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Mad Scientist
Mad Scientist - Image1
Posting Details
Country of origin United States
Created by Tony McCaffrey
Posted by Tony McCaffrey
Date first posted February 10, 2014
Game details
Game genre Creative thinking
Game summary Given a randomly selected object (e.g., hammer) and a randomly selected task (e.g., transport water), how can you use the object to accomplish the task? Stretches problem solving skills as students have to re-purpose common objects for unusual use.
# of players A whole class of players
For ages 8+


Other details


Game Designer / CreatorEdit

  • Created by Tony McCaffrey

Game SummaryEdit

Given a randomly selected object (e.g., hammer) and a randomly selected task (e.g., transport water), how can you use the object to accomplish the task?

Stretches problem solving skills as students have to re-purpose common objects for unusual uses because people tend to fixate on an object’s common use (i.e., functional fixedness). This is a verbal game; you don’t actually use real objects to perform the tasks.

First, try to accomplish the task using only the object named. Include other objects only when you have to. Vote on the most creative answer.

Possible answers to hammer/transport water: [1] Use the claw of the hammer to hook the handle of a bucket of water (added bucket); [2] balance a drop of water on the hammer head while carrying the hammer (you didn’t specify how much water had to be carried); [3] put a bowl of water with a hammer in it in the freezer, then carry by the handle of the hammer (added freezer and bowl).

Players / ModeratorsEdit

  • Ages 8 and up.
  • A whole classroom full. I’ve played with 35 students before.
  • Need one moderator to elicit objects and tasks from group as well as call on respondents.

Game Set-up and ConstructionEdit

  • No set up, other than gathering a group of people within earshot of the moderator.
  • Objects and tasks: To save time, beforehand have students write down objects and tasks on Post-It notes (or slips of paper) and place them into two piles.
  • No cost!

How to Play / Game RulesEdit

  1. As students arrive, moderator asks them to write down an object on a slip of paper (e.g., hammer, shoe, etc.) and a task on another slip of paper (e.g., transport water, slice bread, etc.)
  2. Objects are placed into a pile and shuffled. Tasks are placed into another pile and shuffled.
  3. Moderator picks one slip of paper from each pile and announces “How do you transport water (task) using a hammer (object)?” Moderator explains that students can add other objects to their solution if they need to.
  4. Students offer solutions until they are unable to think of any more.
  5. If you want, moderator facilitates a vote for the most creative solution and gives that student a point.

Templates / DiagramsEdit

  • NA

Related Web LinksEdit

  • NA

Other DetailsEdit

Cognitive psychology suggests that one of most pernicious obstacles to creative problem solving is functional fixedness. First articulated by Karl Duncker in his 1926 master’s thesis, functional fixedness is the tendency to fixate on the common use of an object when other uses are required. My dissertation in 2012 articulated the first highly effective technique to counter functional fixedness. The technique called the generic parts technique is illustrated in another one of my games called Weird Descriptions.

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