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Team Building Exercise: Helium Stick

Team Building Exercise: Helium Stick


Purpose

This simple yet powerful team building game helps the delegates to understand several concepts all at once; communication skills, cooperation, patience and how to manage small contributions to achieve an effective results with the correct balance.

This exercise is particularly suitable for team building courses and is remembered well by delegates well after the course due to the nature of the training activity and its simplicity.

Objective

Lower a beam to ground cooperatively.

What You Need

  • A long rod.
  • An area where all delegates can stand in a line where half the group faces the other half.

Setup

  • Line up all the people to form two rows.
  • Explain that the exercise is quite simple. You will shortly give them a rod. They should all hold this rod with their fingers. The objective is to lower this bar to the ground.
  • The rules are as follow:
    • Each person should use one finger from each hand to hold the bar.
    • Fingers should touch the rod at all times while it is descending.
    • No pinching, holding or grabbing is allowed.
  • When a group tries this exercise the first time, it is likely that the stick starts to move upwards rather than down! It is indeed like a helium stick! This usually leads to a surprise and it is the moment when everyone becomes more interested in this deceptively simple exercise.
  • Encourage the group to have patience and work towards a solution.
  • If you think the group is getting frustrated, provide hints and help them to overcome their frustration.
  • Facilitate the exercise until they can succeed.

Timing

Explaining the Exercise: 5 minutes.

Activity: 15 minutes

Group Feedback: 5 minutes.

Discussion

The key to success in this exercise is to work cooperatively and communicate towards a goal. The reason the bar goes upwards is that the total upward forces exerted by everyone is simply more than the weight of the rod. This is why the more the group tries, the more the rod goes upwards.

After a successful attempt at lowering the rod, debrief with the following discussion:

  • What did you think of this exercise?
  • What was your initial thought when you were told about the objective of the exercise?
  • Did you really think it was going to be this difficult to do the task?
  • What did you do as a group to prevent the upward movement and finally achieve the objective?
  • How did you manage the team?
  • How well did you communicate?
  • What did you learn from this exercise?

Variations

To make this more challenging, you can ask delegates to go through the exercise while blindfolded.

References:

Gass, M. A. (1999) “Lowering the bar”, Ziplines: The Voice for Adventure Education, Summer, 39, 25-27.