Bionics (also known as biomimetics) is the science about studying nature to create modern technology.

Biotechnology is technology based on biology, especially when used in agriculture, food science, and medicine. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines biotechnology as: Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.

Bioinformatics and computational biology involve the use of techniques including applied mathematics, informatics, statistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, chemistry, and biochemistry to solve biological problems usually on the molecular level.

What’s the problem?
Bionic arm – A team of five biomedical engineers in Edinburgh, Scotland created the first working bionic arm in 1993. The Bionic Arm also called the Edinburgh Modular Arm System, is packed with microchips, position-control circuits, miniature motors, gears, and pulleys. It rotates at the shoulder, bends at the elbow, rotates and twists at the wrist, and can grip using artificial fingers. The pulses then control each movement of a "new" arm.

  • Ask – For someone who has lost and arm, there are many everyday activities that they can not do. With a bionic arm replacement, what would be some of the basic tasks it would need to perform?
  • Imagine – Think about all the movements your hand and arm do in just a few minutes. Which ones are most important? How could these be done with machinery and circuits?
  • Design, Build – Many of these movements are performed by industrial robots. How can these be made small enough to work as a replacement arm and hand?
  • Improve – What functions would be handy to have, once the arm is working?

That’s engineering

  • microchip (also called an integrated circuit) – a piece of specially prepared silicon (or another semiconductor) into which a very complex electronic circuit is etched using photographic techniques. Silicon chips can contain computer processors, memory and special devices.
  • position-control circuit

Engineering ideas

  • microchip, position-control circuits, miniature, motors, gears, pulleys, rotate, bend, twist, grip

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • Think about activities that do using your arm and your hand. How would you design a better bionic arm to do these better?