Source: LOOP SCOOPS
Major funding for LOOP SCOOPS is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Although the information in these materials has been funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement 83447601 to WGBH, it may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.
In this animated video from LOOP SCOOPS, a sphinx asks two children how a pair of sneakers is like a dog that has been outside. The kids discuss how dogs, after being outside, sometimes return to the house covered in burrs. Looking at both burrs and Velcro® under a magnifying glass, the children discover that both are covered with tiny hooks. The sphinx explains that the inventor of Velcro® was actually inspired by a walk in the woods with his dog.
Biomimicry is a relatively new scientific discipline that studies nature's best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Although humans have always looked to nature for answers and insights, only recently has science taken a deeper, systematic look at the solutions nature has to offer. This re-emerging interest has led to such inventions as nontoxic adhesives inspired by geckos, energy-efficient buildings inspired by termite mounds, and antibiotics inspired by seaweed. The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After 3.8 billion years of research and development called evolution, nature has found designs that work.
Velcro®, a classic example of biomimicry, was invented in 1948 by a Swiss engineer, George de Mestral. After a walk with his dog, de Mestral noticed that his dog and his trouser legs were covered with seed pods from a cocklebur, a tall weedy plant. Studying a single seed pod under a microscope, he saw it was covered with tiny hooks that attached to animal fur or fabric fibers that brushed against them. De Mestral copied the plant's simple seed dispersal strategy to create a strong, easy-to-use, temporary fastener. The word Velcro is a combination of vel-, from the French velours, meaning "velvet," and -cro, from crochet, which means "hook."
To see more examples of biomimicry, check out Design Inspired by Nature.
Here are suggested ways to engage students with this video and with activities related to this topic.
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