Collaborative Cup Stacking

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This is a very simple activity but is an excellent team builder and my group had a lot of fun with it.

Equipment & setup

You’ll need to gather the following items for each group of 4 players:

  • A set of cups (I use sets of 12 ‘Speed Stacks’ because they are durabl but you could use some thicker plastic cups instead)

  • An elastic hairband (again, the thicker and stronger the better)

  • 4 pieces of string, approximately an arm’s length each

To prepare for the activity you’ll need to knot each length of string around the perimeter of the hairband and place a knot at the other end, allowing for a secure grip. Then stack the cups in a single column and you are good to go.

The activity

The challenge is for each team to stack the cups into a series of different configurations without ever touching them. By holding the string and varying the amount of ‘pull’, the team will be able to use the hairband to grip, move and release the cups. Should they drop a cup, they can pick it back up and place it onto the original stack, but otherwise, this is a ‘hands-off’ activity.

Phase 1

I give the group a few minutes to play and get familiar with the equipment before moving into the challenge itself.

Phase 2

Teams must now perform either or both of the following, depending on time available and level of engagement:

  • Build a 3,6,3 configuration (two pyramids consisting of three cups, either side of a central three tiered pyramid made up of six cups)

  • Deconstruct the 3,6,3 configuration and build a single pyramid of 10 cups (4 tiers of 4,3,2,1 cups)

Phase 3

Teams now go head to head in a race against the clock - the first team to complete the configuration (3,6,3 or the single 10 cup pyramid) wins a small prize. Alternatively they can race to beat their previous best time (assuming the facilitator had the presence of mind to time phase 2!).

Additional notes

As with so many of these kinds of activities, there are a number of variations that can be introduced. One or more of the team players can be blindfolded. The whole team can have their lips taped with micropore to prevent them from talking. They can build their pyramids using only their non-dominant hands or with the knot at the end of each string between their teeth (in which case, be sure to replace the strings at the end of the activity!).

You can have the group work in pairs with a string in each hand. You can have groups combine to build a mega-pyramid. An 8-tier pyramid, consisting of 36 cups in total, is a beautiful thing!

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Andy FisherComment