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Harry T. Roman

In this challenge, students will be asked to develop a design for an off-the-road first aid kit, the kind that can be stored in a recreational vehicle (RV).

Preparing for the Challenge
There is a rich literature on first aid that can be tapped. Information abounds in books, videos, pamphlets, brochures, and via the Internet. This should be mined first to understand the most critical aspects of first aid … boiling it down to its most essential elements to preserve life in the event of emergencies in isolated areas. There is also a wealth of information available in your school library, and perhaps through the nurse’s office. First aid courses taught in your school are yet another excellent source of information.

Why not bring in members of the community knowledgeable in first aid materials, equipment, and techniques to help orient and educate the students, such as visitors and speakers from:

  • Fire dept.
  • Paramedics
  • Police
  • Emergency services and ambulance providers
  • Hospital emergency room personnel
  • Doctors/nurses

These presenters can provide lots of experiential knowledge about first aid, giving tips about remaining calm and concentrating on the most important aspects of it. They will be able to provide guidance on the types of injuries you will most likely encounter, and the important and potentially dangerous post injury conditions that can often follow like shock and trauma.

Another source of firsthand information for you to consider, especially as it applies to injuries in the outdoors and backcountry areas are:

  • Forest rangers
  • Forest fire fighters
  • National Park Service rangers
  • Military branches (army, navy, marines, air force)
  • Boy and Girl Scout organizations.

This phase of the challenge is about gathering important information and background knowledge about first aid techniques, and when and how to apply them. The students can summarize the information and experience they gain on cards and posters that can show other students what they have learned. You can also use this activity as a way to study how first aid techniques and procedures have changed over the decades.

The Challenge
The challenge is to design a portable first aid kit that is normally carried in an RV, but can also be hand-carried or back-packed off road for distances of approximately 1-2 miles. The limit on the weight of this kit is 20 pounds.

It seems most prudent based on what the students have learned in the previous section to identify the kinds of injuries most likely to occur out in the wilds; and prepare to include the necessary first aid supplies in their kit to address these problems. For instance, the injuries listed below might be some likely candidates:

  • Broken bones
  • Deep cuts
  • Falls
  • Eye injuries
  • Puncture woods
  • Sprained ankles/knees
  • Heat exhaustion/heat stroke
  • Head trauma
  • Back injuries
  • Temperature exposure
  • Water-related injuries/trauma
  • Snake bites
  • Bee stings
  • Allergic reactions

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one to get the thinking process underway. Mine the information from the previous discussions above to fully understand what the outdoors frequenters might encounter.

Another interesting aspect of this challenge would be to investigate how first aid kits have changed. Medical technology changes and advances like any other technology. When the professionals discussed earlier come to visit your students, maybe they can bring a variety of first aid kits so students can see how medical supplies are packaged and labeled, and the size and shape of the products. There are also some other sources of first aid kit information that can be looked into. How about contacting:

  • Manufacturers of first aid kits
  • Medical supply manufacturers
  • Large companies with safety staffs.

Ultimately, students involved in this challenge must develop ideas to package their first aid products. Their challenge is to keep the weight of this kit under 20 pounds. Might they use a nylon/light-weight tubular plastic backpack type of design to hold all the supplies? Might the kit also contain an optional handle for carrying? Should it contain some easy to view and understand information about treating injuries—perhaps laminated and color coded cards for quick reference?

If an injury is encountered where quick removal via helicopter or other all terrain vehicles becomes necessary, how can such services be contacted? Should the kit contain a GPS locator, or a way to contact the car’s locator and send a message out that way? What about a cell phone?


This can be a very practical challenge for the students, because it touches everyone. We all recognize the importance and necessity of it; and yet, it also is an excellent example of how good thinking, organization, and planning can result in a valuable first aid kit. It shows how everyday products are examples of technology education in action. Much effort is usually expended on even the mundane objects of value in our society.

How about stretching the activity a bit to see if students can also develop a small brochure about safety in the woods—tips and suggestions to avoid injuries in the first place? Common sense safety tips can go a long way to reducing the need for emergency first aid.

Be safe and happy.