Brittany Ngia
Brittany Ngia
Elementary School Second Place Winner - 2010 Survival Design Challenge
My Shelter in the Wilderness

While observing the beauty of the nature at the national wildlife refuge, my friend and I suddenly realize we are separated from our group. We think about our situation, and decide we will build a shelter to protect us until help comes.

First, we look for an area which is flat, dry and where we can easily gather materials to build our triangle-shaped shelter. We locate two trees that are about five feet apart from each other, and find a strong branch that acts as a main beam between the trees. We either place it on a forked branch of the trees or tie it securely with spruce roots to the trees, about four feet in height from the ground. As spruce roots do not grow deep in the ground, we can dig them up using a hook-shaped stick, and cut them using my mirror that we have broken.

Next, we build the frame of our shelter. Using fallen branches of about six feet long, we leaned them against the main beam at about 45 degrees from the ground. We tie one end of the branch to the main beam using spruce roots, and push the other end into the holes in the ground, which we dug with pencils. We weave finer twigs in between the branches to hold them together. We do this on both sides of the main beam.

We will then cover the frame of our shelter with boughs, twigs, and leaves for protection from unpleasant weather. It is best to start at the bottom of the shelter and work upwards when constructing, so that when it rains, the water will run over the joints and not leak through. The weaving of the sticks ensures the protection material does not fall through into the sleeping area.

The shelter now has two openings, which are opposite each other. One of the openings will be the entrance, and the other will be a wall made of twigs and sticks. We will choose the entrance away from the wind. We check the direction of wind by throwing some leaves in the air. To build a wall, we gather sticks and bind them together using the cut strips from my bandana. We secure the wall to the frame of our shelter with spruce roots. Finally, we collect pine needles and leaves for our sleeping area because they are comfortable to lie on and provide good insulation.

To keep ourselves warm, we make a fire in a cleared area in front of our entrance. With some flat rocks as our fireplace and lots of tinder, such as dry leaves, bark, pine cones and papers from my notebook, we can start our fire. By hitting two hard rocks together, we create sparks. The tinder will catch these sparks and ignite. We then put more tinder on the flame and gently blow it to make a burning fire. We can now keep ourselves warm, and wait for help to arrive.




*This essay was written by a student as part of an annual contest to promote engineering concepts. It is not the work of an engineer or of an outdoor survivalist. The ideas included represent creativity and ingenuity; however, facts may not be accurate and the actions described may not be the most appropriate in an actual survival situation. Please see the contest description for more information.