The aim of the challenge is for teams to compete against each other and try win a lucrative contract for the commercial production of an airship. To win the contract, each team will have to design and build a fully operational prototype, within budget and on time, that meets a detailed specification.

Equipment Required: Balloons, elastic bands, toy propellers, paper clips, cotton, glue, parcel tape, plastic cups, tissue paper, craft knife, scissors, paper, newspaper, cardboard (or anything else you want to add).
Space Required: Low. Delivered in or outdoors.
Group Size: 8-40 (split into smaller sub-teams of 4-8)
Total Time: 120 minutes

  • 5 minutes to brief and setup
  • 85-90 minutes to design and build prototype
  • 20 minutes for design presentations/pitches
  • 10 minutes to review and de-brief

Split the group into smaller sub-teams of between 4 and 8 participants. Ask the group to come up with a team name for the challenge.

Introduce the task: Each team will compete to try and win the contract for the development of their airship design. To win the challenge, they are required to design, build and pitch their prototype.

You have 90 minutes available to do this. During this time you will need to complete your prototype design and build it ensuring it matches the required specifications.

After your time is up, you are then required to pitch your prototype and try to persuade the client of its viability and demonstrate its capabilities by flying it along the course as indicated.

You will find attached the initial tender specification, as well as some information about our expectations. A range of materials and resources are available to you.

Airship Challenger Brief

The Canyon Tour Company is a new and innovative company, seeking to capitalise on the natural wonder that the Grand Canyon has to offer visitors. Founded in 2011 by its current Directors, the company has grown from strength to strength and is set to expand further.

Already offering a range of exciting and challenging activities for the more adventurous traveller (for example, our very successful “Blind Rafting the Canyon!” tour) we are now keen to expand our services to exciting trips for those who want the thrills and the views without the additional risk or physical effort.

Our development team have come up with a brilliant idea that we believe will be the next step in the evolution of our brand: we plan to offer airship tours around the canyon, providing excellent views from a unique perspective. The key word being unique – there are a lot of companies offering helicopter rides but believe our airship tour will be a game changer.

We are inviting companies with the necessary creative and business skills to enter into partnership with us to develop the prototype airships that will help us achieve our goal.

Tenders are invited from interested parties who can demonstrate their ability to meet the airship specification.

Airship specification

  1. Those tendering must be able to demonstrate excellent teamwork. There must be a clear company structure and role allocation, as well as effective leadership.
  1. We are happy to meet with bidders to discuss our requirements in detail. We are busy people, so meetings will only be by appointment and with only two representatives from your team.
  1. Prototypes must be completed and ready to fly by the time agreed with us.
  1. You must consider our target market and design your prototype accordingly.
  1. Finance will not be the only deciding factor in awarding the contract. However, you must demonstrate the financial viability of your proposal, by clearly setting out the costs of your prototype.
  1. The decision criteria are a combination of the following:
    • Flying ability – does it fly under its own power, at an approximately constant altitude?
    • Flying distance – does it fly further than the competition?
    • Design – how attractive is the airship?
    • Cost – how does it compare with the cost of other entries.
    • Confidence – how confident are we in your company structure and management?

Immediately prior to the demonstration flight, you must make a short pitch/presentation to us, in the presence of the other bidders, which sets out how you meet the criteria.

Material Price List

The following items are available:

Item                                                                             Cost (£)
Balloons                                                                300      each
Newspaper                                                            100      per sheet
Propeller                                                                200      each
Rubber bands                                                         10      each
Paper clips                                                               10      each
Cotton                                                                    100      any amount
Glue                                                                        100      any amount
Parcel tape                                                            250      any amount
Tissue paper                                                         100      per sheet
Craft knife                                                                50      unlimited use
Plastic cup                                                             200      each
Paper                                                                      150      per sheet
Cardboard                                                             250      per box
Scissors                                                                   50      unlimited use


  • Knifes and scissors should be used with caution (supervise if working with young people).
  • Glues can cause irritation – ensure participants wash their hands at the end of the challenge.

Suggested Learning Outcomes

  • Creative thinking
  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Communication
  • Teamwork

Useful Tips

If you’re working with adults, let them get on with the exercise without too much assistance – they should be monitoring all aspects of the challenge themselves – if not then use this as a discussion point during the review.

When doing this task with young people, you may have to keep them on track and let them know how much time they have left for completing the build. 90 minutes seems like a lot, but time flies by with this exercise.

Be creative and change the scenario to suit your own group (have some fun with it). For example, you could change the scenario to: each team have been tasked with building a spaceship for visiting the moon.

See how your teams work under-pressure and problem solve. Half-way through the allotted build time, say you have had word of an important meeting with potential investors and need to re-schedule the presentations to earlier time. Instead of having forty minutes left, the teams have just twenty to complete their build before their final presentation.

You can also give teams a set budget for completing the prototype. This will get them thinking about their resource management and will play an important factor during the initial design discussions.

Suggested questions to ask in the review:

How did you come up with your design idea? Did it change during the build?
Were you creative in using your resources?
Did everyone feel that they were involved?
Did you manage your time effectively? If yes, how? If no, why not?
How well did you communicate as a team? How could you improve?
Were you happy with your prototype design?
How important was leadership in this exercise?

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