Third Place - Middle School

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 12: Responsible Production & Consumption

2022 Youth Design Challenge

This design concept was developed by participants in the Institute’s Youth Design Challenge. The descriptions below are from the team’s competition entry materials.

School: Stratford Middle School
Location: San Jose, California, USA
Coach: Ben Guansing
Team members: Jeanelle Dao, Parinaz Dastur, Peggy Yuan

Video Pitch

video thumbnail

Innovation Details

Climate change is leading to rising temperatures; and in those places where heat is already at an uncomfortable point for humans, it can only get worse. Interrobang from San Jose came up with CactiShirt: a design to passively cool a person down with a shirt that incorporates microscopic folds, just like desert cacti, to increase the surface area to allow more heat to radiate. The CactiShirt is designed to also be lighter in color so that it won’t absorb as much heat as darker colors, just as chameleons can change to a lighter color when they get hot. The material for the CactiShirt would be euphorbias, which are plants that have a waxy surface that can help protect from heat.

What is the problem your team solved for this challenge? What is the problem addressed? How is the problem connected to the selected SDG?

The problem we addressed was climate change or global warming leading to uncomfortable heats for humans. Our project ensures people’s good help and wellbeing, the third UNSDG goal. An increase of carbon dioxide leads to global warming, which leads to higher temperatures that can be uncomfortable. Temperatures are predicted to rise 4°C (UCAR Center for Science Education, 2013) in the 21st century. In already deserted or tropical places, an increase of a few degrees goes a long way. This is especially for places where people are required to be outdoors a lot, global warming is a huge challenge.

How was your solution inspired by nature? What (at least two) organisms did you learn from? How effectively did you combine the biological strategies for the final design?

Our solution takes inspiration from cacti, giraffes, chameleons, and euphorbias. We use unnoticeably small cactus ribs, or how cacti have little folds on them to create more surface area for wind to blow heat off the clothing. We draw inspiration in the giraffes’ and chameleons’ color. Giraffes direct hot blood vessels to their lighter patches to cool these vessels. Chameleons change to a paler color to cool down. Our texture is from a euphorbias’s waxy surface to protect them from heat. We combine all these strategies into our project very effectively, as the shirt’s main features are these biological strategies.

What does your design solution do? How does it solve or mitigate the problem you selected? How did what you learn inform your design?

Our design helps the population adapt to the increasing temperatures experienced by many countries due to global warming. This design can cool a person down passively by using techniques inspired by giraffes, chameleons, euphorbias, and cacti. Our design cooling down the user solves the problem of climate change or global warming leading to uncomfortable heats for humans, as it will help people be more comfortable in rising temperatures. We learned about the ways organisms thermoregulate passively, or without using energy. We also learned about the innovative ways biomimicry has solved problems. Lastly, we learned about global warming in more depth.