Monday, April 25, 2011

FLL Teambuilding Activities

One of the major components in FIRST LEGO League is teamwork. How does the work get divided? How well do teammates work together to solve a problem? What happens when there's a disagreement? Does everyone on the team get a chance to participate? All these issues require a certain amount of teamwork to happen. During our FLL time, we would incorporate games so kids could 1) get a break and 2) enjoy working with each other in another problem solving capacity.

Here's a list of a few team building ideas we used last year as well as some new ones I'll be using this year...

1. Untie the HUMAN KNOT. The kids loved this exercise. We would pull it out every few weeks. When we first started, there was no end to the confusion and lack of coordination on the kid's part. But by the end of the season, they figured out how to appoint a "director" so tell how to undo the knot and they were able to untie the knot. Here's directions.

2. Moon Landing Team Exercise. For this activity, I divided kids into teams of 3 and they discussed the priorities for equipment for you to take if you landed on the dark side of the moon and had to meet your landing party on the other side. It's a very interesting exercise in communication and logic. Kids had to justify why they thought one piece of equipment was better than others. Much like they will have to do when they want to run a robot or program a certain way. Here's directions and worksheets.

3. Blind Build. I split up kids into two teams. Both teams get the exact same 7 - 10 LEGO pieces. Team #1 builds something with all the pieces. It doesn't have to be anything useful or pretty. They just have to build something with all the bricks connected. Team #1 then has to explain how to build their contraption to Team #2, but neither team can actually see what the other team has. I put one team behind a counter so they couldn't actually see each other. The goal is to work together to explain and understand something w/o the visual senses. Each kid can take turns adding onto the building and explaining how to build. Then we switch roles. Team #2 builds and explains their build to Team #1. 

4. Newspaper Table. Using only newspaper and tape, have kids build the strongest structure that would be able to hold up very heavy books. You aren't allowed to just stack newspapers on top of one another. You'll have 10 minutes to build. The structure must be higher than 6 inches.

5. Toothpicks & Marshmallows Bridge. For this I used some pretty old mini-marshmallows. They needed to go anyways. I had two teams build the longest spanning bridge out of toothpicks and marshmallows. They had 10 minutes to figure it out. Couldn't believe that some kids wanted to eat those marshmallows afterward! Yukk. I think gumdrops would also work well.

6. Freeze Tag. This is the same game we all played when we were younger. Kids ran around the back yard just to get the wiggles out.

7. Tall Towers. Our regional FLL teamwork challenge was to give the kids a sheet of paper and tape. They had to build the tallest structure they could with just that. Most kids figured out that you should cut the paper. I think they got 5 minutes.

8. Build a Moving Device. I learned about this at a the Virtual Robotics Summit during one of the talks. Split the group into smaller teams. For each team, you'll need to have one Mindstorms brick. Next count out about 60 other parts from the kits. Each team gets the exact same parts. You can decide which parts they get, but don't give them any wheels or gears. They have to build the best moving object out of these parts. You also decide what constitutes the "best" robot. They'll have to program this object to move. This might take a bit longer as an activity, but it will get the juices flowing for how to build the most effective and efficient movable device with whatever they have on hand. I love that they don't get wheels!

9. Information Exchange. In this activity, kids organize themselves according to specific instructions such as ordering themselves in ways such as by date of birth, by birth month, by number of people in your family, state where you were born in alpha order. All these are good ways of people getting to know what another. This is good for a first time meeting so they can get to know one another and they have to communicate with each other.

10. Giant Egg Drop. Kids divide into an even number of groups. Each group gets a goody bag filled with materials that should help a raw egg survive a two story drop. I would do this outside unless you have easy to clean floors. Each group has 15 minutes to build the best protection for their egg. The team with the egg that survives the longest drop wins. Here's things you could put in a paper lunch bag: 2 tongue depressors, 4 rubber bands, paper cup, 1 sheet of newspaper, 10 toothpicks, 1 foot of masking tape, 1 raw egg.

11. Lego Bridge Contest. Fill a small lunch paper bags. Each paper bag gets exactly the same LEGO pieces.  Make sure you put sturdy construction pieces as well as odd, small decorative pieces.  Give them to your kids and tell them they have an "x" number of minutes to construct a sturdy bridge out of the odd pieces of LEGO .  When time is up, get a can of tuna, and see if the bridges that each person built can support the can. Keep adding cans until the bridge can't hold anymore.  Award points for best design, construction, etc.  Kids love the excitement and the thought of the bridge falling apart under the weight of so many cans.

12. Sheet of Paper Step Through Game. The kids required a few hints, but in the end, they got it. You take an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. They have to figure out how to cut it in a continuous strip so that two kids can step through it. Kind of tricky, but you can see their noggins at work. Got it from this site. Also had some others I may use in the future.

