,
This unit is under construction. Please send your thoughts to feedback@galacticpolymath.com! And be sure to sign up for emails to get notified when the final version is released.
  • Overview
  • Lesson Preview
  • Teaching Materials
  • Background
  • Learning Standards
  • Feedback
  • Credits
  • Acknowledgments
  • Version Notes
  • Overview
  • Lesson Preview
  • Teaching Materials
  • Background
  • Learning Standards
  • Feedback
  • Credits
  • Acknowledgments
  • Version Notes
English (US)

Bioinspired Design

Looking to Biology for Better Solutions

Looking to Biology for Better Solutions
Galactic_PolyMath_First_Sec_Mobile_Info
The Gist:

Students will identify a problem with an existing product and investigate biological functions to inspire a product redesign. Through independent research using AI bots and scholarly sources, students will gain a new perspective on STEM, biology, and the human interface between.

Target Subject:
Science
Grades:
8-University
Estimated Time:
≥5 45 min. class periods
Target Subject:
Science
Grades:
8-University
Estimated Time:
≥5 45 min. class periods
Subject breakdown by standard alignments:Subject breakdown by standard alignments
Subject breakdown by standard alignments
Subject breakdown by standard alignments

Driving Question(s):

  1. How can we use organismal adaptations to design better engineering solutions?
  2. What products in our daily lives could be more sustainable, functional, or aesthetically pleasing?
Keywords:
biomimicrybiomimeticsevolutionengineeringdesign thinkingPBLproject-based learning
For Lesson 1
Borrowing Brilliance from Biology: The Future of Design

This overview shows what bioinspired design looks like to inspire student-driven projects & investigations. (Beta: not on YouTube)

by Galactic Polymath
For Lesson 1
Changing the world starts with defining a problem

Helps students reflect on how they interact with products and identify ways they could be improved. (Beta: not on YouTube)

by Galactic Polymath
For Lesson 1
Kickstart innovation with a mind map

Builds the transferable skill of ideating and summarizing by drawing mind maps. (Beta: not on YouTube)

by Galactic Polymath
For Lesson 1–5
Bioinspired Design Canvas

This graphic organizer helps students track and summarize their work throughout the Bioinspired Design Process.

by Galactic Polymath
For Lesson 2
How to search biology for engineering solutions

Guides students through the "biologize" step of the Bioinspired Design Process. (Beta: not on YouTube)

by Galactic Polymath
For Lesson 2
Biologize Student Worksheet

This worksheet guides students through biologizing their problem.

by Galactic Polymath
  • Borrowing Brilliance from Biology: The Future of Design
  • Changing the world starts with defining a problem
  • Kickstart innovation with a mind map
  • How to search biology for engineering solutions

5 x 45 min

This unit is designed for upper level high school and intro undergrad. However, the first two lessons/steps could easily be taught at the middle school level.

Available Grade Bands

Available Teaching Environments

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This unit is under construction. Please send your thoughts to feedback@galacticpolymath.com! And be sure to sign up for emails to get notified when the final version is released.
Learning Objectives

Students will able to...

  1. Create mind maps to ideate, reflect, and identify a problem with a product or technology.

  2. Recognize that biological evolution has resulted in all kinds of amazing solutions that can provide inspiration to solve realworld problems.

  3. Define a problem with an existing product.

Materials for Grades 8-University
  1. Presentation (Lesson 1)

    Need: WiFi, Computer, Projector, Sound

    lesson_tile
  2. Bioinspired Design Canvas

    Optional graphical organizer for students to summarize each step.

    lesson_tile
Steps & Flow

10 min: Introduction

1.

What is Bioinspired Design?

1.

What is Bioinspired Design?

Students will watch a short, 4-minute trailer that outlines the steps of the bioinspired design process.

  • Bioinspired Design: process of designing solutions that take inspiration from organismal adaptations

You might decide to show this overview ▶ Borrowing Brilliance from Biology: The Future of Design during a prior lesson in order to give more time for brainstorming.

25 min: Brainstorm

2.

Mind-Mapping the Problem

2.

Mind-Mapping the Problem

With guidance from videos, students will learn how to engage in mind-mapping to identify a product they would like to redesign.

This lesson will toggle between ▶ Changing the world starts with defining a problem and ▶ Kickstart innovation with a mind map to guide students during brainstorming.

10 min: Define

3.

Write a Problem Statement

3.

Write a Problem Statement

By the end of this step, students will clearly define their problem statement.

Going Further

Ideas and resources for deepening learning on this topic.

