Meet the 2023 YDC Winners
From tackling the issues of microplastics and urban heat islands, to addressing clean energy solutions through the use of wind turbines and underwater solar panels, the Biomimicry Institute’s 2022-2023 YDC winners have offered unique, nature-inspired ideas to solve local design challenges.
HIGH SCHOOL CATEGORY
1st Place International: Biomimetic Architecture in Hot Climates
Increasingly severe heat waves in Pakistan due to climate change have led to an alarming number of deaths as well as a disruption of daily life. A team from Islamabad, Heatwave Heroes, hopes that their architectural design could help mitigate the rising temperatures in Pakistan and other hot or desert climates. Their building, serving as a town center or housing, has many features throughout the design that were inspired by the Saharan Silver Ant and the Desert Snail. The building’s dome takes inspiration from both organisms. Cutouts along the walls are made to resemble the Saharan Silver Ant’s hair structure.
2nd Place International: BlueManta Water Bottle
Team BlueManta from Jakarta realizes that a pressing local problem is that not everyone has access to clean water, especially the communities surrounding the Ciliwung river. The local residents depend on the Ciliwung river for daily necessities, which has been faced with heavy bacterial contamination due to trash and industrial waste being dumped into the waterway. The team’s solution is a low-cost bottle with a multi-layer filter that will produce clean water. The first layer takes inspiration from manta ray lobes, with hundreds of lobes made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET), arranged strategically to remove larger particles. The second layer integrates nanosized pores and an interconnected conduit structure similar to the xylem vessels in Gymnosperm trees, added to help remove additional pathogens. The team was able to increase the efficiency of their final design by looking at how certain arterioles in human kidneys work.
The Syntrichia Hydrotrap is portable, attaches to any reusable water bottle, and uses a unique structure to capture moisture in the air. By mimicking the awns of desert moss (Syntrichia caninervis), the design concept uses water pumps to collect water droplets through barbs and grooves.
1st Place National:
Microplastics in the ocean, especially in California, are an increasingly prominent issue that San Francisco Bay Area team Christmas Tree Worm hoped to solve with “The Protego.” The Protego is a self-charging device that would attach to the front of any marine vessel and collect microplastics as the vessel is moving. The design gets its inspiration from four organisms, including the remora fish, Christmas tree worms, swordfish, and the blue tilapia.
Stormwater runoff erodes the riverbanks, causing natural plants/trees to slowly submerge; and it drags sediment along its path causing several biodiversity issues. The River Reef is a cluster of banana leaf-like structures with a rough surface made of RPET, a bio-friendly plastic, that can be adjusted and placed at the bottom of any waterway.
2nd Place National:
Urban expansion threatens the homes of many organisms, displacing them and altering their natural habitats. Inspired to solve this problem, a group from Southern California came up with their “Birdhive,” a modular panel ecosystem that can be attached to the exterior of houses, parking garages, skyscrapers, etc. The goal is to provide habitats for native plants and animals to support biodiversity and bring back organisms that have been displaced. The design of the panel takes its inspiration from beehives, birds nests, and rotting logs, as rotting logs are often a habitat that supports biodiversity within a relatively small space. The interchangeability of each habitation module allows the user to experiment with different habitats, making it ideal for any location.
The solution is typically to burn fields to expedite the decaying process, however, that can cause excess carbon and methane to be released into the atmosphere. The Green Waves team from Anseong, Korea came up with an environmentally-friendly concept to solve this desertification problem. They created a land trampling structure to mimic the movement of herds in a grassland.
High School International 3rd Place: EROSO Helmet
High School International Honorable Mention: Robotic Starfish
High School National 3rd Place: Eco Beaver Geotextile
High School National Honorable Mention: The Swamp Filter
MIDDLE SCHOOL CATEGORY
1st Place International:
Singapore, a place where land space is scarce, uses photovoltaic (PV) panels positioned on rooftops as well as on the surface of water reservoirs as a sustainable source of clean energy. However, climate change and rising temperatures, as well as high cloud cover across the country, reduce the efficiency of solar panels. LUC-YDC, a team from Singapore, looked to nature to find a solution for more efficient solar energy. Their innovation, the Photovoltaic-Aurantiaca-Nucifera System (PANS), draws inspiration from the window plant as well as the lotus leaf. The window plant, found in the Namib Desert in South Africa, buries its stem beneath the surface and uses its exposed region as a lens to direct light inside without overheating. The lotus plant is known for its hydrophobic properties. LUC-YDC used both of these to inspire the creation of the PANS, a system that eliminates the traditional horizontal placement of solar panels and turns them vertically inside of water tanks that are found on rooftops. A hydrophobic transparent dome-shaped lid is used to bend the light onto the panels inside the water, and the orientation of the panels themselves allows for more solar energy to be captured.
