Friday, May 8, 2020

Borrowing ideas from Nature

Engineers get some fantastic ideas from nature. So today I’m sharing two books about engineering and biomimicry.

Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature
by Jennifer Swanson
96 pages; ages 7 - 10
National Geographic Children's Books, 2020 (releases June 23)

Bionics is engineering that is inspired by biology and nature. Sometimes engineers copy designs from nature, such as how gecko toes stick to walls or how bees fly. Using their understanding of structure and function of living things to engineer new things is the heart of biomimetics.

Author Jennifer Swanson fills her book with biomimicking inventions. For each, she shows the animal that inspired the invention, the challenge engineers were trying to overcome, how they created the technology, and cool stuff they added that were not present in the original animal. Bionic inventions have been designed to aid in search and rescue, doing such jobs as finding people trapped in the rubble after an earthquake or other disaster. Body armor and helmet designs protect people working in dangerous condition, and solar scales, LED lighting, and other inventions help people live better lives. Some eco-engineers look to nature for ideas in architecture, such as designing heat-and cool-efficient buildings based on termite dwellings.

Every now and then, Swanson highlights a creature, showing how engineers have incorporated their adaptations into human technology. From bee robots to sharkskin-inspired swimsuits to “geckogripper” adhesive for use in space, this is one amazing book about engineering, technology, and nature.

I especially like how Swanson ends, focusing on “bionics in your backyard.” Ideas are all around us, she says. “All you have to do is think, imagine, and engineer it!”

Last week I sent my internet bees to ask Jennifer One Question:

Archimedes: Do you have a favorite bionic invention?

Jennifer: There are so many. But one of the coolest inventions in this book is the Fascinating Frog Skin. Think of the poison dart frog: it keeps its poison on a second skin, under the first one. The poison is only released when the frog feels threatened. Now think of de-icing an airplane. What if an airplane had a double skin like the poison dart frog? It could release chemicals from the second skin through the first one to de-ice the plane... while it is IN the air! How cool is that? It's like making the airplane (sort of) come alive. I love this idea!

This must be the year for bio-engineering because this month another book was released.

Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry
by Karen Ansberry; illus. by Jennifer DiRubbio
32 pages; ages 5-11
Dawn Publications, 2020

Have you ever walked your dog through a weedy field and, when you got back home, found burrs stuck on socks, in fur, and in your hair? The tiny hooks on those burrs inspired an engineer to invent Velcro. Using rhyme, author Karen Ansberry introduces the nature behind technology. From burrs to bats, geckos to pill bugs, she shows how seven plants and animals inspired fasteners and adhesives, canes, blades, robots and more. Back matter includes a biomimicry challenge.

Jennifer is a member of #STEAMTeam2020 and also the creator of the STEM Tuesday blog. You can find out more about her at her website.

On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.

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