Figuring It Out Themselves: Teaching the Marshmallow Challenge to Students in Taipei

 NTU GMBA teaching Marshmallow Challenge to HSNU High School Students in Taipei

The Marshmallow Challenge is one of the English-taught activities our MBA program brings to students at the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University (HSNU, 師大附中) in Taipei. It was my pleasure to be our game-master and emcee!

Teaching HSNU students is a tradition started by Charlie Tseng, one of our own, and a HSNU alum. Charlie’s startup, HopEnglish (希平方), provides online English lessons, and he sponsors the kids so they can attend the live English-speaking events that are put on by our MBA students, at no charge.

We’re actually the lucky ones because HSNU graduates do great things. Their alums include the architect of Taipei 101, an inventor of IBM’s “Deep Blue,” and the first Chinese astronaut. It’s an honor to be here.

What’s the Marshmallow Challenge?

Marshmallow Challenge Overview by Tom Wujec

Marshmallow Challenge Overview by Tom Wujec

The rules of the game are simple. Teams have 18 minutes to build the tallest structure they can, using only:

  • 20 sticks of dry spaghetti
  • Tape
  • String
  • One marshmallow – which goes on top

Marshmallows seem like an easy thing to support, but once you try it, a different story emerges. Teams that do better tend to spend more time trying different things, instead of planning. I asked the teams to count their “uh-oh” and their “ah-ha” moments to encourage more experimentation.

 NTU GMBA teaching Marshmallow Challenge to HSNU High School Students in Taipei

Younger students tend to do better than MBA students, for the same reason. The chart below shows how well different groups of adults do against kindergarten students. (In case you’re wondering, we didn’t face off; haha)

Are You More Creative Than A Five Year Old?

Why did we choose this activity?

Tom Wujec is a 3D designer who studies how people share and absorb information. He created the challenge to encourage “teamwork, leadership, and creativity.” I like the challenge because it helps people get comfortable with the unknown.

Activity-based learning allows students to discover things on their own. This helps students get excited about learning, because they understand what they will be doing with the knowledge. In science and in business, there’s observation, finding patterns, asking questions which turns into investigations that create solutions. That’s exactly what we’re doing here.

 NTU GMBA teaching Marshmallow Challenge to HSNU High School Students in Taipei

Principally, I used the Marshmallow Challenge as a way to teach young adults it’s okay if you don’t get things right the first time. Get over the fear of failure that keeps people from trying new and challenging things. The key lesson?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” – William Edward Hickson

Photos by Brian Blankinship

NTU GMBA with Marshmallow Challenge Winners at HSNU High School in Taipei.JPG

Pineapple Cakes from Sunny Hills Bakery for the Marshmallow Challenge Winners! Thanks to Charlie Tseng and HopEnglish for the prizes.

NTU GMBA teaching Marshmallow Challenge to HSNU High School Students in Taipei

Smile! I’m on camera.

NTU GMBA and HSNU Students Group Photo