Organize a game in which students in a circle need to obtain their assigned item by passing the items between empty-handed neighbors to interactively demonstrate deadlock.

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  • Have 5 or more students sit in a circle, each assigned a letter of the alphabet.
  • There are two oranges with each student’s letter on them, except for one student, who only has one corresponding orange to ensure that there is always an empty hand.
  • The goal is for each student to end up with their own oranges, but they may only pass to empty handed immediate neighbors.
  • Students will quickly become aware that holding on to their own oranges as they appear may not be the best strategy.
  • Emphasize that an individual does not win the game, but instead the group has to work together to solve the puzzle.
  • Check out the CS Unplugged Routing and Deadlock Activity for more details.
  • Note from the CS Teaching Tips Team: Check out the Wiki about Deadlock in computer science!