Clearly designate a large, open (empty) space in which your group will soon interact.
Forms into small groups of two people (pairs.)
For each pair, nominate the tallest person as the robot, and their partner will be the controller.
The task of the controller is to guide the robot safely around the designated area, by using one of four distinct taps on the back or shoulder of the robot:
– One tap between shoulder blades = walk forward;
– One tap on the left shoulder = turn 90 degrees to left;
– One tap on right shoulder = turn 90 degrees to right; and
– Two quick taps between shoulder blades = stop walking.
The primary goal of the controller is to prevent their robot from bumping into any obstacles, including other people.
After 30 to 60 seconds, ask each partnership to switch roles.
After one or two rounds, ask each person to find a new partner to repeat the exercise, or consider playing a variation.
How To Play Narrative
Gather your group in the midst of a large, open playing space – indoors or outdoors, it won’t matter.
Ask your group to form into groups of two people, and adopt a random strategy (such as those described in Getting Into Pairs) to nominate who will be the ‘robot’ and the ‘controller.’ For example, ask the tallest person in the pair to become the controller, while their partner assumes the role of a robot.
Explain that the task of the controller is to guide their robot throughout the designated open space as safely as possible, without bumping into any obstacles (or other people, for that matter.)
At their disposal, the controller is entitled to use one of four distinct taps on the back or shoulder of the robot to communicate their route:
One tap between shoulder blades = walk forward;
One tap on the left shoulder = turn 90 degrees to the left;
One tap on right shoulder = turn 90 degrees to the right; and
Two quick taps between shoulder blades = stop walking.
Once all questions have been answered, invite each pair to have a go.
After 30 to 60 seconds, invite the partners to switch roles.
After a couple of rounds, invite everyone to find a new partner to repeat the exercise, or try something new from the Variations tab.
Practical Leadership Tips
If necessary, you may need to remind your group that when you mentioned ‘tap’ you were referring to the motion of a gentle tap of one’s finger tips, and not a whole-handed wallop!
For fun, if the robot should ever find themselves in a position where they cannot move, or it is unsafe to move, ask them to raise their hands high in the air and yelp “WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP” over and over. Thanks to Jim Cain for this innovation.
In the context of developing collaborative relationships, trust and empathy, invite each pair to have a brief discussion about what is and isn’t working to help them continue to have fun and keep safe.
Blind Robot Walk: Invite the robot to keep their eyes closed at all times.
Group Robot Walk 1: Form into groups of three or four people. One person volunteers to be the robot controlled by their (two or three) partners.
Group Robot Walk 2: Following on from above, reverse the roles of your three or four member groups and ask one volunteer to control two or three robots! Expect mayhem to occur.
Verbal Communication: Rather than tapping the back and shoulders of their partner, ask everyone to issue verbal commands (with no physical contact permitted at any time.)
Take a look at Pairs Compass Walk to enjoy another fun, yet powerful trust-building exercise for pairs.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever wanted to have your very own robot? Wouldn’t it be fun to issue commands all day, and have them do all the work? Let’s see how much fun this could really be…
In the early days of robotics, electrical engineers installed little buttons in various places on the robot to make it perform certain tasks. Most tasks were quite rudimentary, such as walk forward and turn left or right. In this next exercise, we’ll get to re-live these scientific experiments…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun trust-building exercise:
Describe how it felt to be controlled by another person. Was this good or bad?
At what times did you struggle to comply with the commands? Why?
What strategies helped you to be successful?
How might these observations help us to work effectively in teams?
The inspiration for Robot Tag, and many more fun group games, was sourced from the following publication: