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Biomimicry and Skype

Several years ago I was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I watched a movie about how engineers are using a concept called biomimicry, using nature as an inspiration for design (think Valcro). I wrote down the names of two scientists with the intent of skyping them into my classroom. It finally happened and the experience was amazing for Dr. Frank Fish, my students, and myself. Dr. Fish works in Pennsylvania at West Chester University. His research includes designing high performance wind turbines. He used his research in water organism fin performance to design a wind turbine that stalls (no longer creates lift) at a much higher angle of attack. In addition he is designing a robot modeled after a sea ray. I cold-e-mailed Dr. Fish and he agreed to Skype with us. My students were transfixed. I asked the kids to develop questions but they were so interested in his research, we did not have time to cover the questions. He was in his office and pulled out models of rays, turbines, and a dusty whale fin piece. He was interesting, funny, and very informative. Later my students showed me two science projects inspired by his appearance in our classroom.
I then introduced the Biomimicry Student Challenge (see below). In two weeks the kids will start a design project choice. I can’t wait.
http://biomimicry.net/educating/youth-education-k-12/youth-design-challenge/

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