Eliza H. a 5th grader from New York, came up with the idea of Slug Slippers, to help her grandmother find her way around the house. Like snails, the slippers leave a trail behind them. Nature-inspired inventing can help kids express and develop their compassion, creativity, and analogical thinking skills.
Pillbug-inspired arctic sled
High school students from France conceived and prototyped this sled for exploring the Arctic. The sled doubles as a shelter, folding up as neatly as the Roly Pollies that inspired it. To design it, they did morphometrics on dead pillbugs, measuring all of their parts.
Bromeliad-inspired Water Collector
Inventing is just the beginning of the fun. Here, a United Kingdom elementary student enjoys testing his bromeliad-inspired water collector.
Sean Dupre, a 5th grader from Houston, invented a jacket after observing how his cat puffed up its fur on cold days, trapping warm air next to its body. Likewise, on cold days you blow air into Sean's jacket; on warm days you let air out.
Polar Bear Greenhouse
Young students in the UK test theories through prototyped greenhouse designs for insulating germinating seeds, inspired by the structure of polar bear fur. A great example of bringing science and engineering together.
Fast-drying Laundry Line
Inspired by the iridescence of hummingbirds, this 2nd grader used Legos to model her fast drying laundry line, where laundry dries quickly thanks to reflected light.
Armadillo Bike Helmet
Armadillos curl up when threatened, inspiring these upper elementary students to imagine a bike helmet that provides extra protection during a fall. Students' best work happens when they get to innovate on things they care about.
Tree-inspired Energy Generator
Maanasa Mendu, a 13-year old from Ohio, won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge with her peizo-electric wind harvesting device. She was inspired by seeing the elastic behavior of trees moving in the wind, and by seeing the need for inexpensive sustainable energy after taking a trip to India and seeing a lack of electricity and clean water.
Horseshoe Crab Inspired Cancer Treatment
Riley Ennis of Virginia grew up around hospitals because his sister had medical issues since birth. He became inspired after watching a television show that talked about how horseshoe crabs attach a protein to invading bacteria to help their immune systems locate and destroy trespassing microbes, and as a 15 year old devised a vaccine that does something similar, but with human cancer cells. He now runs a biotech company to implement the technology.
Humpback Whale Inspired Submarine
Students at Sussex County Technical High School, in Sparta, New Jersey, constructed and tested a working human-powered submarine, designed with dive planes and rudders inspired by the bumpy flippers on humpback whales, which enable the whale to make tight turns. Their submarine won 1st place in the International Submarine Competition, and demonstrated the impressive ability to turn quickly for such a large structure, achieving a 90° turn within 25 feet.
The Flower Shoe
Seventh graders from West Branch, Michigan, came up with this idea from how flowers open and close: they conceived of a shoe that you never have to bend down to put on. Starting out flat, you simply step on it and the shoe folds around your foot.