  1. Digital Tool: Lucid Chart

    For making mind maps easily. Free for education.

  2. High Speed Train Inspired by the Kingfisher

    This article from AskNature provides more information for students to learn about the bioinspired design for Japan's JR-West railway company.

,
This unit is under construction. Please send your thoughts to feedback@galacticpolymath.com! And be sure to sign up for emails to get notified when the final version is released.
Learning Objectives

Students will able to...

  1. Use technology, such as AI chatbots, as well as resources like field guides to identify functions in biology that are analogous to an engineering/design problem.

  2. Understand the biological term 'trait' and accurately connect organismal traits to design/engineering analogs. (e.g. fish caudal fin= boat propeller)

Materials for Grades 8-University
  1. Presentation (Lesson 2)

    Need: WiFi, Computer, Projector, Sound

    lesson_tile
  2. Teacher Worksheet (Lesson 2)

    Print 1

    lesson_tile
  3. Student Worksheet (Lesson 2)

    Print 1 Per Student

    lesson_tile
Steps & Flow

5 min: Review

1.

Share Out

1.

Share Out

Invite students to share their problem statements and/or other takeaways from the previous step.

35 min: Biologize

2.

Translate the Problem into Abstract Functions

2.

Translate the Problem into Abstract Functions

With video guidance, students will learn how to abstractify their problem statement into functions.

  • Function: serves as the bridge between engineering and biology.

This lesson relies on ▶ How to search biology for engineering solutions which explains how to biologize the problem. Students are encouraged to use ➚ Biologize Student Worksheet to track their work during this step.

3.

Look to Biology for Solutions

3.

Look to Biology for Solutions

Students will conduct exploratory research to find organisms or traits that align with their desired functions.

Helpful research resources and tips can be found on ➚ Biologize Student Worksheet.

5 min: Define

4.

"What If" Statements

4.

"What If" Statements

By the end of this step, students will define several "what if" statements to explore further.

Going Further

Ideas and resources for deepening learning on this topic.

  1. Perplexity.ai

    A useful AI chatbot that can really help students discover biological models, synonyms for their design problems, and identify analogous biology terms. Importantly, Perplexity shows links to backup claims, as many chatbots can hallucinate.

  2. asknature.org

    A library of examples of biomimicry and bioinspired design from the Biomimicry Institute.

  3. Wikipedia.org

    A helpful research tool, particularly if students know nothing about an organism and want to start with general inquiry.

  4. scholar.google.com

    A great way for students to dive into real research articles. Be sure to show them how to click "All X versions" for an article to find free PDFs which are sometimes available.

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This unit is under construction. Please send your thoughts to feedback@galacticpolymath.com! And be sure to sign up for emails to get notified when the final version is released.
Learning Objectives

Students will able to...

  1. Evaluate the pros/cons, and tradeoffs between different biological models to select one design inspiration.

  2. Propose a bioinspired (re)design solution to address problems with an existing product.

Materials for Grades 8-University
  1. Bioinspired Design Canvas

    Optional graphical organizer for students to summarize each step.

    lesson_tile
Steps & Flow

45 min: Select a Biological Model

1.

Under construction.

1.

Under construction.

We're working on this lesson, but for now, feel free to use ➚ Bioinspired Design Canvas for inspiration.

Choose how you would like students to research and pick the model for their design inspiration.

Going Further

Ideas and resources for deepening learning on this topic.

  1. OneZoom.org

    A fantastic tool for students to explore the true diversity of life on earth as a browseable tree of life.

  2. Perplexity.ai

    A useful AI chatbot that can really help students discover biological models, synonyms for their design problems, and identify analogous biology terms. Importantly, Perplexity shows links to backup claims, as many chatbots can hallucinate.

,
This unit is under construction. Please send your thoughts to feedback@galacticpolymath.com! And be sure to sign up for emails to get notified when the final version is released.
Learning Objectives

Students will able to...

  1. Propose a bioinspired (re)design solution to address problems with an existing product.

  2. Summarize and present their process: from identifying a problem to selection of biological inspiration model to proposed solution.

Materials for Grades 8-University
  1. Bioinspired Design Canvas

    Optional graphical organizer for students to summarize each step.

    lesson_tile
Steps & Flow

45 min: Propose Bioinspired Solution

1.

Under construction.

1.

Under construction.

Under construction. We're working on this lesson, but for now, feel free to use ➚ Bioinspired Design Canvas for inspiration.

Choose how you would like students to present their final design.

,
This unit is under construction. Please send your thoughts to feedback@galacticpolymath.com! And be sure to sign up for emails to get notified when the final version is released.
Learning Objectives

Students will able to...

