At TED2010, designer Tom Wujec presented an interesting challenge — build the tallest tower possible out of 20 sticks of dry spaghetti, one yard of tape, and one yard of string. The catch? A single marshmallow must be able to rest on top.
Detailed in Wujec’s talk, “Build a tower, build a team,” the Marshmallow Challenge is an exercise designed to promote collaboration, creative thinking, and communication within groups of people … and is a great icebreaker for TEDx events.
In 2013, the team at TEDxChemungRiver created a Marshmallow Challenge lab that included all the materials to build a tower and instructions on how the challenge works. During breaks, attendees were invited to form teams and take on the challenge. During the last session of the event, Wujec’s TED Talk was shown, and the tallest tower constructed was brought on stage and its builders were given a prize, according to organizer Meghan Parsons.
“We really wanted a lab that would allow people to organically connect with each other on their own terms,” Parsons said. “It totally broke the ice and gave people something to do that was really fun and different. It allowed them to do something with their hands so they didn’t have to play the usual conversation games of networking in a large group … The ‘topper’ was seeing the realization on their faces as they watched the talk after they had done the activity. It was hilarious and fun – and they learned about innovation and engineering!”
At TEDxYouth@Krakow 2011, the talk was shown and then the action started — right in the theater. Youth attendees broke into teams, seats were moved out of the way, and spaghetti, tape, string, and marshmallows were brought out. “We had a minor deviation from the instructions,” organizer Ewa Spohn said, “but overall it worked extremely well — everyone had a lot of fun, got to know each other, and it definitely broke the ice.”
The Marshmallow Challenge is a great way for attendees to explore an idea presented in a TED Talk and to talk to other attendees, make connections, and get comfortable in a space. You can find a guide and detailed instructions for the Marshmallow Challenge website here>>