Raga Justin
Raga Justin
Elementary School Third Place Winner - 2010 Survival Design Challenge
Oh My, We're Lost!

Great. Just great. We’re stuck here in this forest with nothing but our backpacks. I’m so angry I could kick a tree. There – I just did. Let me start over. Mia and I had been lagging behind everyone else when we spotted a gorgeous flower.

“Come see, Nan,” she urged. We gazed at it for a moment. Suddenly, Mia looked up. “Where’d everyone else go?” Mia asked.

“Uh-oh. We better go see.” I said.

We rushed along a well-worn path. They were gone.

“Great,” muttered Mia. I took a deep breath.

“Okay. Let’s assess our situation. We’re cold, scared, and frustrated.”

“Not to mention creeped out,” Mia added.

“Maybe we should focus on building a shelter,” I suggested.

“Okay!” Mia said.

I dumped out my backpack.

“Rubber bands...gum? Mia, Strawberry Swirl!” We popped pieces in our mouths. The burst of sugar reenergized us, and we sorted through the pile with vigor.

“A scarf!” I cried. We pondered. “Well, we could build a base out of tall sticks tied together with strips of the scarf, paper, and gum,” I said.

“Come on!” Mia replied.

Mia started collecting tall sticks while I tore the paper and scarf into strips. First, we stood up 4 tall sticks and dug them in the dirt. When they were stable, we used 4 more sticks to connect at the top, using the strips to tie them together. We moistened the knots with water, a trick we learned from science. Then, to cover our roof, we stuck together pine cones. The needles held on to each other, and for stubborn ones, we used miniscule pieces of gum. We lifted the prickly square onto the top of our hut.

“Now we need to cover the walls,” Mia said. We decided to use large leaves stuck together with the remaining gum. When we had 4 big sheets, we reached for more strips – but there were only 4. It was past 7 pm, and I was freezing.

“Oh no!” I moaned.

“Wait! We could cut the rubber bands!” Mia said.

“But with what?” I asked. I looked around, and as I did, my earrings tinkled. “We can use the edge of my earring!!!” I cried.

I quickly cut the rubber bands and we finished securing them to the base. Shivering, we slid inside. Sharing a fleece jacket with Mia and protected from the wind, I soon grew warm, falling into a deep sleep. When I woke up the next morning, blue sky, sun shining, and a gentle breeze, suddenly, I heard a noise. I whirled around – and came face-to-face with the guide. I was speechless, but the ranger threw her arms around me.

“Everyone was so worried!” she exclaimed.

Mia stumbled out. “Ms. Fallon?”

Ms.Fallon noticed our hut. “Wow, girls! This was very resourceful!”

“Yeah, it was fun, but I’m glad we’re going home,” Mia said.

As Ms. Fallon led us away, I looked back and smiled. In a way, it had been fun.


*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.