Researchers Develop Two-Day Module for High Schoolers on Bio-Inspired Design

Achievement date: 

Faculty and graduate students at the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics (CBBG), headquartered at Arizona State University, developed and delivered a two-day STEM module to teach high school students interested in engineering careers about fundamental principles of bio-inspired design, sustainability, and infrastructure resiliency of earthen construction. 


The 44 high school students who participated in the two-day module were attending a 2-week, pre-freshman residential summer engineering camp for diverse, high-achieving students at New Mexico State University (NMSU). The group – 49 percent minority, and 25 percent female – represents communities under-represented in engineering. All want to pursue an engineering degree.


The students learned about sustainability, bio-inspired design, seismic activity and how it affects structures, and the importance of foundation design. Graduate students talked with the students about their experience at NMSU and in engineering. Twelve student teams used their creativity and STEM knowledge to design and construct small-scale adobe walls. They incorporated bio-inspired reinforcing elements using only natural materials and fibers, and tested their wall models under dynamic loading in a shake table. At the end, each team presented and explained their design, results, and recommendations to their peers, and to faculty and student mentors. The program concluded with poster presentations on various topics related to the module of their choice.

The CBBG team at NMSU is adapting the module as a stand-alone outreach event to take to local middle schools and share with CBBG partner universities for possible implementation in other school districts.