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How to Train a Team for Task-Based Instant Challenges

Task-Based Instant Challenges usually have five (5) basic sub headings: 

  • Challenge: a brief summary of the Challenge
  • Time: A statement of how much time the team has for each part of the Challenge including brainstorming, preparation, and performance. Many times the brainstorming and preparation components are in one time block. Teams must learn to use their time wisely.
  • The Set-up: This section describes the overallset-up of the room. Team members will be told where they can be located during different parts of the Challenge.
  • Procedure: this section includes the specific rules that the team is to follow. If it doesn't say it here, the team probably can do it.
  • Materials: Items usually will be listed in two columns: those that can be altered (changed) and those the cannot be damaged (changed).
  • Scoring: This section gives the breakdown of how the team will be scored on their solution to the Challenge.

When practicing Task-Based Instant Challenges stress to your team that they must Listen, Listen, Listen to the reading of the challenge!!!


  • Never assume anything.
  • Don't jump to concolusions.
  • Listen and understand all the information before deciding your approach.
  • Concentrate on the challenge.
  • If you have a mental block listen to your teammmates.

Remind your team that every item given to them in an instant Challenge may have many uses. They should always be looking for "alternative uses" for common items.

The team must remember that there are points for teamwork in every Instant Challenge. Some Task-Based Instant Challenges will demonstrte better teamwork skills if they break into sub-groups in order to solve the challenge efficiently in the time allowed. Teams may need to practice breaking up into sub-groups after initial brainstorming.


  • Have the team redefine or reword the challenge in order to determine if they have any questions.
  • The team should understand the goal of the challenge before forming a strategy or manipulating they materials.
  • Have team designate and match tasks to individuals specialties
  • Have team members choose roles:
    • Time Keeper - Should help team stay on task in terms of time limits
    • Assemblers - Responsible for physical constuction fo solution
    • Parts and Materials Persons - Responsible for any cutting, stapling, gluing and handling needed by the assemblers
    • Idea Summary Person - listens to suggested solutions and helps team decide on one idea as the solution and a backup one.

Teams need to HAVE A PLAN before they solve the challenge

  • Prioritize the information as they listen
  • Agree on the goal
  • Agree on the best strategy for the time allotted.
  • Recognize a good solution when they think of or hear one

Since task-based challenges need many consumable supplies you may want to try one of the following ways to have the parents help you with this task:

  • Send a list home of what you need (cotton balls, toothpicks, paperclips, rubberbands, etc.) and ask each parent to send you 100 of them.
  • Send the list of supplies for two instant challenges with large resealable bags home with a team member and have the parent send them back for the next meeting. (hint: plan these instant challenge for two meetings away incase the team member forgets them)
  • Ask parents for $5/team member and go out an purchase your own supply kit.

Repeat instant challenges until the team agrees on the best solution. Do the same instant challenge on different days but change one or two components. (materials, time, task to be accomplished)Practice just by reading a challenge and then asking them questions about it. This will help improve their listening skills. Questions might include:

  • What is the goal?
  • How do you begin?
  • How do you end?
  • What rules must you absolutely remember?
  • Where were the points?

Video tape the teams solutions for them to review. Train them to have a second solution ready.

How to use Thinking Time Effectively

  • Look for the key words - Move, transport, change, etc.
  • Break down the solution into components
  • Examine materials available without altering them
  • ASK:
    • What do we have to do?
    • What do we have to work with?
    • Is it better to do this first?
    • Does dividing the tasks seem more productive?
    • Should we have a team captain to manage the solution?
    • What are the limitations: lines you must or must not cross, materials that cannot be part of solution, items each team member must use, what can you touch or not touch?
    • Is there more than one part of the solution (phases) build then ___
  • Consider the scoring: what parts of the solution receive the most points?
  • Develop a team strategy before beginning work.
  • Keep an eye on the clock: budget the time, allow time to think of alternatives.
  • If you don't understand the rules ask the Appraisers questions.
  • Designate one team member to concentrate on challenge details.
  • Do this challenge ONLY don't think it is one you have done before.
  • Stay cool!!!

Where are the Points and If It Doesn't Say You Can't Tips