Satvika Kumar
Satvika Kumar
Middle School First Place Winner - 2010 Survival Design Challenge
Get the Attention of a Rescue Party

I have often let my imagination fly, in to the world of magic and mystery with no thought to fear or fright. But being lost and separated from the group on our class trip to the National Forest was indeed scary and too frightful. Sarah and I cried some and laughed some. We were very stressed. We needed to be strong, If we wanted to survive. We thought through our situation. We took a deep breath, calmed down and looked around and thought about where we were. We saw a small clearing and found a safe shelter. We poured out the contents of my backpack and checked out our surroundings and the stream nearby. Our game plan is to signal for rescue. We collected the dirt and piled the pine cones together on top of the dirt in the form of ‘X’ and laid out the rocks in the form of ‘SOS’ close by.

We then tore a page from the notebook and wrote down the details of our trail location with notes and directional information that we can think off, our names and date, in pencil, since pen ink would get our message smudged if it got wet. We then put the note in the plastic bottle and floated it in the stream, hoping it would be found by someone downstream. We wrote several more ‘HELP’ notes and created a trail by sticking the notes to branches, bushes a short distance in both directions with pieces of chewed gum, making the paths look quite festive with these notes hanging on.

It was getting late, and the temperature was dropping. Setting a signal fire is one way to alert rescuers as to our whereabouts and smoke is the key to a signal fire. To avoid starting a forest fire, we built the fire in the large clearing around a pile of rocks. We collected green or wet leaves and rotten wood since this would produce lots of smoke early on and as it became dusk we added twigs, pine needles and wood to make the fire.

Starting a fire was not easy. We struck one stone against the other. The stones flashed due to friction, but the dried leaves did not catch a fire the way we had often read about in books. So I split a pencil with a nail file and took the graphite, placed it on a piece of paper from the notebook and crushed the lead to powder with a rock. Then I placed a few more small crushed pieces of paper around the graphite. Took the battery from the cell phone and placed the terminals in contact with paper and graphite. Voila! We had a fire. The most noticeable signal is the fire. It can be easily seen at night. We built three fires in a straight line, at a distance from each other, since three fires are an internationally recognized distress signal.

Next we found two long sticks. We dug a hole in the ground and planted one stick firmly. The second stick we placed it near the top of the first and tied with the a cut rubber band and placed the white bandana on the other end of the stick. The bandana was soon flying beautifully like a flag just like in Robinson Crusoe and we crossed our fingers hoping someone would spot us.

I have often heard in Girl Scouts that signal mirrors and whistles are another way to signal for help. A mirror’s reflection can be seen from great distances. With a piece of chewed gum we stuck the mirror at an angle on the rock so it can reflect the light from the fire skywards. We did not have a whistle. So using a pen and nail file, we set out to make a whistle. We removed the front section including the tapering plastic piece and ink tube from the pen. Using the nail file, I cut about a section of the back of the pen including the cap. To make the loudest sound possible, I pressed the rim of the whistle into my lower lip. Sarah and I started doing three blows or loud sounds, the universal help signal, in regular intervals.

We were hungry. As for the chewing gum, it contains some sugar and moisture. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. We popped one stick of gum each and waited to be rescued.



*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 announcement for more information.