50 minute activity for 3rd-5th graders focused on biomimicry in engineering.

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In this activity, hosted on TeachEngineering, students learn about biomimicry and how engineers often imitate nature in the design of innovative new products. They demonstrate their knowledge of biomimicry by practicing brainstorming and designing a new product based on what they know about animals and nature.

Engineers often use the natural world as inspiration for design. Biologically inspired designs include air- and sea-going vessels, navigation tools such as sonar and radar, medical imaging devices, biomedical technologies like prosthetics, and water and pollution treatment processes. Biomimicry has resulted in many creative products, such as a materials inspired by the slick leaves of the lotus plant and its natural capacity to wash away dirt particles with every rainfall, and the Velcro hook-and-loop system inspired by the prickly plant burrs that stick to our clothes.

Created by the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Contributors: Katherine Beggs; Malinda Schaefer Zarske; Denise Carlson.
Supporting program: Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University.

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  • Define biomimicry.

  • Explain how engineers use biomimicry to design innovative new products.

  • List examples of engineered products that were inspired by nature.

  • Use biomimicry to develop an idea for a new product.

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