Category: Conferences

NIEA Summit 2017

Great Lakes Biomimicry and the Ohio Aerospace Institute will host the “Nature-Inspired Exploration for Aerospace (NIEA) Summit 2017” from October 3-6 in collaboration with NASA. The summit will be held at the Ohio Aerospace Institute and will focus on biomimicry for aerospace applications.

More then 50 sessions are planned for the event and will be opened by a keynote presentation from biomimetics pioneer Dr. Julian Vincent. The summit will feature sessions from different researchers at NASA as well as from different universities across the US. A poster presentation is scheduled on October 5 where three of our Biomimicry Fellows (Elena Stachew, Kelly Siman and Sebastian Engelhardt) will talk about their research including topics such as “Biomimetic strategies to improve ropes for zero-G exercise machines” and “Aquaporin-based biomimetic membranes for waste water filtration in forward osmosis”. Furthermore, several networking events, such as a reception at the Museum of the Western Reserve in Cleveland’s Wade Oval neighborhood, are part of the agenda.

For further details and information take a look at the official summit website, where you can also register for the event. Registration will close on September 26.

Who doesn’t love going to a FAB conference!?

Last week was Spring break and we had this great opportunity of going and presenting in digiFAB conference in Boston about Biomimicry through one of my Sponsors TIES! Lots happened and I was excited to meet some great people in the field and had butterflies about my own talk. My excitement was doubled and butterflies gone with keynote speaker, Sherry Lassiter director of Fab Foundation, You can see her in picture below talking about different movements within Fab Foundation as well as the Fab network. IMG_8663

Dale Dougherty, then talked about Maker movements, I have been following Dale’s maker group (he runs the Make: which you can subscribe to) and was thrilled when he talked about  “Autonomous Boat [that] Went from California to Hawaii and Beyond”. I read about this project when first published in Make: and was happy that the boat had been picked up by a ship in New Zealand and was in display there.

The 2 day conference was packed by amazing talks, I like to shortly go through few of them.

FAB City A 40 year goal from Barcelona to empower citizens to be creators of their own city; “locally self-sufficient and globally connected”. For me, it seemed as a society that doesn’t need a centralized governing body, but where citizens create materials based on their needs, recycle when possible and are connected to many more cities around the globe.

FAB Cities

Tomas Diaz from FABCity also talked about the model and plans they have to reach this goal in Barcelona. he talked about POBLENOU where its supported by local and international community to become a FAB city.


Rachel Ignotofsky; Women in Science , and the importance of design and arts in our life, how arts influences our perceptions and why is it important to use it in our learning kits.

3D printes, bluedragon made with business in mind, where you can print 4 colors in one product, you can mix different colors into one or just use one at a time: FIREPRINT. If anyone wants to put money together to get one, I am in! Check out their case studies, from combating Zika to cosplay, you can do all!

Second day  was nothing short of amazing talks as well, we first heard from Neil Gershenfeld, Director, MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, of his work on developing tools/processes for FABLAB, I did not see it coming where he talked about Nature! In below picture he was explaining how creating modules is similar to protein formation in our body. Neil

He also talked about how we are moving to Ubiquitous and with these changes, how his lab is working on developing the tools, materials, to functional part.


And one of my favorites; Global Humanitarian Lab, talk by David Ott, Co-founder, Where they aim to bring FABKits (costing around < $10k) to refugee camps. David talked about what would be in the FABKits and how everything needs to be packed into container that could be transferred by 1 or 2 person. He talked about limitations, needs and potentials of these labs. He talked about makers/ people who need the opportunities we easily can access in our cities.


There was many more talks which I highly recommend attending. This year, there was an addition of having workshops and we had ours on Biomimicry in Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville. Another place to put in your places to go!

So What did we talk about! We talked on first day about Spiders and Ornilux, Tardigrades, Spikemoss and Stabilitech/Biomateria and How they relate to maker group! As we grow in FAB network and as we move toward FAB cities, Can we benefit from nature’s stories? Can we learn from 3.8 billion years of lessons? Our hope is to learn and make more sustainable decisions. Either in creating new FAB equipments, or materials used. We see a movement that will grow potentially in years to come and we want to instill biomimicry thinking in its foundation!

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La Plata Armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus)



Rebecca Eagle-Malone holds “Chaco” the La Plata Armadillo. Evening reception, NASA and OAI Biomimicry Summit.

Earlier this month, August 2016, I had the privilege of leading an evening reception for the NASA and OAI Biomimicry Summit in Cleveland, Ohio. (OAI = Ohio Aeronautical Institute). A group of 60 attendees gathered inside the Primates, Cats, and Aquatics Building of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo as we engaged in a discussion of Biomimicry in Your Backyard. I selected three common backyard critters to demonstrate how easy it is to find inspiration in the spaces around us every day: La Plata Armadillo, Eastern Box Turtle, and Children’s Python. This week’s blog will feature our one and only “Chaco” the La Plata Armadillo (Tolypeutes matacus).

