Of the 7 teams, 5 had their structures fall over or apart during before we could measure the height, and the maximum height achieved was 20 inches. So many failures actually made for a really productive discussion, because each group had an ideas about where they had gone wrong.
I had a small class, so we had mostly teams of three. It was interesting to see each team's process, but there were definitely common themes:
- Most teams started building almost immediately.
- Most teams hadn't load tested their structure with just 2 minutes left or so.
- Most teams had at least one person who was significantly less engaged than the others.
- Most teams had significantly underestimated the weight of the marshmallow.
Another interesting part was bring in "fail fast, fail cheap" in the discussion of why so few groups prototyped. I pointed out that this isn't just an entrepreneurial princple; we'll be writing some code in this course, and the fastest way to give yourself a headache is try to write a big chunk of code without testing the components. FFF a productive idea all around, and I think the students appreciated seeing it in a different context.
Overall, I thought this was a great first day exercise. The students seemed to really enjoy it. We had a good discussion about a wide range of (non-mathematical) ideas that will be important in the course, including teamwork, prototyping, validation of assumptions, creativity in unstructured problems, etc. And everyone got to eat some marshmallows. What's not to love?