April 9, 2021
April 9, 2021
April 10, 2021
Changing the Mindset of Engineering Education through Biomimicry G. Wozniak, A. Jester, A. Kannan, A. Piscitelli, M. Toro, R. Lee
For much of industrialized society, products have been engineered to “control” nature. We condition the air inside our buildings to our liking with enormous amounts of energy. We mass-produce single-use plastics for our convenience without a successful strategy to collect and make use of them at their end of life. We use harmful pesticides to protect our crops but do not fully understand the damage they may be doing to our bodies and the environment. Nature does none of these things, yet has been able to provide for countless species throughout Earth’s history. Why not learn from Nature? Why not make use of the billions of years of engineering that took place before humans even existed?
Biomimicry is the application of natural phenomena to solve engineering problems. This method of design is not necessarily new and many common and historic designs are biomimetic. This includes the invention of Velcro® by noticing how burrs stick to a dog’s fur, to bullet trains in Japan that draw inspiration from the kingfisher’s beak to reduce noise and improve energy efficiency. These incredible solutions and many others were discovered by observing the natural environment all around us. Biomimicry is an invaluable tool that can be employed by engineers to continue to improve the lives of people and advance humanitarian efforts.
The Biomimicry course taught in Villanova University’s Sustainable Engineering program provides students the opportunity to assess current engineering solutions in areas they are most concerned. These topics have ranged from issues associated with current approaches to energy systems, building practices, and agricultural landscape. The course structure allows students to understand the benefits and issues associated with their chosen topic, observe and analyze nature for examples of relevant and successful designs, discover biomimetic projects that are currently underway, and experiment with biomimetic strategies to better solve the problems by achieving the benefits without the issues. This curriculum helps change the mindset and foster creativity in the next generation of engineers who will be tasked with solving the problems of the future. This paper will explain the course in greater detail, and how its approach differs from conventional engineering education. It will provide perspectives from students of different disciplines who have taken the course, co-instructed in the course, and are currently applying their changed mindset to their research and jobs.
Lee, R. A., & Wozniak, G., & Piscitelli, A., & Kannan, A. D., & Jester, A. (2021, April), Changing the Mindset of Engineering Education through Biomimicry Paper presented at Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference, Virtual . https://peer.asee.org/36290
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015