Day 11 – QuickFire – Marshmallow Challenge

The quick fire today was the 18-minute Marshmallow Challenge. If you haven’t heard of the Marshmallow Challenge, I encourage you to check out there webpage and arrange to host a challenge yourself. It is a great team building, problem solving task for all ages.

Today we had 4 members in each group and each group was given the supplies specified by the official challenge webpage – 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of masking tape, 1 yard of string, and 1 marshmallow.

Tom, Jim, Myself, Abby  Photo Credit: Abby Seigel

Tom, Jim, Myself, Abby
Photo Credit: Abby Seigel

Quickly as the challenge began, our group discussed the structural properties of triangles and began to construct a triangular pyramid. After building the pyramid, we discussed what the next step might be – would we built on top of the pyramid and attach the marshmallow there? We decided that it would be too heavy and would fall down, so we need to raise the pyramid that we had build up higher. Looking at the number of spaghetti sticks that we had left we decided to continue to build in the triangular pattern to try and rain the main pyramid, while still maintaining the structural integrity.

In the end we attached our marshmallow to the top using two spaghetti sticks that we taped together at multiple locations for added strength. The structure was very stable and the marshmallow stayed as vertical as we could expect.  In the end we were victorious but in the end everyone was able to learn some valuable lessons about design, innovation, creativity, and collaboration.

After the challenge we watched the TED Talk based on the research and trends when this challenge is executed. It was interesting that some of the most innovate and creative designs were created by Kindergarten students, and  the least successful when there was a monetary reward attached to the completion of the task. When I think about how these concepts apply to problem solving, I think it is important to try and not be attached to things that we know, and pay attention to what the problem is telling us. The process of iterative design, where by you make small adjustments toward improvement has very applicable uses in many types of problem solving tasks such as the Marshmallow Challenge. Iterative design is one thing that I spend a lot of time working with my Robotics Team on, completing small parts of the mission at a time to work toward the larger goal. I think that this concept can be utilized better in other areas for solving problems that are structured in messy or challenging parameters.