For a few years I worked in a youth program focused on engaging young people in engineering and design. For an environmental educator like myself, it was difficult at first to get too enthusiastic about it. Early on, however, I came across the study of biomimicry and began to draw some pretty exciting connections between studying nature and studying engineering and design.
Biomimicry is, “the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems.” (Wikipedia) Nature has been the inspiration for many of the innovations of today including something as simple as documenting the sticky qualities of plant burrs to invent Velcro, to the observation of birds in flight leading to the design of the airplane.
Biomimicry has also been proven useful informing climate change solutions. Recently I came across the following article that describes a study about how dragonfly wings are informing the design of micro turbines.
Cocklebur, Xanthium sp. or “Velcro weed”
Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database