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Crossing a Chasm- A Rescue Challenge

Are you ready for a rescue challenge? I knew my students would love this rescue challenge because we have tried similar events. Could they invent something to cross a chasm, a ravine, powered only by the wind?

A Rescue Challenge- Crossing a Chasm- students construct a carrying device that can be wind-powered across a ravine.

First, we learned how to say the word “chasm”! Do you know how?

It was fun to listen to students attempt this- I will add the correct pronunciation at the end of this post! A chasm, by the way, is a ravine.

Here’s the premise behind this rescue challenge.

The group is hiking and some of them make it across a chasm. They are stranded, however, without food. The other half of the team must devise a way to get food across the chasm. Sounds pretty simple, right?  

WRONG! I added a twist to it. Of course. Do you know me? There is always a twist to make it challenging! In this one, the way the food carrier is transported across the chasm is: by the WIND! Yep.

First, I had to create the ravine and crossing structure. I just tied a fishing line to two desks placed about 6 feet apart. I set up my fan under one of the desks.

I have also tried this challenge with a line tied to two lab stools.

Students must build a contraption that will hold the “food” and run along that string to the other side of the chasm. So, “catching the wind” is the real dilemma. Students knew immediately that some sort of sail was needed. This did not keep them from trying many other things.

Crossing a Chasm- students construct a carrying device that can be wind-powered across a ravine. Will this parachute work?

This group is making a parachute device! Will that work?

It did sail better than I thought it would but it didn’t go all the way! The problem the kids discovered is that a parachute can’t catch the wind when it is facing the floor. It would have to be turned parallel to the floor. (like a sail)

There is so much trial and error with this challenge and that makes it fun for everyone.

Crossing a Chasm- students construct a carrying device that can be wind-powered across a ravine. Will this cup catch enough air to work?

This group thought the wind would just be driven into the opening of the cup and sail across.

NOPE! The opening is too small and the device also tended to turn around backward.

TIP: Have rules about paper clips. Students will do exactly what you see in this photo- pull them open to make a long metal stick. A binder clip works just as well for sliding along the line and is a safer option.

Crossing a Chasm- students construct a carrying device that can be wind-powered across a ravine. Will this ski lift chair work?

I love this one that resembles a ski lift chair.

Sadly, it did not catch wind at all and this team had to go back and add something to help out.

TIP: Make sure you leave enough time in this challenge for students to improve their devices and try again.

Crossing a Chasm- students construct a carrying device that can be wind-powered across a ravine. Will this airplane work?

Finally, I had so many groups that thought a paper airplane would work! What do you think?

HINT: It didn’t work. The airplane would need to be vertical in order to work like a sail.

TIP: We used a ping pong ball as our “food” for this rescue challenge. I buy packages of these at Dollar Tree.

This rescue challenge is challenging. Many teams were frustrated and just when I thought it might never work, a team had a device that crossed that chasm in 7 seconds. Click on any of the images to see the details about this resource.

One final thing! How do you say the word “chasm”? It’s a hard C sound –kaz em! 

I have a few more rescue challenge posts you might enjoy:

A Rescue Challenge- Crossing a Chasm- students construct a carrying device that can be wind-powered across a ravine.

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