As we’ve discussed before, biomimicry is accomplished by two possible methods: 1) Start with a question and look to nature for a solution, or 2) Start with an inspiring organism and discover what problems can be solved using that particular structure or behavior. Working in the zoo setting, I typically start with the latter. Whether I am preparing for our Biomimicry/Ecophysiology class within our Advanced Inquiry Program through Miami University of Ohio and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, answering a question from one of our educators while preparing a program, or speaking at an event for Great Lakes Biomimicry, this is the case. I am given an animal and I start my research. My starting point is generally: What makes this organism unique? It is in this uniqueness that inspiration jumps out at you! I encourage all of you to try this any time you have a moment outdoors to think. It is really amazing what a person can dream up once the trigger is pulled. We will start at this point with our armadillo inspiration.


Hairy Armadillo has a soft carapace. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian

What makes an armadillo unique? Particularly, the La Plata Armadillo?  I would play the Jeopardy music in the background, but I don’t think it will take you that long to come up with the answer: the carapace. The scutes are hard dermal bone with keratin—very similar to a tortoise shell. La Plata, also commonly called the 3-banded armadillo, has a shoulder plate and hip plate with dermal hinges to allow flexibility. This is the only species of armadillo that is able to roll into a complete ball, courtesy of a head plate and armored tail. The Hairy Armadillo (Chaetophractus vellerosus) contrastingly, has a soft outer shell.


Tolypeutes matacus is the only species that can roll into a complete ball. Photo courtesy of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

The carapace offers several advantages. Most obviously, perhaps, is protection. The La Plata Armadillo is nearly impenetrable when he rolls into a ball. The only predator that could possibly open this shell needs to have opposable thumbs. However, even with this advantage, most predators would find the benefit (food) is not worth the cost (time) it takes to open.  It also offers fortification measures by pinching the opposition in its hinges.


Another advantage of the carapace for this dweller of arid environments is thermal regulation. While all armadillos live in regions with temperatures between 92-97°F, the La Plata Armadillo can survive even hotter climates. One might think the shell would keep heat trapped inside the body, but the dermal hinges serve as climate control, allowing for air flow between the hinges.

Lastly, all armadillos have this really cool ability to travel across water. How?! They can hold their breath for really long periods of time. This allows them to walk on the bottom of riverbeds and waterways. What if they don’t want to walk? Like other mammals, they can suck in air and float across the water! Nothing can stop these guys from getting to the other side!

So I ask … what does the armadillo inspire in you?

Fossil Doesn’t Equal Failure

Hi all, Thanks again for tuning in. I recently had the opportunity to speak at the first annual national biomimicry forum and education summit. The following is a transcript of the talk I gave including some of the associated imagery. Hope you all enjoy Fossil Doesn’t Equal Failure: Continue reading

Talking about Biomimicry

It’s mind-blowing that it’s already been three years since Bill, Emily and I started the adventure of pursuing our PhDs in Biomimicry. Time has flown by. It definitely has been a challenge being part of the first cohort, but it has also been very rewarding and exciting seeing the program development first hand.

Having seven new PhD students starting this year, doubling our team, is one of those very exciting achievements! We can’t wait to collaborate with everyone, grow our knowledge by learning from the diverse backgrounds of the new students, and have interesting Biomimicry discussions and trips together.

Another rewarding accomplishment is that we are being invited more and more to give talks about our Biomimicry adventure. There is a growing interest in NEOhio to learn more about Biomimicry and be part of this movement.

In June, I was honored to share the stage with René Polin, President and Founder of Balance Inc, a design firm in Cleveland, to share our “Untold” experience at TEDxCLE. In our talk, “From Spiders to Elevators: Leveraging Biomimicry in the Design studio”, we share what it was like for a Biologist to work with a Design firm from both perspectives.

To stay on the topic of TEDx Talks, Emily will be giving one on September 29th, at TEDxUniversityofAkron. She will be sharing her Biomimicry insights and how it is to be “Breaking the Mold”.

Finally, Kelly has been selected to present her work on Biomimicry curriculum development at the 8th annual Biomimicry Education Summit in Austin, TX, on October 4th, which is held just prior to the SXSW Eco Conference.

Keep posted for more exciting news, and please share with other Biomimicry enthusiasts.

Update: GreenTown at Kent Conference

As introduced in my last post from February, the GreenTown conference will be held on April 14 at the Kent State Universtiy Hotel and Conference Center. Here are some updates on the events that will be offered: On April 13 there will be a pre-conference including three workshops: The “Farm to School” workshop will focus on the possibilities of increasing the capacity of local communities to provide locally produced foods in schools. After that, the “Towns and Growns” workshop will be held bringing together leaders form universities, municipalities, community non-profits and other individuals to think differently with the context of university-city collaborations. In the evening a walk through downtown Kent with key speaker Mark Fenton is being offered. The main event on April 14 will start with several presentations dealing with topics such as sustainable minded businesses, creating sustainable regions and walkable communities for healthy people. This will be followed by 4 breakout sessions beginning at 11 am. For these sessions one can choose from one out of five tracks which are: Economic development, food and waste, water and green infrastructure, community sustainability planning and transportation. One of the breakout sessions will be a panel discussion titled “Biomimicry: Innovation comes naturally.” Panelists include three of our biomimicry fellows (Emily Kennedy, Adam Pierce and Sebastian Engelhardt). For more information have a look at GreenTown at Kent. Registration for the event is now open.GreenTown at Kent Poster

