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What Flies Like a Dragonfly and Swims Like an Eel? Bio-inspired Design Cornerstone Projects

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Capstone Design Courses II

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Marjan Eggermont University of Calgary

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Marjan Eggermont is the current Associate Dean (Student Affairs) and a Senior Instructor and faculty member at the University of Calgary in the Mechanical and Manufacturing department of the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary. She teaches graphical, written and oral communication in their first Engineering Design and Communication course taught to all incoming engineering students.
She co-founded and designs ZQ, an online journal to provide a platform to showcase the nexus of science and design using case studies, news, and articles.
As an instructor, she was one of the recipients of The Allan Blizzard Award, a Canadian national teaching award for collaborative projects that improve student learning in 2004. In 2005, she was one of the recipients of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Curriculum Innovation Award. She is - as PIC II chair - currently a board member of ASEE.

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Denis Onen University of Calgary

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Dr. Onen is a registered professional engineer with a broad industrial background in electrical engineering, in the following areas: electronics and embedded systems, integrated circuit design (signal processing and crytpography), biomedical engineering (imaging and instrumentation), and downhole sensing for oil and gas. Dr. Onen is a senior member of the IEEE and is a faculty member in the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, where he teaches courses in design and professional practice and conducts research in engineering pedagogy.

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Biologically inspired design is a challenging topic to teach, especially to beginning first year engineering students with no background in engineering skills and analysis. We have incorporated bio-inspired design as a project and successfully run a design challenge with first year engineering students, to present an alternative design process than a traditional Problem Definition > Alternative Solutions > Prototyping > Testing methodology. Students were given a biomimicry presentation by company that researches bio-inspired design solutions and given the opportunity to study technical details of biomimetic aircraft (dragonfly and albatross), to see how technology could be mapped to create biomimetic motion. Students were given small, elastic-band powered “flyers,” which they built and tested, to understand how simple mechanisms could be used to create biomimetic motion. Students were then instructed to study biological means of propulsion through water, and to create a water craft that could travel through water. This successful project resulted in many different designs, illustrating a variety of biological solutions. This paper will discuss a bio-inspired design methodology illustrated with student designs and will discuss lessons learned.

Eggermont, M., & Onen, D. (2016, June), What Flies Like a Dragonfly and Swims Like an Eel? Bio-inspired Design Cornerstone Projects Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27193

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