2010 Survival Design Challenge Guidelines

EngineerGirl! – Survival Design Challenge

Contest Description

If you have to be stranded somewhere with someone, you might want to hope you are stranded with an engineer. Engineers think big and solve problems with whatever resources they have available so they would be great companions on a deserted island. Try this exercise to see if you can think like an engineer:

During a field trip to a national wildlife refuge (or national forest), you and a friend get separated from the rest of the group and realize that you are totally lost.

Your guide told you earlier that if you get lost: stay where you are, stay safe, and wait for someone to find you. It's getting late, and the temperature is dropping. When you dump out the contents of your backpack you see the following:


  • A cell phone (with no signal)                                                                
  • Two large rubber bands
  • A scarf/bandana
  • An empty plastic bottle
  • A spiral-bound notebook
  • Two retractable pens
  • Two pencils
  • A pack of gum
  • A comb
  • A nail file
  • A mirror

Items in the environment include:

  • Trees, leaves, sticks & twigs
  • Rocks
  • A small stream
  • Dirt
  • Pine needles and pine cones
Backpack and design supplies

In your essay, describe how you would use the contents of your backpack along with clothing or accessories you are wearing and items in your environment (Use no more than 3 items that are not included in the backpack.) to address ONE of the following challenges:

  1. Create a shelter
  2. Gather food and water
  3. Try to get the attention of a rescue party

Contest Guidelines

Who Can Enter?

The contest is open to individual girls and boys in each of three categories (Choose your category by grade level unless you are unsure of your grade):

  • 3rd grade to 5th grade (Ages 8-11)
  • 6th grade to 8th grade (Ages 12-14)
  • 9th grade to 12th grade (Ages 15-18)

If you are a prior winner and have received a cash prize from EngineerGirl! in any of the above grade categories, you may not enter again in the same age group.

How Do I Enter?

Write an essay which addresses the requirements in the contest description. Essays should be written clearly. They may be shorter than, but should not exceed, the word limit listed below:

  • 500 words for grades 3 - 5
  • 750 words for grades 6 - 8
  • 1000 words for grades 9 - 12

Submit your essay through the Online Submission Form on the EngineerGirl! website, and include all required information.

When Is the Deadline?

Entries must be received by 6:00 p.m. (EST) on March 1, 2010.

What are the Awards?

All winning entries will be published on the EngineerGirl! website. (Please review our publication agreement before you submit your essay.) In addition, all winners will receive the prizes listed below:

  • First-place winners will be awarded $500.
  • Second-place entries will be awarded $250.
  • Third-place entries will be awarded $100.
  • Honorable Mention entries will not receive a cash reward but will be published on the EngineerGirl! website.

Additional Rules

  • Essays will be judged on the basis of creativity, feasibility, and usefulness of the design as well as the author’s ability to communicate ideas. You may wish to preview the scorecard for the selection criteria.
  • All essays must be the original work of the author submitting the entry and must not have been published anywhere else.
  • A contestant may enter only one essay.
  • No contestant may win more than once in a single age category.
  • All entries will be read by a panel of judges, whose selections will be final.
  • Management, employees and families of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) are prohibited from winning any prizes offered by EngineerGirl.
  • Entry in the contest grants the NAE non-exclusive rights to publish winning essays in full or in part on the EngineerGirl! website. (publication agreement)

Entries must be submitted using the Online Submission Form

For Teachers

If you are interested in using curriculum materials in your classroom that will enhance the contest experience for your students, this list of suggested educational resources may be helpful.


The 2010 EngineerGirl! Contest is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Northrop Grumman CorporationFord Motor Company, and Bechtel.

              Northrop Grumman                    Ford Logo                    Bechtel Corporation