Way back in the 1990s, I attended a STEM workshop at ESC Region 13. I’m sure there were many activities I participated in there, but the one I remember most was an engineering challenge with Solo cups. This activity stuck in my brain, and I just never forgot it. A couple of years ago when I started developing STEM professional development, I easily pulled the Solo Cup Challenge from the recesses of my brain. It fits perfectly for a team-building activity, the start of a professional development day, or just a great engineering challenge.
The Solo Cup Challenge
Here are the goals of the challenge:
Here are the required materials per team.
- 6 Solo Cups
- 1 rubber band
- 4 pieces of string
- 1 timer for the group
The One Rule of the Challenge
Participants cannot touch the cups with their hands or any other part of their body.
- Create a grappler tool with the string and rubber band (this will move the cups).
- Place the cups in three stacks (figure 1).
- Move the cups by using the grappler tool into a six pyramid shape (figure 2).
- After the pyramid is complete, teams raise their hands in the air and give a shout.
- Repeat the activity.
- During the second time, the facilitator can keep track of completion times for each team.
- Use reflection questions to wrap up the activity.
- How well did your team work together to move the cups?
- At what point in the activity did you feel like everyone was working together?
- Describe a moment when your team became frustrated. How did you work through this?
- Tell how one of your team members exemplified collaboration or communication.
Twist It Up!
Here are some ways to make the challenge a little harder.
- Try using the inexpensive cups found at a dollar-type store. (The plastic is thinner, which makes it harder)
- Try six people in a group.
- Hold two rounds:
- Round 1 – Team members can speak to teach other.
- Round 2 – No talking is allowed.
The Solo Cup Challenge is awesome because:
- It its a mega bunch of 21st standards.
- It’s inexpensive.
- It is so much fun!
- Both kids and adults love this activity.
- It takes little prep time.
Whether you call this activity Stack ‘em Up, the Solo Cup Challenge, or Pyramid Builders, it has gone through a few iterations; you can check them out below. I’m sure you can pull even more twists to build on.
Featured Image: Designed by TCEA.
Solo Cup photos by author.