The Pipeline Challenge

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This competitive or non-competitive team challenge tasks your team with constructing a free-standing "pipeline" that will deliver a rolling marble from a starting line 25 feet away, into a bucket sitting upright on the ground.

Group Size


(10) 1 inch PVC pipes cut to 18 inches; (10) 1 inch PVC joint connectors (to connect the ends of the PVC pipes); (6) 1 1/2 inch PVC pipes cut to 18 inches and then cut across the diameter to create "gutters."; (18) 4 foot marking sticks or 1/2 inch dowel rods; (2) rolls of packing tape - not duct tape!; (10) 4 foot foam noodles; (2) 40 foot rope perimeters; (2) buckets; (1) marble; (?) enough spot markers for each participant.

Set Up

1. Lay out the rope perimeters so that they are right next to each-other. This is where the two teams will work side-by-side. 2. Place one of the buckets at the far side of each rope perimeter. These are the starting line and finish lines. 3. Place half of the spot markers in each rope perimeter. These will be the vehicles used by the teams when they go out to pick up the construction equipment. 4. Divide up the rest of the equipment into four groups, and then place each pile of gear about 25 feet from the "four corners" of the rope perimeters. These are the piles of equipment that the teams will have to traverse out to pick up using the spot markers.


Split the team in half, and direct each half to enter the two rope perimeters. Describe the objective of this activity, and tell them that in order to construct the free-standing pipeline, the two teams will first have to traverse out and pick up the equipment using the spot markers.

Once the teams have retrieved the equipment, they will have a set time limit to construct the pipeline. Once the time limit is up, the teams must make their first attempt to roll the marble from one end to the bucket on the other end. If the team is unsuccessful, they will have 5 minutes to make improvements to their pipeline before the second attempt. If the team is still unsuccessful, they will have two more minutes to make changes. The third and final attempt will lead to a debrief about the process.


What was the purpose of this exercise? How does constructing a pipeline relate to your office/school/team? What were the barriers to success? If you could do it all over again - what would you change? Did any leaders emerge in the construction of this pipeline? If so, what were the characteristics of leadership that you responded to? How effectively did you plan this activity? How effectively did you communicate with one another? What was the level of participation of the group? What did you learn about your team? What did you learn about yourself? What surprised you about this activity?


The Pipeline Challenge can be a great "friendly competition" for groups. Rather than creating one large pipeline that goes from one side to the other, split the materials in half, put the bucket right in the center of the rope perimeters and task the group with building their pipeline first and/or with fewer materials.

See a video of the Pipeline Challenge [1].

Can you help make this activity better? Do you know an alternate way to lead this activity? Click "edit" above and help improve this site for everyone!