The Design & Engineering Olympics– Expanded and Funtastic!

Here’s a great event that has something for everyone. It:

  1. Provides a series of team challenges, not just a single competition. This keeps things moving quickly and keeps energy high.
  2. Has a variety of types of challenges—some that are more physical and some more mental. This increases the appeal, because there is “something for everyone.”
  3. Requires a high level of interaction and collaboration. They are true “team challenges”—not activities that rely heavily on the skills of a few.

Introducing: The Design & Engineering Olympics. It is a fun and engaging competition that is a series of three design and construction competitions. These range in complexity from simple to more complicated and also have varying deadlines.

In each contest, the teams are given the materials, tools, objectives and a deadline.  With each subsequent contest, the challenge gets more difficult. Each competition is scored differently. This encourages each team to understand the measure of success, and plan accordingly.

For this 2.5- 3 hour event, there are three competitions that you would select from the following list:

  1. Quick Challenge (select 1)
    1. Marshmallow Shooter– each team must figure out how to construct a device that will shoot mini-marshmallows at least 30 feet—using PVC pipe.
    2. OR Rocket Launchers—each team needs to put together a simple Rocket Launcher (from a kit) and shoot off 3 rockets.
    3. OR The Ball Machine—each team needs to construct a pipeline of PVC pipe and connectors that are of varying diameters and curves—in order to create a tube through which 20 small balls will roll in the fastest time possible.
  2. Medium Challenge (select 1)
    1. The Tower—teams need to build a tower out of index cards and tape that is at least 20” in height. It must hold the weight of a full 20 oz. cup of water placed at the top of it.  
    2. OR Marshmallow Catapult—built from cardboard, rubber bands, string and a pencil. Teams must be able to shoot marshmallows 30 feet.
    3. OR 3-2-1 Lift Off!– an exciting rocket building and launching event. The rockets are made out of light weight foam and cardboard tubing. The challenge is to create not only a great looking rocket, but to design one that will fly the highest.
  3. Complex Challenge (select 1)
    1. Walking on Eggs– each team must construct a pair of shoes that can walk on eggs. The eggs are placed in the sole of each shoe. After construction is completed, all teams must demonstrate that 4 people on their team can walk 30’ in the shoes without breaking the eggs—in a spirited relay race. Plenty of cheering!
    2. OR Mousetrap Cars—each team builds a model “car” powered by a mousetrap. They must adjust the variables on the car and figure out, by trial and error, how to make the car go the farthest. The testing and adjusting are a lot of fun. The car that can go the furthest wins.
    3. OR The Trebuchet– This is a weighted-arm, catapulting device that flings tennis balls at a cardboard “castle.” Each team must build and test its own trebuchet as well as its own cardboard castle. In the final competition, each team will shoot at a different team’s castle (drawn at random). They have a limited time to knock down the castle with their trebuchet skills.

In the end all team scores are tallied, and the team with the highest cumulative score is declared the winner. But everyone has a great time creating these entertaining objects—as they practice collaboration and teamwork. And that’s the point!

Experiential Learning = Real Team Building

There is a very wide range of activities that people refer to as “team building” these days. Nearly everything that is done in a group is referred to as team building—even things like going to a ball game together. However, this is incorrect. And because so many things are categorized as such, you’ll see some people push back and question the need or relevance of “team building.”

First, selecting the right activity is key. “You must tie team activities to real work-related skills,” says Cynthia Shon, president of Corporate Games, Inc., which designs and implements corporate team building events. “When people don’t see that relevance, they don’t understand the value of participating. When you make the connection to work situations, participants realize the exercises can impact workplace issues and skills. They can even discover something about themselves. It’s not always easy to be a team player. We’re often in front of a computer or phone all day, not dealing with people face to face. We’re losing important people skills. That’s just one reason why team interaction is so important.”

What is Experiential Learning? Not experimental, but experiential. This is an interactive exercise that allows the participants to learn by “experiencing” –as opposed to passive learning like reading or listening to a lecture. This is exactly what the best team building activities do. They are fun, but they are also business simulations. For example, the Corporate Games Building Bridges event is a team challenge that requires participants to practice the skills they need at work in order to succeed. This includes: 1) Brainstorming, 2) Collaboration, 3) Group consensus building, 4) Communicating with the customer, 5) Execution of a plan to meet a specific deadline, 6) Adjusting to change, 7) Quality of product, 8) Relationship building, and more. In other words, they practice and experience these skills and learn by doing.