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Activity 5: Biomimicry - lessons from nature

Biomimicry involves looking at nature for inspiration to solve engineering problems and to develop innovative new designs for products and architecture. This activity, from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, investigates what is meant by linear and closed loops systems and explores products that have been developed by learning from nature.

It recognises that there are three different levels of biomimicry: mimicking form, mimicking movement and articulation and mimicking systems.

The activity also presents an opportunity to apply this to a product design exercise: designing a lamp for a chosen target market that is inspired by principles of biomimicry. Designs are developed using 2D and 3D modelling, resulting in sketch models made from card and other commonly available materials.

Finally, students present their concept designs to their colleagues explaining how they have used ideas from the natural world and how they have considered materials usage in terms of circular economy thinking.

Design and technology concepts include:

• Researching a context for design

• User groups

• Modelling and prototyping

Circular economy concepts include:

• Linear and closed loop systems

• Technological and biological nutrient cycles

• Cradle to cradle thinking; design for disassembly

• Biomimicry as a design philosophy

The activity could be extended further within different subjects:

Science: observing how natural systems work, plant structures and animal forms, and by examining biodegradable materials and natural polymers.

Mathematics: examining the patterns in nature that have a mathematical basis, eg, Fibonacci series.

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