Team building activity ideas!

Hey guys. Team 706 held a team building activity at it’s last meeting. It involved using a set amount of hard spaghetti noddles and tape to create the tallest structure possible that can hold a marshmallow. It was a huge success and everyone (even the mentors) got involved!

I was wondering if you guys had any other ideas for fun team building activities.

1 Like

We did the exact same thing for the past two years. It works quite well and keeps people entertained.

We do that in my physics class first week… But we use marshmallows rather than tape!

We didn’t do this in robotics but in physics we split up into pairs and build mousetrap cars. I imagine it would be pretty fun to see who can make the best one.

Here are two for you:

  • Build a bridge out of newspaper and masking tape, and see whose can hold the most. We used text books to test ours, and it’s pretty impressive what some newspaper can hold up!
  • Give each team a roll of tape, a set number of balloons, and a time limit. Who can build the tallest standalone structure?

I always tried to lawyer the difference in tallest and highest, then tape mine to the ceiling and build downwards:)

We have done a set amount of tape and paper and tried to build the tallest structure. I know some teams have built Rube Goldbergs, but those take awhile to design and implement; not the kind of thing you can do at the beginning of a meeting.

Plastic straws and paper clips. Build the tallest free-standing structure you can with a given amount.

We did this activity when we presented in front of future teachers, at Western Connecticut State University. We taught them about STEM and FIRST. After our presentation we did the activity with them BUT for every stick of spaghetti, and every inch of tape, it costed a certain amount of money (it was just recorded on a sheet, no wallets were actually taken out). Every time they came up for more materials the cost was higher. In total they had 25 minutes and the goal was to support a ping pong ball 30 inches or higher using the least amount of money.

surprisingly no one got it (1 group was half an inch short, and 1 group’s kept falling). This activity though taught them about, budgets, making a plan first, time limits, competition, teamwork, never giving up and more. Many aspects of FIRST.

It was a huge hit with the audience. A week later we got a letter that after we left they had so much fun, they continued to discuss how to improve upon there designs. They also mentioned that the students on the team were better public speakers and more interesting than their professors. (It really made me realize how much I am getting out of FIRST)

1 Like

Team 68 has done really cool team bonding activities for the past two years. Last year we did an overnight at a camp where we did high ropes courses, went on a zip line and a bunch of other team bonding activities. This year we went and did a rock wall/high ropes course.

If you’re looking for a fun, valuable, single meeting project this is one that our mentor IKE did with 33 a while back.

The idea is to have the team break into subteams and come up with a paper airplane which flies the furthest/ beats the mentor. This only requires computer paper (3-4 sheets per group) and a open place like a hallway. Groups should be small, 4-5 people to a group max to keep all students involved. Students get 10 minutes to build their first airplanes. When up, one student from each group lines up in the hall to throw. Students then get 5 more minutes to change, rebuild, or practice. When time’s up throw again. This time the mentor throws too. He crumples up a sheet of paper and throws (presumably) further than any of the others.

The more important part of the exercise is the lesson the students should take away. Observe which designs went furthest, which were most consistent and compare them to FRC robots. Also stress how those who were able to practice beforehand did much, much better than those whose first time was for real (at the competition).

The biggest lesson they should take away from the exercise is not to overcomplicate the problem. How to get the sheet of paper the furthest down the hall? An actual paper airplane would almost certainly beat a ball of paper if time was given to develop it. However, the ball is the much better more consistent option given the time constraints. More often than not the same holds true for FRC.

Anyways, my team found it very valuable for only the 45 minutes it took to do. I would personally recommend it to all teams both young and old as a fun learning experience.

Regards, Bryan

1 Like

We did this put with toothpicks and marshmellows

And stacking tables wasn’t allowed! :mad:

We played Angry Birds with Shoe boxes and stuffed birds!

We attempted this activity last year…and a couple of student had either done it before, or guessed the outcome, and somewhat spoiled the takeaway of the activity for the rest of the students :stuck_out_tongue: I like it though, and we’ll probably try it again with clearer guidance and execution.

