Course: Bioinspired Design

HC 441H

Professor: Kelly Sutherland

Over the course of 3.8 billion years, through the process of evolution, organisms have “invented” solutions to deal with complex problems in the natural world. How do geckos manage to adhere to a surface when they are upside down? How do fish schools swim in an organized formation to conserve energy? How do prairie dogs keep their burrows cool? In this course, we will explore basic biological and physical principles to understand how nature has solved these problems and others. We will then think across disciplines to consider how we can apply an understanding of how biological systems work to solve engineering or design problems. An example of a bioinspired product is LotusanTM-- a self-drying, self-cleaning paint inspired by the surface properties of lotus leaves.
Through case studies from the primary literature that exemplify how organisms deal with problems in the natural world, lab exercises, demonstrations, writing exercises and discussion we will develop critical thinking and an understanding of the scientific process. Early in the course we will organize into interdisciplinary teams, each of which will work to identify a design challenge and look to nature to develop a unique solution. The course will culminate with a written project and an oral presentation to share findings with the class.
Objectives:

  • An understanding of how science works through observations and hypothesis testing
  • Experience with writing about and presenting scientific data
  • Basic scientific literacy so that you can evaluate science stories you read in the media
  • Familiarity with reasoning across disciplines in teams to come up with novel solutions