The Marshmallow Challenge

Starting a course with a TED talk!

This is an awesome design and team-building activity. I have conducted it with 18 teams of students as an ice-breaker for Human-Computer Interaction & Cognition course I'm TAing. We had LOTS of fun and really interesting discussions afterwards. It is a good chance for students to practice:

  • Working in teams under constraints of scope and time
  • A chance to get creative and inventive. Team that have built the tallest structure (63.5cm) have stabilized it by splitting a thread into 3 threads! I haven't considered that possibility when we got that type of thread for this activity.

  • The Marshmallow Challenge kit The winning structure
  • Learn about assumptions in design projects. An assumption that marshmallow is light have ruined many structures! Those teams haven't touched their marshmallow until very end.
  • Rapid prototyping, design iteration. Most teams who had only one plan they've worked on have failed at the end.

How does it relate to UX and Interaction Design?

  1. The marshmallow is a metaphor for assumptions about your users. Know your users.
  2. One cannot plan the perfect interface from the first time. When the marshmallow comes along - it may crash.