The Fire Forewarner, developed by Aryan & Kovid’s Team, is a device that aims to help bring those numbers down. The design concept is a solar-powered box that contains a protected circuit board and flame retardant capsule with a high temperature glue on the lid.
2nd Place International:
Every two years, the National Railway in London clears any debris that has settled on train tracks as well as cuts down hundreds of trees and surrounding shrubbery that could make the track dangerous to use. While this is the current solution to cleaning the debris that accumulates and bakes on the track itself, The Tree Savers team has come up with a different solution. Looking at smalltooth sawfish, whales, and the remora, the team created the “Rail Razor.” The Rail Razor attaches to the fronts of trains, similar to how the remora fish attaches to bigger fish. It has a tank with an enzyme-based liquid that would break down plant and wood cells along the track. Going even further, the device sweeps branches and leaves with its bristle brush system, inspired by the way that whales filter their food with their baleen. The Tree Savers team hopes that this system will reduce the need to cut down trees along the track every other year, thereby preserving the ecosystems along the train route, and avoiding safety hazards.
These chemicals harm the ecosystems and contaminate the water supply. The BioSurfaces team aimed to reduce the need for harmful chemicals used and came up with the idea of Ice Resistant Surfaces. They looked to inspiration from mint leaf surfaces with their tall peaks and valleys with angles in-between to stop ice formation.
1st Place National:
While wind turbines are an effective form of sustainable energy, they are not without their faults. One issue is the problem of root leakage, where the center of the turbines draws power away from the blades resulting in some turbulence. Another issue is their lack of adaptability to different wind environments. Team BioBreeze of Montana hopes to combat these issues with their “SeedSpinner” turbine. Their design incorporates functions from the Japanese maple seed, dragonfly wings, and aspen leaves. Combining aspects from all three organisms, the blades of their design are made from a light, flexible plastic that is slightly tilted to catch the wind and pick up on the slightest breeze. Not only does this address the issue of root leakage, but the design enables the turbine to be adapted to a variety of environments.
Interrobang from San Jose came up with CactiShirt: a design to passively cool a person down with a shirt that incorporates microscopic folds, just like desert cacti, to increase the surface area to allow more heat to radiate. The CactiShirt is designed to also be lighter in color so that it won’t absorb as much heat as darker colors, just as chameleons can change to a lighter color when they get hot.
2nd Place National:
The BioBuilders team from Montana understands that housing is a growing problem that affects not only their Flathead Valley community but communities all around the world. Current housing solutions are often unsustainable and require constant repairs that use up non-renewable materials. Their Diatom Brick House suggests a new way to build, inspired by diatoms, golden scaled snails, and jet ants. The unique structure of the diatom gives it an incredible strength-to-weight ratio, which could be used to cut down on the materials needed. The snail shell is an inspiration for the strength of the roof, particularly with future natural disasters in mind. The team draws inspiration from jet ants to further strengthen their design, as jet ants use fungi to fortify their nests by letting the fungi grow and using it to bind their nest walls, providing reinforcement.
Taking on the local urban flooding issue, team Biomimicking Bosses Association in London, England looked to nature for their project. The Floodulator is a system that includes a locally designed pipe on the ground level to store the rainwater underground in a boxfish-shaped tank (for water control and rigidity) that can distribute water to other areas of the city.
Middle School International 3rd Place: Bird of Prey
Middle School International Honorable Mention: The Female Defense Badge
Middle School National 3rd Place: The Green Pathological Waste Tank
Middle School National Honorable Mention: Earthproof
Past Award Winners
Learn about the concepts created from the winners and honorable mentions from past Challenges:
Browse the Youth Design Challenge (YDC) Winners Collection on AskNature
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