Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Take the Marshmallow Challenge

The task for the first week of Learning Creative Learning was to take the "Marshmallow Challenge."  You can learn more by watching this TED talk by Tom Wujec.
The general idea is to build a tower using string, tape, raw spaghetti, and a marshmallow.  The marshmallow has to be at the top of the finished structure.  You should only spend 18 minutes on the task.

Here is a brief overview of the activity at my house.

My oldest son:
Simple, structure, completed quickly and with confidence.

My youngest son:
Tried out a rather innovative use of paper - when it seemed too much trouble, reverted back to a simpler structure - one subtle difference from his brother's sculpture is that two pieces of spaghetti are taped together in one place.

Wait - PAPER?! - what is THAT doing there?
I wrote down paper instead of string (must have been trying to do two things at once!) when I took notes on the lecture so our materials are a bit different than in the talk.  In spite of my error, our building experience was fairly true to the goals of the exercise.

My construction process:

I waited until AFTER trying the exercise to watch the TED talk.  What struck me the most was how much my process was similar to his description of many adults.  I got so focused on adding height that I forgot to test the weight of the marshmallow.  In the end I removed a layer to get the marshmallow to balance.
If I did this again, I would pay closer attention to the materials in the directions and would have worked together as a family.  The instructions in the lecture were pretty open-ended and I waited to watch the TED talk in case it gave anything away but I definitely understood the goals and process better after watching the talk.

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