Bull Ring Cup Stack

Type of Initiative:    Problem Solving

Props Needed:   Small cups, rubber bands and string

Directions:  This activity can be done sitting at a table or sitting on the floor.  Give each pair a minimum of 10 cups, 1 rubber band and 4 strings.  Have groups tie the strings onto the rubber band as shown in Picture 1.  You can also pre-tie these if you desire.  Have the pair scatter the cups on the surface in front of them.  After the cups are scattered, they may not touch the cups with their hands, even if some of the cups end up on their side.  The pair must then work together to stack cups in a pyramid using the rubber band device to pick up and move the cups.  If multiple cups are laying down on their sides it increases the difficulty level of the activity. 

Variation:  Work in groups of 4 and do not let them use their dominant hand.  With their dominant hand behind their back, the group must work together to stack cups in a pyramid using the rubber band device to move the cups.  They may not touch the cups with their hands.  Partners use the rubber band and strings to stack the cups into a pyramid shape.

Variation:  Have participants write words on their cups that reflect important traits of working together.  For example:  trust, teamwork, laughter, positive work environment, leadership, etc.  Before participants begin stacking, ask them to put the worded cups in order of importance, starting with a strong foundation and building up from there.  This allows for great dialogue between the pairs during the activity.

Variation:  Create a series of obstacles the pair has to transport the cups around before they can place them on the pyramid.  If they drop a cup along the way they must start over. 

Variation:  Fill the cups with water!  See if they can stack cups filled with water into a pyramid.


Debriefing Topics:   

  • How did you and your partner work together?
  • How much planning did you do before you began?
  • Did your strategy change throughout the process?
  • How did you communicate with your partner?
  • What can you apply from this exercise to your daily life?

Where to find it/How to Make it:  For the cups, Dixie Cups are inexpensive and readily available in stores.  You can also use the cups designed for Speed Stacking  (see picture).  You can find these at www.speedstacks.com

Surveyor string found at hardware stores makes for inexpensive, colorful string.  Using different colors of string allows for flexibility of facilitators to add in more complex rules such as; if you are touching the yellow string you may not talk.  If you are touching the blue string, you must assume a leadership role in the activity, etc. 

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