Fun Problem-Solving With The Marshmallow Challenge Game

Video Transcript for Marshmallow Challenge Gamepresented by Mark Collard

In a moment I’m going to set up each of your groups, small groups of four or five people, with limited resources. Everyone will have exactly the same resources and your 20 minutes is to create something with those resources.

The resources you shall each receive include a strip of masking tape that’s roughly a metre long. Protect it, because you’ll want to use it. You’ll also receive about 600 mm of twine, a piece of string.

I’m also going to give each of your groups 20 sticks of thin spaghetti… 20 sticks of thin spaghetti. They are located in corner over here. And finally one new, never-been-eaten, just-been-opened marshmallow.

This is your task, using all of those resources, the collective thinking and the 20 minutes you have to work together, is to combine all of those resources to create not only a self-supporting structure, but most importantly… you may have the tallest structure and still not win because the determinant of success in this exercise, the Marshmallow Challenge game, is the team that places the marshmallow the furthest off the ground shall win.

So that may be the tallest structure, but I have seen many structures that are very tall but the marshmallow is not very high off the ground.

So let me repeat the task because at this point you’re thinking, surely that’s easy, it’s going to be a very interesting 20 minutes.

Each group is going to receive 20 sticks of spaghetti, a metre-length of masking tape, about 600 mm of twine, and one marshmallow. You have a choice, pink or white. They both have about the same performance properties as each other.

You can cut up, change the number of the sticks. You could change the 20 sticks into 40 sticks by cutting them in half. You can cut up the masking tape. You can cut up the twine any way you choose. The only thing you cannot change the composition of is the marshmallow.

After 20 minutes everyone must pull back, stand clear from their structure, and I shall measure from the ground to the top of your marshmallow. The team… there will be eight teams… the one with the distance highest off the ground, their marshmallow shall win.

Note it’s at that 20th minute. There should be no correspondence entered into with the judges that says at the 18th minute we had it but then it fell over. Too bad. It’s at the 20th minute is when it shall be recorded.

And it’s important that it’s free-standing. Just in case you’re concerned about what does that mean, it means nothing is holding it up. It’s not being suspended from a skyhook or leaning against a table. It will have some base to the ground, and you can use nothing to append your tower to the ground.

(Can I use a crack in the ground?)

That crack in the ground, no. There’s nothing about the ground that’s going to assist your tower. Everything about the way the marshmallow is kept off the ground will be related to all the other resources and your thinking.

On paper you think this is pretty simple. I know having seen this done 40, 50 times now it’s not as simple as it sounds.

(What’s the highest that you’ve seen?)

I will share that at the end. It is a very interesting record. Alright, are there any other questions?

(people playing Marshmallow Challenge game)

Just over 4 minutes.

(people playing Marshmallow Challenge game)

Did you use all your resources?

(Little bit of tape left over, just for repairs.)

Nice. Contingency.

(people playing Marshmallow Challenge game)

Twenty seconds… Fifteen.

(people finishing up playing Marshmallow Challenge game…)

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