Creative minds are increasingly turning to nature for inspiration and fresh solutions in design, sustainability and engineering. Wellington Open Science Lab endeavours to spark awareness and interest in biomimicry, a dicipline of growing influence. Last Friday Otari School senior students and Open Science Lab came together for a session on biomimicry dealing with bird flight, feathers, butterfly wings and the lotus effect.

“Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.

The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.” (Biomimicry Institute

One of the best known examples is probably velcro. After studying the burrs of Burdock clinging to his clothes, Swiss engineer George de Mastrel invented velcro in the early 1940, a hook and loop fastener based on the little hooks on the ends of burrs.

In our session Otari students were introduced to different bird wing designs and how they result in different styles of flight. Then students were asked to design their own planes. While some students were busy making planes, others had the opportunity to study feathers and butterfly wings close up under the microscope and become familiar with the different parts of a feather and butterfly wing.

Two other examples in our biomimicry lab session allowed students to test out which plant leaves were showing the lotus effect and what the life cycles of a butterfly and a product had in common.


Thanks to Otari School (students and teachers) for a great session; Jessie B. (Victoria University), Charles D. and HECUA students Kloby R., Matt B. and Paige A. for their help.

Karin & Natasha


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