One of my favorite team building exercises to have my student do is the magic carpet.

Needed Materials:

  • Tarp/Blanket

Start by telling the entire team to stand on the blanket/tarp. No part of any body can be directly touching the ground.

After everyone is on, tell them that you realized the instructions to fly the carpet are on the other side of the blanket.

The task is to flip the blanket over without anyone touching the ground.

It works great for teaching communication skills, delegation, and is very physical. Plus the team gets really close (literally). Even if they don’t succeed entirely (which is possible based on the size of the blanket/tarp compared to the number of people) they will likely manage to reduce the size of the blanket they are standing on in half. If they don’t succeed but reduce the standing area, highlight how much they grew as a team even by doing that, since odds are they struggled a bit in the first place to fit everyone on the blanket with the entire area.

**Remember the key to success for a good team building exercise is a good facilitator and a period of reflection. Without a summary to the lesson, often the time is wasted in the long run.

Our team does some form of team building exercise every meeting for the first several months that new students join the team or any time we need to work on communication within the team. We also often do a quick team building activity if we do any cross-team activities with other FRC teams to help the students and mentors get to know each other and break the initial awkward “get to know you” barrier. Sometimes, we just do it for fun. We find the more we work together with different combinations of people and different brainstorming, building, creating projects, the easier it is when the stress of build season hits.

Each team building activity is chosen for a specific purpose: getting to know names, getting to know each other’s communication styles, working through brainstorming, looking at the design process, or incorporating some tool, mechanical, electrical or other training topic where working in small groups on a short term project would introduce an important new concept.

Mixed teams are great – people from different subgroups, different FRC teams, different friend/sibling groups, different ages, different FRC experience. We almost always have a mentor team that the students try to beat.

The goal of the activity is typically two-fold:

  1. Accomplish the task
  2. Make sure everyone on your team gets their voices heard and are participating comfortably

The following is a team building project we often do with new groups of all ages and talk about the challenges of communication. We also used this one at SCRIW in October when our team did a workshop on team building (link below):

Chain Building:
Supplies: per table (3 to 5 people)
5 pieces of paper
1 pair of scissors

Make sure each person at each table has a name tag or knows each other’s name.


  1. Make the longest chain in 4 minutes
  2. Make sure everyone in the team has a chance to talk/input ideas and their suggestions are heard

2 minutes to talk about how to do it

  • No touching of materials

  • 4 minutes to build the longest chain you can
    No talking (or grunting or making noises)
    One hand only – the other one is behind your back or covering your mouth if you can’t be quiet

It’s fun and people can get pretty creative.

Here’s the link to the SCRIW presentation – slide show, favorite team building activity resources and a few photos:

1 Like

Not engineering related, but I just remembered another one we did here at work a few years ago.

First, pull a couple of “leaders” out from the group. You give them the task ahead of time, and they get to determine how to present it to the group, and how to use their time. There is an arbitrary time limit involved.

The setup is simple: Outline a bunch of circles in a straight line on the ground. Split the group in half. Have the halves stand in the circles facing each other - the half on the right faces to the left, the half of the left faces to the right. There should be 1 extra circle between the two groups. The “leaders” are not part of the halves, they can walk around separately.

The task is even easier to explain: The goal is to move everyone on the left to the right, and everyone on the right to the left. You can only move in two ways: Either to step 1 spot forward, if there’s an empty spot in front of you, or if there is someone facing you and an empty spot behind them, you can “jump” over them.

This requires the “leaders” to organize and communicate effectively, as well as ensure sufficient time management and brainstorming to find the correct solution.

1 Like

NEMO has some ideas under “Team building” category.

Spaceship simulation:

Your spaceship is losing air. You need 4 sets of values: 1 from outside (concealed under screws with different heads, requiring “oxygen” to retrieve), 1 you get by building a structure, 1 you get with a Lego NXT task, and 1 you get by driving the robot or finding a protective suit and going into a “gamma radiating area”.

I’m leaving out many details, but you get the idea. It was fun.