Have you ever thought about where the design for Velcro came from? Or what flamingos and water filters have in common? There’s a good chance that the objects that you use daily were inspired by something in nature. To survive, plants and animals are constantly adapting to their environment through natural selection. They are the best problem-solvers. By understanding their form and function and how they have adapted, we can then develop human-made products of similar purpose.
This idea of Bio-inspired Design is nothing new, however. Humans have been drawing inspiration from nature for a long time. For instance, Leonardo DaVinci designed the wings of his “flying machine” after those of a bat’s wings. Although DaVinci was unsuccessful, the Wright Brothers took flight in 1903 with their aircraft based on the observations of pigeons in flight.
Today, universities around the globe have courses dedicated to Bio-inspired Design to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Most recently, Zoo Atlanta assisted researchers at Georgia Tech as they studied the movement of sidewinder rattlesnakes up sand dunes to understand how they seem to propel themselves above the sand and not get stuck. The hope is to use this knowledge to create robots that could potentially be used for search-and-rescue missions or maybe one day visit the surface of another planet.
At Zoo Atlanta we are surrounded by a diverse population of animals from around the world, many of which are inspirations for researchers and scientists. On a STEM Tour, you and your class will spend an hour and a half with one of our knowledgeable instructors as they explain the biology of the animals and how their design solution is inspiring products of today and tomorrow. Most importantly, you will also learn how this research allows us to better care for the animals in our population by understanding their unique attributes while using the same information to help protect and preserve their wild counterparts. Some animals that you may learn about include:
• Flamingos can pump water and strain their food through their beaks at such a high rate that researchers are looking at the potential for efficient water filters.
• Lions and other nocturnal animals possess tapetum lucidum, a retroreflector, behind their retinas. This allows for visible light in the environment to be reflected back out in the retina allowing for excellent night vision. This concept is being used today in street signs and reflector tape.
• Owls are the ultimate predators because their wings have a unique structure allowing them to disperse air pressure and fly silently and stealth fully. Engineers put the same principle to work when they designed the super-fast and super-quiet Shinkansen bullet train.
Check out more about this research.
To see Bio-inspired Design in action, book a STEM Tour for your class today! Your students will be encouraged to look at the natural world differently, and we hope to inspire future problem-solvers!
Visit here or call 404.624.5822 to book a tour today and to learn more about our other education programs.