Teamplay Tubes

Type of Activity: Problem-solving

Props Needed: One set of Teamplay Tubes

Process: The Teamplay Tube activity is easy to describe, but a bit harder to actually solve.  Using all of the PVC tubes and connectors provided, the group will need to create a single, interconnected structure, so that no holes are left open.

The Project: Your group has been asked to create a complete “network” using ALL of the PVC tubes and connectors.  Just like any hardware, electronic or water system, a good network will have no “leaks.”  For this activity, no open tubes or connector “holes” can be left.  This means that each tube will be inserted into two connectors, that each connector will have a tube in each opening, and that the whole system will be interconnected.  Your network design is a “stand alone” architecture, so for this activity, you are asked not to   collaborate with other groups (they are attempting to solve the same problem with exactly the same pieces.)

Clues that can be given to groups that are struggling:

  • Connectors Have Priorities:  Which of the connectors should you attempt to use first, second, and last?  Count the number of openings and start with the highest first.
  • Diversity Works Through the Process:  By using some long and short tubes in the beginning, you’ll have a supply of long and short tubes at the end.
  • Stress Levels:  Connections that fall apart are trying to tell you something!  Networks that contain too much “internal stress” from unusual angles, connections that are forced, and designs that are based more on brute strength than finesse, are likely candidates for reorganizing (so try to lessen the stress level of the network!)


Teachable Moments: There are several opportunities for teachable moments with the Teamplay Tubes.  Organizing your workspace and equipment, taking inventory, working as a team, using all of the available information, taking care of the team vs. getting the job done,  starting over if necessary, empowering other team members, and celebrating a job well done are just a few possibilities.  See the questions on the following page.

Other Activities:

Spelling Bee—Using as many pieces as possible, construct letters of the alphabet. Then once all available parts have been turned into letters, use these letters to spell as many words as possible.

More Math—Design equations that teams will use to construct their own structures. Then measure these structures with a yard stick or tape measure.  The object here is to maximize the value obtained in each equation (i.e. T should be the largest number possible).

Length + 2 x Height + Width—Number of Points of contact with the Floor = Total

Or    L + 2* H + W - N = T

Two Way Bridge—With two groups (and two kits), begin this activity by locating each group on the opposite side of a folding wall, divider, or curtain, so that they may talk to each other, but not see what the other group is creating.  Now have each group build one half of a bridge structure, so that when the divider or curtain is removed, the bridge will exactly come together.  This task requires a bit of patience, and clear communication.

A Tree in the Forest—Using only 10 parts (tubing and connectors) create the tallest “tree” possible.  Trees compete for sunlight and water, and must withstand wind to survive in a mature forest.

Bullseye—Place an archery of BB gun target on the floor about 12 feet in front of a boundary line.  Using one bag of Teamplay Tubes, the team must create a device to place the PVC cap exactly in the center of the target, without stepping over the line.

Furniture Infomercial—Construct the perfect piece of outdoor furniture, filled with special features, and perhaps some optional equipment, and create a 1 minute infomercial to sell your product on the cable shopping network.   Don't’ forget to mention the price, the selling features and the website address of your furniture company.

Limbo—Construct a long pole and two identical height stands, add music, and measure the lowest level that all members of the team can successfully pass.

Narrow Passage (3-D Spider Web)—Using as many pieces as possible, construct a three dimensional “box” through which all members of the team must pass, without touching any of the PVC on the way.  Team members must be in contact with at least one other person while passing through the “box.”

Matchstick PuzzlesMany puzzle games and books have activities using matches, straws and coins, that can also be performed using the PVC Teamplay Tubes.  For example, can you make four triangles simultaneously suing six Teamplay Tubes of approximately the same length?  Can you make two rows of four connectors using only 6 pieces?

Leadership Evaluation and Processing Questions:

  1. What types of team behaviors were demonstrated by each member of the group?  (i.e. What was the role of each team member:  decision maker, creative genius, worker bee, problem solver, etc).
  2. Was there an obvious leader in the group, or did the group share leadership?
  3. How was leadership decided, shared or avoided?
  4. Which of the following styles of problem solving were used by your group?
    1. Trial & Error
    2. Analyze, plan, perform
    3. A really good guess & a whole lot of luck
  5. After your group decided on a plan, did the group change the plan during the activity?  If so, why?
  6. How many ideas were considered during the early stages of the activity?  Ws each idea, and each person given an opportunity to be heard?
  7. Describe how each member of the group was given an opportunity to contribute to the group’s success?
  8. How would you rate your group’s overall completion of this task?
  9. In general, were the participants in your group more concerned about completing the task, or in caring for the members of your group?
  10. If you had the opportunity to perform this task again, what would you suggest to do differently?
  11. If you were asked to give advice to a new team trying to accomplish this assignment, what information would you provide to help them be successful?
  12. If you were going to hire an employee to complete this task, what skills would you look for?
  13. If you were chosen to lead the next group in successfully completing this activity, what style of leadership would you employ?

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