cost limits for the solutions) and in some cases travel for going to tournaments.


  1. Begin by recruiting creative students. Invite interested students to a recruitment meeting. You can ask teachers or other adults for recommendations. Remember, every student is gifted in some way so resist the temptation to limit team members to “gifted” students.
  2. Recruit teacher and/or parents to be team managers. Often parents of interested students are willing to take on this job so that their child will have this opportunity.
  3. Hold a meeting with interested students and parents. It might go something like this:

    Tonight was the beginning of DI at our local middle school and it was a huge success. The room at the school rapidly filled with team members and all but 3 are new to creative problem solving. We displayed all our pins, t-shirts, IC kits, books etc. for the new team members to see when they arrived. We spent about 15 minutes discussing creativity and the program in general. Then we did a short instant challenge. I threw a pencil on the floor in the middle of the circle and asked everyone to tell what they thought it was.

    Next we watched the latest Global Finals video. Everyone was given a list of important dates, challenge previews, “what is DI” and information about how to avoid interference.

    Each potential team member was given 1 large sheet of construction paper and a colored marker. They were told to add their name, the day they were able to meet and their favorite challenge. A few questioned how big they were supposed to write their names……..:) ah, the lead-in to “if it doesn’t say you can’t, then you can” Now we really started talking about creativity!

    Next we did another IC with the students only. I gave the kids 1 minute to divide into 2 large equal groups on opposite sides of the room. I then used the “What’s in the bottle part” challenge found on the IC playhouse website. The parents enjoyed watching………then they found out it was their turn!

    Parents were given the “Entertainment in the year 3000 challenge” (also on the IC playhouse website). While the parents worked on the challenge, the kids read over the challenge previews and listed their top 3 on their construction paper. Everyone was having a wonderful time especially when the parents performed!

    After the parents finished performing, I told the kids, their last challenge was to use their creative papers to make their teams. Simple as that they all began calling out their preferred challenges and we have 3 VERY happy teams!

Team Formation

There are many different ways to form teams within your group. Each sponsoring group can decide the best way to do this. Some groups follow the scenario described above. Other ways to do this are through teacher/adult recommendations, auditions, assignment to teams by the group coordinator and team managers. It is best to try and match up students with the challenge that interests them the most.

Parent’s Meeting

The goal of the parent’s meeting is to convey the following information:

-This is a commitment and if your child wants to do this, he/she will need your support for the long haul.

-The team will decide roles both in front of the audience and in preparation, and parents and team managers need to support those choices, not second guess the kids.

-Team dynamics and roles evolve over time; be patient.

-It’s a great time for kids to learn about responsibility; if the kid agrees to paint a widget by Wednesday, he/she needs to do it. (Not the parent, the KID.)


-If you’ve got a kid with multiple other outside activities or who has trouble getting homework done, think long and hard about how you are going to fit this all in before you commit.

-Emphasize the dangers of interference – especially taking the positive side that this is the kids’ project and their chance to grow and shine. Tell the parents that this is the single toughest thing to do, since we are all used to jumping in and giving kids hints about how to do things the easiest way. Remind them that no matter how terrific their ideas are, if they share them, the kids cannot use them (even if they would have thought of it themselves later.) It’s not just about losing points, it’s about ownership: this is not the adult’s challenge, it belongs to the kids and solving it is that much sweeter when you do every step of it without assistance. (And sooner or later, one of these unassisted teams really IS going to invent a wheel that works better than Firestone, but only if we leave them alone to do the trial and error it takes.)

-Do ask for help in appropriate ways: tell parents you’ll need snacks and supplies, tell them to save whatever weird trash and recyclables their kid wants, because “you never know”.

-You may want a couple parents around when you start building just to keep an eye on safety concerns, such as hot glue guns or electric drills (if your team chooses to use them.) Put out feelers to see who is interested.

– If a parent has a resource where the kids can visit and sort through leftover items (in our case, a small assembly plant opened its doors and we found cardboard boxes, pieces of acetate, spools from wire, that sort of thing), ask for an early field trip. Tell them you don’t know what you are looking for, because it’s true. You don’t know what type of resources folks have if you don’t ask, or ask the kids for ideas.

-Ask if anyone wants their garage sorted out, and let your team keep the stuff they can use.

-Budget: The $125 worth of junk that becomes your solution may just evolve from things the kids found or brought or dug out of a dumpster but, in most cases, you need glue, paint and other supplies to stick it all together. Those supplies can get expensive. Some teams ask each family to contribute $20 bucks (20×7 is $140 right? The $15 is extra stuff that doesn’t end up in the solution.) — but we must have used another couple hundred $ in stuff we started, and abandoned, or never worked out, or didn’t really need. Or that the dog ate and we had to make a second time. So if you go the $20 route, advise the parents that they might need to chip in again in the spring if supplies run low. ($125 represents the stuff in the solution that the judges see, but you will have to “waste” a little practicing on the route to success. Surplus doesn’t count in the final budget, just stuff you actually use.) Another budget consideration is how will you pay for any travel expenses you encounter. You may have to rent a truck to transport the solution to a tournament. How will you cover the cost if your team has the chance to go to Global Finals (the cost is about $400-$600 per student depending on how many pins they buy to trade).

-Meetings dates are important: first figure out what is good for YOU, the team manager, then offer a couple choices for the team. We had to work around soccer, basketball and baseball schedules, you probably will, too. So find out in advance who is doing what and when their practices or games are and see if there are obvious open times.

-One option is to have instant challenge practices at school either right before or right after school: the kids are already going to be there, not another trip to schedule. Before school wasn’t an option for my sleepy team, but 3:30 to 5 p.m. was great. They were tired of behaving and being quiet and got silly quickly. We met on weekends to do our structure and set building, away from school, but if you have access to an art room (and Storage – very important!) you might be able to keep it all at school.

-Snacks: it might not seem worth considering, but depending on when you meet, having a bag of pretzels or fruit rollups, helps them settle down and focus. So work out a system up front with all the parents so that snacks and drinks are covered.

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