Friday, August 26, 2016

Bioengineering: How nature inspires human designs

Bioengineering, Discover How Nature Inspires Human Designs
by Christine Burillo Kirch; illus. by Alexis Cornell
128 pages; ages 9 - 12
Nomad Press, 2016

Engineers use the principles of physics to design and build machines, tools, and houses. Biologists study living things. Mash them together and you get Bioengineers: people who apply engineering principles to biological functions so they can create something people use.

Take Leonardo Da Vinci. He studied how birds and bats fly, and then designed a flying machine. He may have been the first person to document his use of bioengineering- through notes and sketches.

Bats use sonar to find the fruit and insects they eat. They send out a sound signal that bounces back off objects - letting the bat know where their dinner is. Submarines use sonar, too, and now engineers have developed walking sticks with sonar  that will help blind people navigate more easily. Pretty cool, right?

Sometimes bioengineering begins with a backyard observation. The guy who invented velcro was out walking with his dog when he discovered burdock burrs clinging to his clothes and the dog's fur. Most people would just pull them off, but de Mestral was curious about how the burrs clung so well. When he looked at them under a microscope he saw that the burrs had tiny hooks that could catch on loops in fur (and clothes). Ah-ha! What if you could make a fastener like that? One side with hooks, one side with loops?

Someone watching maple samaras whirl through the air got the idea to develop a small aircraft. Now engineers at Lockheed Martin are working on a tiny drone that looks a lot like a maple seed.

This book introduces kids to a wide range of applications of bioengineering, from medical applications to wind power, farming, clothing, architecture, transportation, and 3-D printing. There are 25 hands-on projects, including "backyard bioengineering", and tons of links to primary sources. Back matter includes a glossary, resources (including a list of QR codes) and an index.

Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. Review copy from publisher.

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