Alexandra Kung
Alexandra Kung
Middle School Honorable Mention - 2010 Survival Design Challenge
Chappaqua, New York
Survival Is In the Bag

When I first approached this project, I decided that I wanted to find a way to gather food and water. Once I realized that I had a friend with me, I immediately thought that I could eat my friend! But, I wasn’t thinking like an engineer. The items in the backpack were useful for a field trip, not as a survival kit if lost in the national forest. Therefore the challenge is to think “outside the box” and use these everyday items to collect food and water.

Although it wasn’t an obvious item, the backpack itself was useful. The backpack provides lots of options because it could be used to store food when you find it. The backpack is large enough to carry an animal after you have killed it. Also, you can use the backpack to collect rainwater if it rained. Rain water would not need to be boiled before drinking because it is clean and had not been touched by any dirt. After you collect all the rainwater, you can store it in the empty water bottle.

Another way to use the backpack is to use the flexible strings on the outside of it. The flexible strings can be tied to a stick to make a hunting device. The flexible strings are very sturdy so it would be able to launch rocks (as a sling shot) or shoot sticks (as a bow). You can use either method to kill birds. Birds are a good source of food especially if they have eggs with them.

Since there is a stream nearby, there are probably fish. To fish, you might need to use a fishing pole. You can make one by removing the spiral from the bound notebook; stretching the spiral and winding it around the end of a long stick to keep it in place. If you want a thinner wire you can take the spring from the pen. You can stretch out the spring and attach it to a stick in the similar manner as the spiral from the notebook. When you make a fishing pole out of a stick and either the spiral of a notebook or the spring from the pen, you can wrap chewed gum (as glue) around it to give it extra support so that it will stick together better.

The sugar in gum also comes in handy to attract insects. You can chew the gum and leave it out so that insects will get stuck on it. The insects will serve as bait to attract the fish or if you are really hungry, you can eat the insects themselves! Worms are another kind of bait and they can be found by digging using your mirror as a tool.

Sometimes it is easier to catch fish at night. To make a torch first take the two pencils and use the rubber band to attach it to a long stick, forming a trident. Next you weave the tinder (resin found in pine trees) and gum wrapper (paper) in between the pencils and the stick. Then you use a rock and the nail file to start the fire on your tinder. The fishes are attracted to the light and come to the surface of the stream.

Now that you know how to make fire, you can heat the stream water collected in the water bottle. Suspend the water bottle over the shredded paper fire pit (started by your torch and flames fanned by the cover of your notebook) by attaching it with a rubber band to a stick. Boiling excites the water molecules making the plastic bottle expand which prevents the plastic bottle from melting. Now the water is safe for drinking.

As a first timer lost in the wilderness it would be hard to distinguish what wild plants are edible. So I will stick to what I know and eat the pine nuts from the pine cones. Wrap a bandanna around the pine cones and hit against a large rock to break it open and use the tines of the comb to dig out the pine nuts.

From this assignment I learned that I did not need to resort to eating my friend in order to survive! In fact she was useful in helping me construct my contraptions to gather food and water. I became aware that you can do extraordinary tasks using ordinary items. Using objects and putting them together in an interesting and inventive way made me feel like I was an engineer!


*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.