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What Has Fins Like A Whale, Skin Like A Lizard, And Eyes Like A Moth? The Future Of Engineering

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design Methodology

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1365.1 - 14.1365.23



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Paper Authors

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Marjan Eggermont University of Calgary

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Carla Gould Ontario College of Art and Design

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Casey Wong Ontario College of Art and Design

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Michael Helms Georgia Institute of Technology

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Djordje Zegarac University of Calgary

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Sean Gibbons University of Montana

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Carl Hastrich Ontario College of Art and Design

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Jeannette Yen Georgia Institute of Technology

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Bruce Hinds Ontario College of Art and Design

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Denise DeLuca Biomimicry Institute

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jessica ching Ontario College of Art and Design

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

“What has fins like a whale, skin like a lizard, and eyes like a moth? The future of engineering”1


Four Universities collaborated on a biomimicry (a relatively new science that studies nature, its models, systems, processes and elements and then imitates or takes creative inspiration from them to solve human problems sustainably2) design project. The universities provided students from freshman to PhD level with backgrounds in engineering, biology, industrial design and art. The students ran the project with support from professors, a non-for-profit institute, and a business client. This paper will describe biomimicry as it is being taught in a first year engineering design and communication course, how four of the participating universities experienced this project and approach biomimicry, how the universities communicated and integrated their design ideas and process, and how the project ultimately resulted in a design prototype for the participating company.

Introduction “Machines are an effect of art, which is nature’s ape, and they reproduce not its forms but the operation itself”3

In our first year design course technical drawing components are developed as supporting elements to the evolution of ideas, rather than as an end in themselves. Biomimicry has become a permanent feature in our course. We explore its history and current research areas. Biomimicry allows students a lot of freedom in their design, but also links engineering concepts to tangible examples. To date, over 2500 biomimicry drawing projects have been created. One of the key features of a design course is that students study subjects in breadth rather than depth. In studying a wide variety of subjects, design courses employ a wider variety of specialists and this facilitates a cross-linking of cultures and perspectives. The conjoining of previously unrelated ideas, thoughts and Figure 1: The Biomimicry Design Spiral concepts is well recognized as a feature of creative thinking. Introducing a full range of

Eggermont, M., & Gould, C., & Wong, C., & Helms, M., & Zegarac, D., & Gibbons, S., & Hastrich, C., & Yen, J., & Hinds, B., & DeLuca, D., & ching, J. (2009, June), What Has Fins Like A Whale, Skin Like A Lizard, And Eyes Like A Moth? The Future Of Engineering Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4553

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