Biomimicry Student Design Challenge

Challenge Theme


Life-Friendly Transportation Solutions

At first glance, transportation may simply appear to be about the movement of people and goods. But looking deeper, it’s also closely linked to equality, access to healthy food and good schools, and wildlife impacts, for example.

As the mobility demands of people and freight have grown, so too has the need for products, systems, and services that will make the transportation sector more life-friendly, for both people and the planet.

Can biomimicry help us address the deeper needs around transportation? Let’s find out!

Whether you take a bus to school, bike to work, drive your kids to soccer practice, ride an oxcart to an open-air market, or board a plane to visit relatives, chances are you use some form of transportation every day. It’s also likely that a product you used today was originally delivered by truck, plane, or train, such as the food you ate, the shoes you wore, or the gasoline that powered your car. We depend heavily on transportation for our personal needs, as well as for the delivery of goods.

Many people around the world lack access to sustainable, reliable methods of transportation. And the environmental impacts of transportation have increased along with growing mobility demands for people and freight. For example, transportation activities release several million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year, and they disrupt habitat and interfere with habitat connectivity for species around the globe.

Given these considerations, during this year’s Biomimicry Student Design Challenge we ask your team to:

Examine how nature facilitates effective, efficient transportation and apply a biomimicry design process to a transportation challenge that addresses one or both of the following needs:

  1. Make public transit, freight or individual transportation options (excluding cars), more responsive to user needs. This may include aspects of accessibility, security, comfort, flexibility, etc.
  2. Reduce the environmental impact of any form of transportation. This may include aspects of energy use, GHG emissions, urban heat island effects, material need/waste, pollution, and/or negative effects on biodiversity.

Within the theme of transportation, the specific challenge you address can be individual, local, or global in nature. For example, you might be interested in making public transit accessible to more neighborhoods, delivering fresh food to under-served areas, creating new individual transportation options, or making a more efficient engine. The opportunities to improve the world through design are almost endless.

Whether you choose a challenge that is local or global, at least two of the biological models you study must be organisms or ecosystems that are located in the biome in which you live. Look for models in your home ecosystem and study how they address the same function you need to perform in your design. Those may not be the organisms or ecosystems that ultimately inspire your design, but at least you will have closely observed the genius of your own place.

At the end of the competition, we will announce prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.