Robert Cserti

Marshmallow challenge with debriefing

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In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.

The Marshmallow Challenge was developed by Tom Wujec, who has done the activity with hundreds of groups around the world. Visit the Marshmallow Challenge website for more information. This version has an extra debriefing question added with sample questions focusing on roles within the team.

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Goal

Create a teamwork experience that can be debriefed along various angles, such as roles in a team, or what it takes to innovate

Attachments

Materials

    Instructions

    Before starting the challenge, make sure that there is a table set up with materials for each team.

    Create teams of four participants, explain the task below and run the challenge.

    The task is simple: in eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.

    Emphasise the following details of the instructions:

    • Build the Tallest Freestanding Structure: The winning team is the one that has the tallest structure measured from the table top surface to the top of the marshmallow. That means the structure cannot be suspended from a higher structure, like a chair, ceiling or chandelier.
    • The Entire Marshmallow Must be on Top: The entire marshmallow needs to be on the top of the structure. Cutting or eating part of the marshmallow disqualifies the team.
    • Use as Much or as Little of the Kit: The team can use as many or as few of the 20 spaghetti sticks, as much or as little of the string or tape. The team cannot use the paper bag as part of their structure.
    • Break up the Spaghetti, String or Tape: Teams are free to break the spaghetti, cut up the tape and string to create new structures.
    • The Challenge Lasts 18 minutes: Teams cannot hold on to the structure when the time runs out. Those touching or supporting the structure at the end of the exercise will be disqualified.
    • Ensure Everyone Understands the Rules: Don’t worry about repeating the rules too many times. Repeat them at least three times. Ask if anyone has any questions before starting.

    After the clock runs out, ask everyone in the room to sit down so everyone can see the structures. Measure the structures and announce the winning team.

    Debriefing

    After the challenge is finished, move on with the debriefing discussion (you may use the leading questions from the attached ppt):

    Show debriefing questions and instruct to:

    1) Reflect alone (5 mins)

    2) Sharing within team (10 mins)

    3) Triad discussions with extra questions about roles (3*3 mins)

    Debriefing questions:

    • For personal reflection:
      • What was the strategy of the team?
      • What was my role in the team?
      • What worked well in my team?
      • What would I improve next time in my team’s work?
    • For sharing within the team:
      • What worked well in my team?
        • What would I improve next time in my team’s work?
    • For triad discussion:
      • What are the advantageous aspects of your role? (that you usually take)
      • What are the disadvantageous aspects of your role? (that you usually take)
      • What learning would you take away from this exercise? 

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