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Rescue Me! A Real-Life Challenge

Rescue me! Are you humming a song in your head after reading those two words! I always do.

Now, are you ready for a rescue challenge? It turns out that my students love these rescue scenarios. This one was created after I read a book. This was an adult book and I will link it for you at the end. It did start my thinking about making a rescue challenge for students.

I wanted the rescue to happen with mountainsides or a cliffside- inspired by the book I read. I also knew we had tried rescues where students must make a cranking system to raise someone from the bottom of a canyon. I wanted something different.

What would happen if a team was stranded across a canyon and needed supplies sent to them? Aha! The challenge was born. We call it Crossing a Chasm!

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This Rescue Me challenge has many parts:

  • Attaching the carrier
  • Creating a wind-catcher
  • Testing
  • Improving

The Set-Up

Before students ever get started on this challenge you need a canyon for their rescue team to use. I set up two lab stools and tied a fishing line to the top legs. We stretched the line so that the stools were about 3 feet apart. The idea is that a team of hikers has gotten separated and one part of the team is across a canyon and they need water and food. The other team needs to send supplies across on a line that stretches from one side to the other. When I described this the students had many questions and I made up the answers on the spot. (I should be an actress.) QUESTIONS:

  1. How did they get separated? (Half the team was walking across a swinging bridge and just as they got to the other side the bridge came apart. So, now they are stranded.)
  2. Can’t they walk back? (No, the cliffside they are on is too steep. They are waiting on rescuers.)
  3. Why don’t they have food and water? (They were carrying other supplies and now they need water.)
  4. How are we going to get the water to them? (On a rope. We will hang the food and water carrier to the rope and the wind will blow it across.)
  5. Where did the rope come from? (It’s part of the bridge. We can try using it for a water carrier but not for a heavy human.)
  6. Why are we using the wind? (Because it is a windy day and that is the only way to get the carrier across on the rope.)

Get it? I know, I know. It all seems a little silly, but I have read many scenarios in books that make less sense than this. And, the students loved it!

Crossing a Chasm STEM Challenge- students must rescue a team that is stranded. The team must send supplies across a chasm using the wind as a way to propel the container.

The Cargo Carrier

I originally planned to have students make the container for the crossing. I decided this event was challenging enough and we just used a 3-ounce cup. Students needed to determine how to attach the cup to the line so that it could easily slide across- powered by the wind.

Our wind came from a fan. When a team was ready to test their container they placed it on the line and I turned on the fan. This took some practice. The fan had to be swiveled so that the container received as much wind power as possible.

Rescue Me STEM Challenge- students must rescue a team that is stranded. The team must send supplies across a chasm using the wind as a way to propel the container.

The Wind Catcher

This is where the challenge became a little tricky. In the photos below you can see the team started out with a tiny “sail”. The container barely moved.

After trying for a few minutes the team took their device back to their worktable and created a larger sail. They also changed the location of the sail on the cup. This gave the wind a greater chance of catching on that pink sail and moving the container.


As soon as a team had a device ready we tested it! As the device stalled on the line we talked through possible reasons it was not moving.

The size of the sail and its placement were the biggest factors in the carrier moving along.

Above, you can see (on the left- the team had a sail above and below the cup. In the second photo, the sail on the top is larger. They folded the ends of the sail to help catch the wind.

This challenge has a lot of trial and error. Some carriers flew immediately. Some never flew at all. Some zipped across and stalled within inches of the other side. One carrier flew across without hesitation and reached the other side in 7 seconds.


We found ourselves making constant on-the-spot changes to the sails and the fan.

Students found some clever ways to just keep adding onto their original sail. Check out the one in the photo below!

This is an easy challenge to prep for. Students use mostly paper. I did have a small fan and fishing line. You could use plastic cord in lieu of fishing line. String or yarn will not work- the carrier will drag on the course string.

Challenge your students to a great (and silly) rescue project. This Chasm Crossing is bundled with two other rescues: Cargo Drops and Cranking Devices.

Book Inspiration

These two books were the source of my original rescue thoughts for STEM Challenges. These are not children’s books! I am recommending them to you!

This is a suspenseful novel about being lost in the wilderness and trying to survive. Wilfred, called Wolf, is going to hike on a local mountain. On the tram ride to the top, he sees Nola, an elderly woman, another woman, Bridget, a frail middle-aged woman, and Vonn, a teenager. After starting the hike Wolf encounters Nola and then the other two and discovers they are related. Nola is the mom of Bridget who is the mom of Vonn.

Unfortunately, as they begin to hike together, they get lost and then spend five days on the mountain trying to survive. Nola is injured immediately and spends time in extreme pain with a badly broken arm. Bridget is a flighty, easily excited silly woman (my opinion) and creates drama. Vonn is the one Wolf likes a lot!

Lots of problems occur as they have to find shelter and water and a way off the mountain. The back story of this all belongs to Wolf as he tells the women about his life without a mother and a neglectful father. He also tells them about a friend named Byrd that suffered a tragic accident on the same mountain. You know from the very beginning of the book that three of them will survive the mountain ordeal, but the journey and the ending are still quite compelling.

I liked this book a lot- even though it had some improbable things occur. I would give it 4 stars! Try it! (Side note: This one would make a fabulous movie because you would be able to see the cliffs and crevices and the mountain terrain!) It also makes a great STEM Challenge!

Dr. Ben is traveling by plane and so is Ashley. (They do not know each other but meet briefly.) The airport is closing quickly due to an incoming storm and they are stranded. As they head out to spend a night in the airport Ben sees a chartered plane service and talks to the pilot, Grover.

Grover is an older man and quite a character. Grover agrees to fly Ben out ahead of the storm and Ben heads back to see if Ashley wants to ride along. She does because her wedding is in two days. And off they go headed into a mountain wilderness trying to get to Denver.

The plane goes down atop a mountain peak and they are stranded. Ashley is badly injured, Grover is dead, and Ben is left to get them out alive.

I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. It is well written in the descriptions of all the things the two go through and you will laugh out loud at some of their jokes. I am not revealing any more of the story. Just go read it. And, by the way, it did not end the way I expected! I added this one to my bookshelves and promptly ordered another book by the same author!

Happy Reading and Rescuing!

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