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The Destination Imagination Global Finals returns to campus next week for its 17th year in Knoxville.

This year’s event will feature Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, a former high school science teacher who was part of NASA’s space shuttle mission STS-131 in 2010. She spent 15 days in space and helped resupply the International Space Station with hardware, science, and equipment.

Metcalf-Lindenburger, who was a special guest at last year’s Global Finals, will host two free inspirational sessions for DI participants and speak at the DI high school and college graduation ceremonies.

More than 17,000 people, including 8,000 student participants, are expected to attend this year’s Global Finals. DI events will be held in multiple locations in and around campus, including the Knoxville Convention Center, World’s Fair Park, TRECS, and Thompson-Boling Arena. Most events are closed to the public and require passes.

Teams will begin checking in on Monday, May 22, with competition events running Wednesday, May 24, through Friday, May 26. The closing ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 27.

The Global Finals is the culminating event of the Destination Imagination season. DI teams that advance past regional and affiliate tournaments are invited to participate in Global Finals.

The focus of the four-day event is fostering creativity and curiosity through hands-on challenges, camps, and workshops. This year’s competitors come from 17 countries, including the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Cayman Islands, China, Colombia, Guatemala, Israel, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Turkey.

DI’s mission is to inspire and equip students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders. The volunteer-led nonprofit organization teaches students the creative process through science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and arts, and through service-learning challenges. In its 30 years, more than 1.5 million kids have participated in DI events.

For more information, visit the Destination Imagination Global Finals website.