Science and Technology

Copying to pass!

| Updated on: Dec 19, 2021
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A start-up equips students with a new toolkit for progress — biomimicry

Arjun, a Std IX student in a government school in Tiruvallur near Chennai, is excited about a new subject he is learning in class. Over the past few months, Deepika, a third-year student of engineering, is working on a project to redesign urban sewage management systems that are based on how nature manages waste. Both are learning biomimicry — Arjun in Tamil, his native language, and Deepika in English, through learning modules developed by Biomimicry Compass, a start-up from IIT Madras.

Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and imitates nature’s strategies to address human challenges. For example, the nose cone of the bullet train mimics a kingfisher’s beak to cut down the noise generated when exiting tunnels. The Eastgate Centre building in Harare, Zimbabwe, has an internal climate control system modelled on the structure of termite mounds.

Nature offers 3.8 billion years’ worth of well-adapted, resilient solutions for use in fields ranging from engineering to design, human resources, leadership, and medicine.

Biomimicry has the power to completely reinvent our products, processes, and solutions.

What’s more, all of nature’s solutions are sustainable and eco-friendly. In direct contrast to our energy-intensive production methods that ‘heat, beat and treat’, nature’s processes are safe and non-toxic, utilising freely available energy and local materials.

Take the humble Namib Desert beetle as an example. To survive in the harsh, dry conditions of southwestern Africa, this insect harvests water from thin air. It leans its body into the wind, letting droplets of fog accumulate on its wing and drip down to its mouth. Lessons that can help provide clean water to communities living in water-stressed areas.

Biomimicry Compass aims to create a billion biomimics. The company is taking biomimicry to schools and universities to equip students with a new toolkit to solve environmental, economic, and social challenges.

It is making biomimicry learning available in regional languages. The curriculum includes design principles of nature, understanding how nature innovates, as well as thinking and ideation tools. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are integrated in the curriculum to help students, researchers, and young entrepreneurs understand the social and environmental challenges the world is grappling with. It offers an interdisciplinary perspective on science, engineering, design and environmental literacy.

Students are the leaders of tomorrow. Arjun and Deepika, in 20 years’ time, will be leaders and decision makers. Biomimicry Compass hopes that, when faced with choices in their professional or personal lives, they will not adopt quick-fix, short-term solutions that could harm the environment or threaten the survival of our planet.

Instead, they will choose biomimetic solutions that promote economic growth, social equity, and environmental stewardship.

The writers are co-founders of Biomimicry Compass

Published on December 19, 2021

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