13. The Cooperative Hula Hoop. This activity required a lot of concentration. The point was to have one person stand in middle of a hula hoop that's on the ground. The other team members, possibly up to four surround the outside of the hoop. The objective is to bring the hula hoop up over the head of the person in the middle. You might pick the shortest person to make it easier. The "catch" is that the team members can only use their two extended index fingers. Their index fingers cannot wrap around the hula hoop. The hula hoop just has to balance on their two extended fingers. The other rule is that ALL team members have to maintain contact with the hula hoop at all times. This was actually tough to do and the kids had to spend some time with strategy. Mostly what was difficult was there was more than one person giving instructions.
Tougher than it looks!

Close up of finger formation.
If you haven't figured it out yet, the judges are paying special attention to the process. It's not so much about the solution as much as how the kids got there.

14. Organize ANYTHING! OK I'll have to admit that this is a somewhat selfish team builder, but it saved me so much time. I had just purchased 6 LEGO WeDo sets for use in camps and as we know all too well, things just arrive in plastic bags and a box. There's a useful tray and two levels of space we could use in this box. The kids had 10 minutes to organize all 6 boxes in the most efficient method possible for kids who would use these kits to figure out. It was a great way to "kill two birds with one stone". They had never seen these kits before so they had to really think and talk about how to best sort the pieces. Then they had a limited amount of time so they had to divide the work. In the end they chose to sort them by color.

Top level sorted by color (mostly).
Bottom level mostly greys.
Extrapolate to all other things needing done and having the kids figure out how to do it. Further thoughts I had: Can you clean out and organize my closet in the most efficient way? umm... Take them to a food pantry and have them work together to accomplish as task there. (This would be a longer team building session.)

The point is that these team building sessions can be used for the benefit of others as well.

15. Popsicle Stick Triangles. The following activity tries to encourage kids to think outside of the box.  Each team is given 6 popsicle sticks with which they need to make 4 equilateral triangles. I gave them about 10 minutes to talk about it and try to figure it out. My kids couldn't solve the problem. They kept thinking in 2 dimensions. The answer was to discover that by looking for a 3-D solution, the problem can be easily solved by constructing a pyramid.

16. What Can You Do With a Coat Hanger? Kids are shown a coat hanger and asked to individually list different possible uses. They are given the freedom to use any material, size or shape of a hanger; they may imagine cutting it, shrinking it, using many of them, etc. They had to think individually about creative uses for the coat hanger and then come together to agree on a specific use. Then I made the kids come up with a "commercial" to try to sell me the coat hanger. It was funny. It took about 20 minutes.

17. Design a Tool. In this activity kids will use their creativity to develop a new tool to safely retrieve a golf ball from a garbage can. The kids cannot touch the garbage can, but the tool can. You need a lot of materials for this, but each team doesn't have to use everything. They have 20 minutes to design, build and test the device. I would use a box or any container to simulate a garbage can. This is fun because you are given so many items and the team has to come to a consensus as to what they will use. If fact there's probably enough here to build at least 3 "tools".

Materials (per team):

1) 1 paper lunch bag (yes, you can also use the bag in your build)
2) 1 golf ball
3) 4 pieces of 4" string
4) 4 drinking straws
5) pair of wooden chopsticks
6) 4 small paper clips
7) 4 rubber bands
8) 5 Post-It notes (3" x 3")
9) 3 pipe cleaners
10) 1 pencil
11) 1 foot piece of masking tape


  1. Thanks for these suggestions! I'm a rookie coach this year and was wondering about how to help the team become a team instead of just a group.

  2. I think having fun together is important. They really need down time to just play together. We also had to deal with very different personalities who would not otherwise get along so I made it a point to confront any conflicts that arose.

  3. Thanks so much for all the great ideas. I am a rookie coach this year and this will be great stuff for my young team.

  4. Just an additional note, during our Food Factor season while we were at the State Competition, the EXACT team build exercise was my item #12! Kids had actually just completed this exercise about a month before so they were able to solve it. However, the teambuilding portion is not just about solving the problem. I'm not sure it really gave them much advantage in winning. Judges were still looking at how well they tackled the problem as a TEAM. BTW we didn't get the team award.

  5. These ideas are great. I am going to use at least of these for our JrFLL Team nad FLL Team during our Team Building Skills meeting this week.
    Should be fun.

    Coach Sean
    Eaglesnest Robotics

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  7. The Fll teambuilding activities that have been described by you are excellent. Thanks for sharing the information

  8. I like Toothpicks & Marshmallows Bridge for my childrens's activity.

  9. Thanks for this excellent resource, great ideas.

  10. Excellent ideas! Thank you!

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  12. Thanks for very useful information sharing with us. Great Job!!

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  14. Many thanks for sharing.

  15. This is a great list, can't wait to use these ideas!! Big thanks from our team!

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  17. Thanks for sharing your team building activities.

  18. The moon landing exercise sounds great -- but the link to the resources no longer works -- is there a place I could find these on the web?

    1. Thanks for catching that Robin! I found another link and have updated the website.

  19. The site still asks me to login (I'd have to create an account to access?) --
    thanks for any help!

    1. I'm not sure why it's asking you to sign in, but here's a direct link from my page:

  20. Great ideas. Thanks for sharing this lovely post.