Harley Upper School students recently placed second in the Biomimicry Institute’s Youth Design Challenge, a project-based learning experience and competition for students in grades 6-12.
The contest encourages young people to develop bio-inspired solutions to real-world sustainability problems.
With energy use for space cooling having more than tripled since 1990, the students from Harley’s Biomimicry team — Team Prairie Dawgz — sought to create a design solution for passively circulating fresh air throughout a structure in order to greatly reduce heating and cooling loads and costs for a building.
The team took inspiration from how prairie dogs’ burrows generate a Bernoulli effect for ventilation. They built prototypes to demonstrate and test the effect with multiple iterations of their design for a passively ventilated house.
Harley’s Middle School biomimicry team — Team SOREP — received honorable mention for its project, Seagrass Oyster Reef Erosion Protection System, which focused on coastal erosion and the impact of the rising ocean’s temperature on plants and organisms that naturally reduce erosion.
Their solution sought to limit erosion by mimicking oyster reefs and seagrass that reduce wave energy and slow down water currents, thereby decreasing wave size. The group displayed holistic systems-thinking by reflecting on how the presence of their design would give time for the natural organisms that do this work to repopulate.