The exercise on Monday was to create a cantilever purely from spaghetti strands and scotch tapes. The class was divided into 4 groups and there was a competitive element in it. Within 30 minutes we had to design the longest structure with spaghetti, extending off the edge of the table and not touching the floor.

Added difficulty in the task was the rotating role of an observer every 5 minutes, who could not participate in the discussion and creation, but had to measure the team’s effectiveness and level of discussion during the process.

Spaghetti cantilever exercise

There was some interesting team dynamics, ultimately we ran out of time building up the structure. Even though we came in #2 by length, it could have been improved, strangely, by starting to build earlier than discussing. Lots of ideas were put out on the table, but the strongest structure was also the simplest – a bunched up spaghetti roll.

The exercise ended with a 15 minutes debrief with us charting the progress on the graph evaluating our decision making process in the previous 30 minutes. The retrospective discussion shed light on the mistakes that we’ve made and solidified what we could have improved for the next hypothetical build.

“opportunistic decomposition is better suited to handle the ill-structuredness of design problems… top-down decomposition appears to be a special case for well-structured problems when the designer already knows the correct decomposition.”

– Guindon, 1990