BNE Biomimicry Teaching Collaborative

A network of New England university faculty committed to teaching Biomimicry with a focus on enabling life. Collaborative participation includes a commitment to biomimicry that contributes to Conditions Conducive to Life (CCL) and to the development and sharing of related teaching material.

Introduction to Biomimicry

Rhode Island School of Design

Winter Session, 2018

Emily Kennedy PhD, University of Akron

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Course Description: Biomimicry is innovation through emulation of biological forms, processes, patterns, and systems. It is motivated by an understanding of natural selection, a process through which advantageous traits are perpetuated as organisms best-adapted to their environments survive and reproduce in greater numbers than those with less effective adaptations. Over billions of years, natural selection has culled high-performing, resource-efficient survival strategies, which we can learn from to solve our technical challenges. This three-credit seminar will introduce students to biomimicry. Students will complete the course with: 1) a basic understanding of biomimicry, 2) a knowledge of biomimetic applications to diverse problems; 3) a deeper understanding of the approaches to bio-inspired design; and 4) firsthand experience with the early stages of biomimicry (problem definition, function specification, biological model identification, and design principle extraction).


Olin College

Spring Semester, 2018

Jean Huang, Benjamin Linder, Olin College

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We can learn from nature! From studying a leaf to make a better solar cell to emulating natural processes to develop living buildings, the discipline of Biomimicry views nature as “model, mentor and measure” (Benyus, 1997). Spiders spin protein silk with the strength of steel yet much lighter all at ambient temperature and pressure. Cuttlefish change color to match their surroundings in milliseconds by contracting their chromatophores and even bioluminesce. In this course we will study wonders like these to appreciate the beauty and sophistication of life by investigating the biological mechanisms and functions of organisms as well as the dynamics of whole ecosystems. By examining biological systems at multiple scales, we can draw insights from understanding how they work. By collecting data, running experiments, creating models, or building prototypes, we can translate these insights into design ideas and practice. We will examine and discuss big ideas and thinking in biology and design and then synthesize and reflect on the intersection of these fields. Students will develop skills and insights through critical analysis of readings and the development of projects that draw on both fields. Biological systems have undergone 3.8 billion years of evolution, resulting in time-tested approaches to living on earth that are efficient and embody sustainability. By exploring the intersection of biology and design, we might learn to do the same.