Quin Nardone
Quin Nardone
Elementary School First Place Winner - 2010 Survival Design Challenge
Lost in a National Forest

It was a sunny hot day in a national forest and my best friend Ned and I got separated from our group. Once we realized that we were lost, we immediately tried to find a safe place to set up as our base. We quickly found a small clearing next to a creek.

To mark our spot next to the creek, we created a flag with the bandana which we tied to a long stick. Next, we dug a small ditch for a fire pit and then collected a bunch of very dry leaves and small sticks. I placed a mirror so it could reflect the last rays of the sun through my glasses, which were placed over dry leaves. The rays of the setting sun were somewhat weak, but magnified through my glasses they were strong enough to start a fire. While I was tending the small fire, Ned went to collect a lot of pine needles. He soaked the needles in the creek and then brought them over to me. I slowly threw them into the fire while he got more. The wet pine needles created a lot of smoke.

While our smoke signal fire was going, we started to write a bunch of notes which said: “WE ARE LOST! If you find this message, you will find us up stream. We marked our spot with a flag and we are keeping up a smoky fire. Please find us! Ned, and Quin”. We folded the notes into paper boats. Then we sent the notes downstream, one every five minutes. We hoped that the boats would draw somebody’s attention. Next we colored our empty water bottle with our pens to make it not look like trash. We stuck our last note inside the bottle and also sent it down stream. Assuming the rescue group was well on their way, we wanted to be ready for them. Ned and I started to look for two hollow logs and some strong sticks. Our small fire still produced plenty of smoke and it didn’t take long before we started to hear whistles and yells far in the distance. Now it was time to start drumming on to the hollow logs. We enjoyed this part because we got to sing and scream along with the beat. Soon after, we were discovered by our group and we headed back to our camp with an exciting story to tell.

In Conclusion, when Ned and I were lost in the national forest we used items from the environment and our personal belongings to attract a rescue group. The most fun and efficient way to attract our group was the pounding on the hollow logs and folding rescue notes into paper boats. But, the most effective was probably the smoking fire. The best solution of all, however, would have been not to get lost in the first place.


*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.