BioDesign: Using Diversity to Understand Nature, Transform Education, and Invent the Future
BioDesign is an exemplar of convergence integrating knowledge, tools, and ways of thinking and interacting from biology, engineering, physics, and applied mathematics to form a comprehensive synthetic framework for addressing scientific and societal challenges that exist at the interfaces of many traditional disciplines. Now more than ever before, biodiversity can instruct us on how to best use new materials and manufacturing processes, because these human technologies have more of the characteristics of life. We can use principles of energy management discovered in legged locomotion, inertial assisted control shown by tails of leaping lizards, robustness seen in the exoskeletal material of compressed cockroaches entering cervices, fibrillar adhesion observed in geckos racing up trees, and learning by squirrels launching off branches. Although biodiversity offers enormous potential for novel designs, extracting principles is challenging because natural selection is not engineering. To share approaches to these challenges, we developed an education program that connects two recent revolutions, biodesign with the maker movement’s democratizing effects. Our i4’s Toward Tomorrow Program (http://biodesign.berkeley.edu) seeks to expand the STEAM workforce with an early, inspirational and interdisciplinary experience fostering inclusive excellence. Using culturally sustaining connections, students envision a future where diverse minds are urgently needed for involvement, imagination, invention and innovation (i4). The program aims to remove artificial, disciplinary boundaries by including designers, artists, social scientists, and entrepreneurs collaborating in diverse teams using biological discoveries to invent their future.