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.
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.
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.
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!
Two weeks to finishing my first academic year, I’m feeling inspired to talk about our course on developing a product using biomimicry; Michael introduced it here. For this course, we worked with students from the Cleveland Institute of Art and Nottingham Spirk. Nottingham Spirk (NS) gave us the problem and some deadlines. Milestones we had were for coming up with areas we’d like to target, developing the concepts, and finally refining our product designs.
What is the first step to go from biology to a product or vice versa? It was a bit messy for me, considering I am also still learning about many biological organisms, but I am pleased with our results and the progress we made.
First, we worked on our target audience, drawing mind maps of stakeholders and key opportunities. We divided into subgroups based on our interest in particular key opportunity areas. There was only one condition: having almost an equal number of Biomimicry Fellows from University of Akron biomimicry and designers from the Cleveland Institute of Art on every team.
And then we started… Not sure how to go about it, we looked at current products, specific issues within our key opportunity area, as well as asknature.org, other books and papers on animal’s adaptaptions. By end of February, we were ready to give a report to NS about the issues we were targeting and organisms that could potentially help us and got their feedback.
Our next step was to develop concepts by end of March. Here, we needed to read more and actually think of a specific problem and solution. I would say, while researching current market, it was not difficult to see where we can introduce new products and what’s missing. The more challenging part was abstracting ideas from biology. We had a format to follow similar to asknature.org: it included writing first the abstracted function, then the strategy the model organism uses and finally extracting design principles. This time NS were more specific on which ideas they were interested in having us pursue and which they were not. Then it was time to form new groups based on the latest product ideas we were moving forward with. Now, for our final work, my team focused on one specific product and our concept looked to many organisms (from ducks to rabbits) for inspiration. Our final report is today. yay!
Couple of things I learned:
– It was wonderful to work in groups of various specialties (mine included industrial designer, polymer scientist, product designer and me)
– Drawing/talking about ideas helped in better grasping the biological function.
– When there is no actual structure to follow, the flexibility lends to creativity.
– Having many groups, it was interesting to see what each team has come up with and inspirations are endless.
– Designers are great in making an idea come alive and look appealing!
– There are many complicated texts in biology for non-biologists, but, knowing what function you’d like to learn about makes it much easier to research and pictures do speak 1000 words.
– I’m more excited today than when I joined the biomimicry degree.
Till next time, Happy Biomimicking!
After a long journey, we are finally able to share a preprint manuscript of our article “Biomimicry: A Path to Sustainable Innovation*,” which has been accepted for publication in Design Issues, an MIT Press Journal. Co-authors Emily Kennedy, Bill Hsiung, Peter Niewiarowski, Matthew Kolodziej and I have diverse backgrounds, including biochemistry, international relations, biology, and fine arts.
The purpose of this paper is to introduce scholars, students, and professionals in all fields of design to biomimicry and its potential to yield sustainable outcomes when practiced in a deep, thoughtful way. The design community is an important leverage point for fueling dialogue about biomimicry because designers work “at the nexus of values, attitudes, needs, and actions,” and, therefore, are uniquely positioned to act as transdisciplinary integrators and facilitators.
We hope you enjoy the reading, and that it sparks some discussion points that will further improve and stimulate the development of biomimicry. It is important to keep disseminating the biomimicry approach in new fields, and shed light on how we, together as a team of advocates for biomimicry, can stimulate newcomers to be more environmentally and socially responsible while still being innovative and not having to reduce your standard of living.
* © Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
When Bill and I were discussing blog posts a couple weeks ago and he mentioned writing about The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and how nature is Inspiring Innovation, I was extremely excited – First to hear that the book was in Mandarin so quickly, but also because this book is quite special to me. I had known about Janine Benyus’ pinnacle book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature for a long time, but it wasn’t until I read Jay Harman’s book that I realized that Biomimicry didn’t have to be just an idea– I, and many others inspired by nature, can actualize these great ideas. I’ve heard the phrase “Aha moment” quite a bit in Biomimicry (and elsewhere, but for me, seems to be quite prevalent in this niche, perhaps because there are so many great ideas and innovations at such a quick pace). Reading The Shark’s Paintbrush was a great “Aha Moment” for me in that I realized I had to explore Biomimicry in a more formal way and use it as a tool to improve the destructive environmental trajectory we humans are currently on.
The Shark’s Paintbrush is a fascinating read for just about anyone interested in Biomimicry – from the seasoned scientist to your mother who wants to understand what you’re now up to professionally. The book encompasses a notable array of fantastic examples sweeping across a wide range of disciplines, whilst peppered with humorous anecdotes of Harman’s personal experiences from working on fishing observation vessels in Australia to openly discussing some of his business failures in the U.S. and most importantly – the lessons learned from those.
I am a big fan of Naomi Klein and upon reading her books, specifically, The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, I was left with a sinking, depressive feeling (both highly recommended, by the way – I know I sold those both very well). The biggest takeaway I received from Naomi Klein’s anti-capitalist, anti-globalization books was this: Big business and globalization is bad and completely trashes the environment and tramples human rights so that one can buy a $5 shirt at Old Navy. After reading those some years ago, the notion of “business” left me a bit jaded. I see businesses extracting and using natural resources, often times to the detriment of the environment and future generations and I want nothing to do with businesses….until I discovered two things: 1. Corporations are so powerful that they are the ones that have the power to shift mindsets and alter “business-as-usual” and 2. Biomimicry as a tool.
It was during this time time of revelation for me, whilst reading The Shark’s Paintbrush, that I’m not reading something on the depressing and heavy side of business. Rather, it’s quite inspiring and left me hopeful that Biomimicry is a great tool for businesses to use, not only to reduce the amount of materials or waste, but also ways to give back to nature. In reading this book, Harman takes the reader on a trip to various locations meeting different organisms and their amazing functions and abilities along the way. You’ll also be inspired by the biomimetic product innovations, as well as corporations that have improved their organizational processes and systems by taking inspiration from nature, and are actively working to integrate nature into their bottom lines.
Happy reading, and if you have any particularly inspiring books to you – let us know! We’d love to hear!