  1. Propose a bioinspired (re)design solution to address problems with an existing product.

  2. Incorporate feedback and/or prototype test data into a revised redesign.

Materials for Grades 8-University
  1. Bioinspired Design Canvas

    Optional graphical organizer for students to summarize each step.

    lesson_tile
Steps & Flow

45 min: Evaluate

1.

Under construction.

1.

Under construction.

Under construction. We're working on this lesson, but for now, feel free to use ➚ Bioinspired Design Canvas for inspiration.

Choose how you would like students to evaluate their final design.

Materials for Grades 8-University
  1. Bioinspired Design Pre/Post Assessment

    lesson_tile
  2. Dawn Ruiz Assessment Data

    lesson_tile

Connection to Research

Students will dive into primary resources (e.g. through Google Scholar) or journal articles summarizing scientific research (depending on student levels), as they investigate current products and biological adaptations that could inspire new engineering solutions.

Research Background

This series of lessons comes out of an interdisciplinary collaboration of biologists, designers, philosophers and educators at the University of Minnesota. The team is led by Emilie Snell-Rood, who holds a BS in Biology, a doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and is currently faculty in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at UMN. Emilie’s research focuses on understanding responses of organisms to human environments; for instance, why some butterflies deal well with urban pollutants and others do not. For the last decade, Emilie has been working to improve the biomimetic process, in research and the classroom, by facilitating deeper interdisciplinary collaborations between biologists, designers and engineers. The current team of biologists, architects and philosophers is exploring the development of biological principles used in design that are accurate but also spur creative design ideas in addition to developing and testing classroom activities in biomimetics.

This unit and the scientific working group that produced it is funded by the John Templeton Foundation's Agency, Directionality & Function research program.

Further Reading

Popular Media:

Scientific Articles:

Learning Standards Chart

This Galactic Polymath Learning Chart illustrates the areas of knowledge covered. This lesson targets Science, but it helps teach national learning standards in 4 subjects:

Click...?below to see how lessons address each standard.

Target Standard(s)

Skills and concepts directly taught or reinforced by this lesson

Dimension: Science & Engineering Practices

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout this unit, students will identify a problem, and iterate through various potential solutions to that problem, inspired by biology.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout the unit, students will analyze problems with existing products and propose redesigns that better balance the needs and constraints of the users, economy, and the planet.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout the unit, students will analyze problems with existing products and propose redesigns that better balance the needs and constraints of the users, economy, and the planet.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Through the Bioinspired Design Canvas and/or a the final presentations, students will communicate their process from beginning to end.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Lesson 1 focuses on identifying problems with existing products. The mind mapping activity asks them to de-familiarize a product by breaking it down into its parts or functions and to think about it abstractly as a system. Then they identify their problem, as they begin to think about potential solutions inspired by Nature.

How does the lesson address this standard?

This unit is highly interdisciplinary, requiring students to draw from a wide variety of sources, their own creative mind maps, and discussions with classmates to solve a problem of their own choosing.

How does the lesson address this standard?

The capstone project at the end of this unit will be a presentation that you determine and which reflects students' independent investigations and conclusions about the problem they identified and their biologically inspired solution.

Dimension: Disciplinary Core ideas

How does the lesson address this standard?

In their investigations, students will learn about 'traits' in biology, and think about how function forms an analogous bridge between biology and engineering. In comparing organismal adaptations in their research, they will deepen their understanding of how evolution shapes populations over time.

Connected Standard(s)

Skills and concepts reviewed or hinted at in this lesson (for building upon)

Dimension: Language, Speaking & Listening

How does the lesson address this standard?

Students will be exposed to a variety of biological terms in their investigations, beginning with 'trait' and how this term has analogues with product design attributes.

How does the lesson address this standard?

This unit builds toward student presentations. You will decide what form this takes, but there is ample opportunity to align to this standard.

How does the lesson address this standard?

This unit builds toward student presentations. You will decide what form this takes, but there is ample opportunity to align to this standard.

How does the lesson address this standard?

This unit builds toward student presentations. You will decide what form this takes, but there is ample opportunity to align to this standard.

Dimension: Reading

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout the unit, students will draw together diverse observations and ideas from engineering, design, and biology in order to propose a redesign to an existing product.

Dimension: Disciplinary Core ideas

How does the lesson address this standard?

Students build an appreciation of the connection between our everday lives and biology throughout the unit.

How does the lesson address this standard?