GreenTown at Kent Conference

Flyer GreenTown at KentOn April 14 the GreenTown conference will be hosted at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center. The conference will focus on the creation of healthy and sustainable communities addressing topics such as walkable and bikeable communities, clean water, local food, outdoor space, and creating socially responsible businesses. Pre-conference workshops and activities are offered on April 13. One of the breakout sessions during the main event on April 14 will be a panel discussion titled “Biomimicry: Innovation comes naturally.” Panelists include three of our biomimicry fellows (Emily Kennedy, Adam Pierce and Sebastian Engelhardt). More information is available on the official website of GreenTown at Kent and updates will be posted as the date approaches. Registration for the event is now open.

Tipping Point!

This weekend was incredibly exciting. Rarely is there a time where I desperately wish I could be somewhere, but this past weekend was one of them, where I would have loved to have participated in the world’s largest Climate Change march in New York City. Organizers were hesitant to give attendance predictions for the event, and rightfully so – hard to gauge something of this magnitude. In the end, estimates put 400,000 people, along with some of their dogs (you can check out twitter #caninesforclimate) who marched to the United Nations building in New York City Sunday, September 21, 2014. The marchers in NYC, along with numerous puppets, banners, protest signs, and the help of at least 20 marching bands made as much noise as possible along the two-mile route.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.09.13 pm                                                       Source:

New York wasn’t alone in this effort. Rather, it has been a global coordination, which involved 1,400 partner organizations, 300 college campuses, and 2,700 other climate-related activities in 158 countries, as cited in this NYT article. In Melbourne, Australia, where Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called climate change science “absolute crap” and since rolled back climate change policies during his recent tenure, 30,000 protestors showed up to march. In Portland, Oregon, the Raging Grannies participated in the event, along with the highest demographic of teens and young adults. In an equally impressive stance, some of the countries with the most to lose with climate change also participated in solidarity, and with the help of social media, those Pacific Islands also were able to get their word out. Check out 350Pacific’s Facebook page to see many of the islands participating!

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.06.34 pm                                                    Source: Portland Raging Grannies Facebook

The night before the march (Saturday), thanks in part to Oscar winner Louie Psihoyos, he and others helped organize “illUmiNations”, where the UN building became illuminated with striking images of endangered species. The terrifying part is that it also included humans – environmental refugees – in the stunning display.   Clearly, the people want action, and with the UN Climate Summit starting on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, it’s set to be an exciting week. If the people truly have any influence, the climate change policy scales will be tipping in the right direction!

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 9.42.57 pm                                                Source: Louie Psihoyos via Facebook


BiomimicryNYC Workshop for Educators

Continuing with the education theme from my past post, I’d like to highlight a great workshop I was able to participate in this summer, put on by BiomimicryNYC and sponsored by NYSERDA. At this Biomimicry Workshop for Educators, hosted by the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY, educators from all types of schools and grade levels came to learn how to integrate biomimicry into their own curriculum and lesson plans.

The teachers ranged from Kindergarten educators, up through the undergraduate teaching level (mainly for education majors). I’m continuously struck by how many people hear about biomimicry and then have this intense desire to learn about it. Even through this course, one teacher learned about and was subsequently sponsored by a parent to go through this workshop because he could see the value in bringing it to the school. Yet another teacher’s catalyst was her own child, learning about biomimicry through her. Learning about biomimicry and the workshop came from a number of different trajectories, but regardless of the start, we all came together to learn how to teach the next generation about this incredible new paradigm of thinking.

Through the workshop, we tried out and experimented with various established lesson plans, but expanded beyond scientific biomimetic applications, to delve into the fictional realm – letting kids use their imaginations, blended with biomimicry tools and knowledge, to come up with something completely unique, such as….Mantis Shrimp Man! This lesson let kids (in this case – us big kids) create our own super heroes taking inspiration from unique abilities of organisms and systems. We then drew the super heroes and shared them with the rest of the class. What a great way to combine biomimicry, science, art and design, and public speaking skills into one lesson – a truly biomimetic, cross-disciplinary designed lesson! Below are a few photos of the many activities we dove into.

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Global Biomimicry Conference

Last month I attended Biomimicry 3.8’s first ever Global Conference at UMass Boston.  It was incredibly energizing to meet and exchange ideas with biomimicry practitioners from Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, South Africa, and more.  I hope to stay in touch with many!  I sat in the conference ballroom for each plenary session, among hundreds of people reimagining our world through a biomimetic lens, and I felt with my whole being the power of our collective vision.  We are willing a tremendous shift in design, and there is no stopping the type of willpower I encountered in Boston.

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