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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Biomimetic Cooling, Housing Solutions Take Top Honors in Youth Design Challenge

The Biomimicry Institute’s third annual Youth Design Challenge engaged 6,000 students across the US; and yielded ingenious designs for solutions to problems in cities and nature alike.

This week, the Biomimicry Institute announced the winners of its third annual Youth Design Challenge, which showcases the nature-inspired ingenuity of middle- and high-school students across the US.

For years, the Biomimicry Institute has been inviting students and professionals worldwide to participate in design competitions — the Global Design Challenge and the Youth Design Challenge — to cultivate viable sustainability solutions inspired by nature. For the third year in a row, the Institute has worked with educators to bring the concept of nature-inspired design into their classrooms and after-school programs. This year, the Youth Design Challenge reached approximately 6,000 middle- and high-school students across the US; and despite the disruption schools faced moving to digital learning mid-semester due to the pandemic, 60 team projects were submitted to the competition.

The Institute selected seven winners — which included cooling systems inspired by the giraffe and the Texas Horned Lizard, a coral reef protection system inspired by tree canopies and Orb Weaver spiders; disaster-resistant housing inspired by taproot systems, woodpecker skulls and the shape of an ovenbird’s mud nest; and a bike-lane barrier inspired by honeycomb and pomelo peels.

High School

First place: “The Moist Brick” (Team Designmatter, Orange Cube Art School, La Crescenta, CA)

The Moist Brick is a concept for a naturally cooling building material that condenses water from nighttime air and collects it on the surface, acting as an evaporative cooling system. The team was inspired by the hydrophilic hairs on the surface of some plants and the Texas Horned Lizard, which uses capillary action to move water from anywhere on its skin to its mouth.

Second Place: “A Concrete Solution” (Team SONA, Hopewell Valley Central High School, Pennington, NJ)

Inspired by their research on bamboo stems, pomelo peels, and honeycombs, this team concocted an impact-absorbing, concrete-alternative material for use in barriers to separate cyclists and pedestrians from motorists on busy roads.

Middle school

First Place: “The Dome Home” (Team Matinor, Blue School, New York, NY)

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This team combined inspiration from multiple organisms to design a home that could withstand extreme weather in the Caribbean — a region facing increasing risk from hurricanes due to climate change. The Dome Home mimics the dome shape of an ovenbird’s mud nest to withstand high winds, the deep tap root of the longleaf pine to anchor the foundation, and the unique structure of the woodpecker’s skull to absorb shock.

Read more about the Challenge and about the other winners here.