“Who did it?” is the primary distinction between

  • science – the study of the natural world
  • engineering – designing objects and structure (man-made)

There is a long history of man studying nature to understand the science that they then put to use in man-made objects and structures.

Over time science, and engineering partnership developed to advance scientific discovery and use those discoveries and spinoffs from the equipment and knowledge to make even better stuff. Value for NASA, Benefits for the Nation — NASA Spinoff Homepage NASA has been one of the most productive environments for generating new ideas and pushing engineering to make further discovery possible.

  • Design Nature – an Olin College of Engineering introduction to mechanical design and prototyping. We take nature as a theme and develop bio-inspired ideas into functional prototypes. Students gain experience in visualization, experimentation, estimation, fabrication, and presentation as they relate to designing. Projects include mechanisms that hop, swim, and climb. The final project is a toy designed to be fun for 10 year olds. To evaluate these projects, we bring in a 4th grade class from a local school.

These are great stories and new ones are added frequently.

  • Like Mother Nature – Scientists observe what works best for animals, plants in efforts to build better products

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • take nature as a theme and develop bio-inspired ideas into functional prototypes. Students complete individual and team projects in a studio environment where we seek to develop a shared practice and understanding of engineering design. Projects include mechanisms that hop, swim, and climb. The final project is a toy designed to be fun for 10 year olds. To evaluate these projects, we bring in a 4th grade class from a local school.

Learn more…

  • NASA Spinoffs
  • Nature’s Engineers HD: The Dam Beaver – National Geographic Documentary – video 43min
  • Dolphin kick power – solved Gray’s Paradox using his new state-of-the-art water flow diagnostic technology — Digital Particle Image Velocimetry DPIV — that measures the force a dolphin generates with its tail
  • Birds of Paradise – one of the great mysteries – What was nature’s design process for the evolution of these birds? What are the requirements? What is the function of the unique plumage?