Paper Airplane Exercise

Exercise Objective:
This is designed to give a structured learning experience in team-based design and production that can be incorporated into a lecture on teams and teambuilding. It can be used pre-lecture to generate a shared experience the professor can draw upon in the lecture and class discussion, or as a post-lecture exercise in which students can practice what they have learned.

Participant Roles

Each team of 5-7 people should receive the following:

Part One: Design (Total time: 10 - 30 minutes)
Each team is instructed to design a paper airplane that is both functional (i.e., it can fly across the room) and is aesthetically pleasing. They are given 10 minutes to design the plane and make enough prototypes for each team. Then the teams individually discuss the merits of each design, and as a entire group the class votes for the best one.

Note: this part can be skipped if the instructors prepare a "preferred" design in advance.

Part Two: Production
Each team then has 10 minutes to design a production process to make the preferred design, and estimate the amount of profit they can make in 10 minutes given the following cost, price, and quality parameters:

During the preparation the observers take notes on group dynamics and the customer meet as a group to define their quality standards (which they write on a board in the front of the class).

After a 10 minute preparation period each team races to see how many good-quality planes they can produce in 10 minutes, and the winner is the one who makes the most profit.

Part Three: Debriefing:
After the production task is completed, the teams, observers, and customers discuss the outcomes and what they learned from the exercise. Some discussion topics (found on the observer's checklist) can be: