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Vermicelli Towers

Accomplishing Team Goals: Building a tipsy tower in a specialized learning activity

Download Game

Learning Objectives

As a result of participating in this activity, learners will:

  1. Construct a tower as a member of a collaborative team.
  2. Evaluate proposed plans from other team members and justify their choices under pressures of time and task.
  3. Select and execute a plan with other team members utilizing limited resources and with uncertain outcomes.

Description

  1. Teams of students are given the following supplies: 14” of masking tape, 12” of string or yarn, 15 strands of vermicelli, and one full-size marshmallow.
  2. Preferably, this should be set up as an inter-team challenge, where the goal is to use the supplies provided to construct a structure that holds the marshmallow at the top. The tallest tower wins. Towers must be free-standing, although tape may be used to secure the vermicelli to the working surface (such as a table.)
  3. The tower must remain standing throughout the debrief in order to qualify.

Recommendations

Supply packets for each team must be constructed in advance and should provide each team approximately the same resources.  

Size

Small Group, Medium Group

Equipment

Minimal Equipment - 14" of masking tape, 12" of string or yarn, 15 strands of vermicelli, one full-size marshmallow

Time

One Hour

Modifications


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Lesson

Executing a plan as a team:

It may be easier to execute a plan or complete a task when answers are clearly delineated for you.  Hard rules may be more easily navigated than ones in which there is not much agreement about right and wrong, for instance.

Debrief Questions

  1. In this task, you were asked to function collaboratively as a team member. How comfortable were you with the possibility of multiple correct solutions to this challenge?
  2. Do you think everyone else on your team felt the same way?
  3. How did you know when to insist and when to surrender when attempting to resolve this challenge? Did the absence of resources influence you?

Clinical Application

  1. Patients are complex and no two are exactly the same. Are there hard and soft rules in patient care? If so, what are they?
  2. How do healthcare teams adapt these rules to individual patients?
  3. What happens when teams cannot agree on a patient care plan? How are issues solved?

Bloom's Taxonomy

Analyze/Apply
Evaluate/Create

TeamSTEPPS domain

Communication
Leadership

IPEC Competency

VE 7
CC 1, 4 & 5
TT 1 & 8


Lesson

Time pressures, limited resources, and getting the job done:

In this task you experienced the urgency of other teams performing the same task and the absence of resources. This made experimenting and testing more challenging, meaning you may have had to adopt an untested theory or strategy.

Debrief Questions

  1. Resources in this exercise were intentionally fragile and scarce. How did you assess plans for construction of your tower without having a reasonable amount of time to think them through?
  2. Why did you listen to the author of the plan you followed? What did they say or do that caused you to believe it might work?
  3. As you think about what you might do differently another time, given that there is no opportunity to test your own theory of right and wrong, how will you decide on a course of action?
  4. Were other theories proposed by team members that were not followed, but might have worked?

Clinical Application

Patients often present to providers with urgent issues. Additionally, we might not have all the information or resources we need to solve the issue.

  1. How can a healthcare team make urgent, potentially life saving, decisions in very little time?
  2. How can teams solve the issue of limited resources such as a single MRI machine, when multiple people need it simultaneously? How are conflicts resolved?
  3. Can we experiment on patients? Do we?

Bloom's Taxonomy

Analyze/Apply
Evaluate/Create

TeamSTEPPS domain

Communication
Leadership
Mutual Support

IPEC Competency

VE 8
RR 3 & 9
CC 1, 4, 5 & 7
TT 2 & 10


Lesson

Knowing when to hold and when to fold:

Being on a team means finding the best solution to a challenge out of all the possibilities. It is not always best to compromise, as some solutions require that you adopt them in their entirety if they are going to work at all.

Debrief Questions

  1. What is your understanding of the two terms “compromise” and “collaborate”? Are they the same or different? How?
  2. Do you think your team could have been even more successful if it were allotted more time to do this task? How would you have approached it differently?
  3. How does a team that cannot reach clear consensus or agreement refocus its energy away from the task and work on the team dynamic? What should a team or individual team members do in that instance?

Clinical Application

  1. Given the complexity of patients, are there always solutions? What if you have enough time and resources?
  2. Do we make compromises in patient care? If so, how?
  3. How do patients and providers feel when solutions are exhausted?
  4. How do providers decide when to “fold” in terms of patient care? Are there hard and soft rules for this dilemma? If so, what are they?

Bloom's Taxonomy

Analyze/Apply
Evaluate/Create

TeamSTEPPS domain

Communication
Situation Monitoring

IPEC Competency

VE 7 & 9
RR 2, 4 & 5
CC 1, 4-7
TT 2, 4, 7 & 10

Summary

As a team, the task is to use limited resources and quickly adapt them to complete a challenge. Skills involve supporting one another, listening, and advocating for the best plan to successfully complete the task.

Contact

For more information about how to utilize games, low-fidelity simulation, and interactive learning to teach concepts of teamwork and collaboration, contact Better.Teams@rosalindfranklin.edu

Related Tags

collaboration, common goal, communication, consequence, inexpensive, leadership, low barrier, low resource, mutual support, outcomes, risk, shared mental model, team function, team membership, team structure, teams and teamwork, urgency