In their investigations, students will learn about 'traits' in biology, and think about how function forms an analogous bridge between biology and engineering. In comparing organismal adaptations in their research, they will deepen their understanding of how evolution shapes populations over time.

How does the lesson address this standard?

In their investigations, students will learn about 'traits' in biology, and think about how function forms an analogous bridge between biology and engineering. In comparing organismal adaptations in their research, they will deepen their understanding of how evolution shapes populations over time.

How does the lesson address this standard?

One design problem students can consider is sustainability. Depending on how much you wish to stress this, you could have students focus largely or entirely on making redesigns that are more sustainable.

Dimension: Science & Engineering Practices

How does the lesson address this standard?

In lessons 2-4, students will dive into scientific literature, and other web-based sources to learn more about the product problem they've identified and biological models with analogous functions to the desired solution. They will then need to summarize and present their process and (re)design proposals.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Students will use AI chatbots and other digital tools to devise bioinspired product redesigns. You could go a step further to have students build 3D models, prototypes, or mathematical models to test their ideas quantitatively.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Science, design, and engineering are fluidly woven together in this project, as students identify a problem, investigate it from a biological lens, and develop bioinspired solutions.

How does the lesson address this standard?

This standard connection would depend on you having the students prototype or evaluate their designs in some way.

How does the lesson address this standard?

In Lesson 4, students will be asked to rigorously evaluate the pros and cons, and tradeoffs of different approaches for their redesign proposals.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Through the Bioinspired Design Canvas and/or a the final presentations, students will communicate their process from beginning to end.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout the unit, students will analyze problems with existing products and propose redesigns that better balance the needs and constraints of the users, economy, and the planet.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout the unit, students will analyze problems with existing products and propose redesigns that better balance the needs and constraints of the users, economy, and the planet.

How does the lesson address this standard?

In lessons 2-4, students will dive into scientific literature, and other web-based sources to learn more about the product problem they've identified and biological models with analogous functions to the desired solution. They will then need to summarize and present their process and (re)design proposals.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Lesson 4 in particular will involve a careful evaluation of the pros, cons, and tradeoffs between different biological models for the redesign proposal.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Lesson 4 in particular will involve a careful evaluation of the pros, cons, and tradeoffs between different biological models for the redesign proposal.

How does the lesson address this standard?

Lesson 4 in particular will involve a careful evaluation of the pros, cons, and tradeoffs between different biological models for the redesign proposal.

Dimension: Civics, Economics, Geography & History

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout the redesign process, students will evaluate how humans interact with systems (both biological and engineered), and how these interactions can be improved.

Dimension: Evaluating Sources, Communicating Conclusions & Taking Action

How does the lesson address this standard?

Throughout the redesign process, students will evaluate how humans interact with systems (both biological and engineered), and how these interactions can be improved.

How does the lesson address this standard?

The capstone project at the end of this unit will be a presentation that you determine and which reflects students' independent investigations and conclusions about the problem they identified and their biologically inspired solution.

Dimension: Planet

How does the lesson address this standard?

Sustainability is one criterion by which students will identify problems for their redesign proposals. You can choose to focus on this more to hit this or other SDGs.

Please let us know how it went with your class!

We want to know what you (and/or your students) think!

Share your feedback in < 5 min with these forms:

Matt Wilkins, PhD Led the project; helped develop, edit, and revise all aspects of the lesson and supporting media

Stephanie Rapciak, MA Helped develop all lesson materials; co-wrote and produced supporting videos

Stephanie Castillo, PhD Provided feedback throughout development. Led creation of all supporting multimedia.

Emilie Snell-Rood, PhD Defined outreach goals; provided feedback throughout development; provided scientific validation of lesson content.

Illustrator

Created banner image and numerous supporting drawings

  • Anna Wilkins Character Designer & Storyboard Artist, Freelance Atlanta, GA
“Function in Bio-inspired design” research team

Dimitri Smirnoff, Mary Guzowski, Billy Weber, Jessica Rossi-Mastracci, Alan Love, Amanda Hund, Mike Travisano, Ruth Shaw, Mark Borrello, Gillian Roehrig, and Jeremy Thomas

Graphic Design Consultant

Helped develop the bioinspired design visual framework

  • Caroline Hu, PhD Assistant Professor of Biology, Massachusetts College of Art and Design Boston, MA
Funding

John Templeton Foundation award 62220

Major Release Beta

0.1.0 Lesson initialized

July 21, 2023

0.1.2 Added banner and other materials.

December 23, 2023

0.2.0 Adding standards, background; readying for launch

Jan 18, 2023