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Guest Post by Senior Robert Cavanagh

During Trimester I, Mr. Peterson’s senior economics class ran an experiment to simulate diminishing marginal return. Diminishing marginal return means that, once the right amount of effort has been set toward the goal, adding extra help will make the overall production decline. The experiment was completed using tennis balls, buckets, and a lot of running.

The class began the lab by taking a bag of tennis balls and an empty bucket and placing them on opposite sides of the room. Starting with one person, we had to transport the tennis balls across the room without throwing them. The goal was to see how many tennis balls could be delivered in 30 seconds if only one ball was carried at a time. We kept adding one worker each time to see how many more tennis balls we could get, but eventually too many people were running around, slowing the whole operation. 

Afterward, the class created a graph to visually demonstrate the experiment results. The class determined that the most efficient method involved seven workers, and we managed to move 23 tennis balls. Gavin Harris reflected, “It shows how the more workers you have doesn’t mean more product.”

Commenting on the team-building nature of the task, Remy Stalcup remarked, “We had to work together to get the solution.” Gavin Harris added, “It shows how, when people work together, work gets done quicker.” As a whole, I think that this experiment was a great way to show diminishing marginal return and also a great team building exercise.