Breakout Session Schedule

Four breakout periods will be offered at the Biomimicry Education Summit. Attendees will have four sessions to choose from during each period: two workshops and two groups of 15-30 minute presentations. Descriptions for each session are provided below. Follow the link to read presenter  biographies.

9:30 am



Beyond Inspiration: How to Design and Implement a Regenerative and Successful Biophilic Project
Amanda Sturgeon, executive director, International Living Future Institute

Biophilia is an increasingly popular topic around the world. The design community recognizes the importance of our human connection to nature and of bringing the beauty and wonder of nature into the built environment. But how do designers go above superficial references to nature and the use of natural materials to design environments that are truly connecting, inspiring, and regenerative? This session will inspire participants and give them a working understanding of the biophilic design process, from the history and techniques used in successful biophilic projects, to elements of a biophilia focused design charrette, to the importance of hands-on research with the project site’s natural features. Attendees will participate in hands-on activities to learn techniques to help educate and inspire.


Beyond the Lesson Plan: Adventures in Biomimicry Publishing
Adelheid Fischer, Zygote Quarterly and Arizona State University
Marjan Eggermont, Zygote Quarterly and University of Calgary
Tom McKeag, Zygote Quarterly and BioDreamMachine

Interest in biomimicry often has outstripped the availability of published materials that can help educators and practitioners explore this emerging discipline in the classroom or the studio. In this workshop, three start-up editors from profile independent publishing ventures discuss their roles in creating unique and engaging venues for biomimicry education. Discussion points include: how the editors determined the need for their publications, targeted appropriate audiences, developed content, and solicited financial, editorial, and technical support.

How the Largest University in the U.S. is Adopting Biomimicry in Education
Dayna Baumeister, Arizona State University
Prasad Boradkar, Arizona State University
Adelheid Fischer, Arizona State University

The presenters will share their journey from a fledging workshop to full-blown integration of biomimicry at Arizona State University, including the world’s first Master’s of Science program. We’ll review the critical steps to get buy-in from university faculty and departments, as well as the creative ways in which biomimicry is and will be incorporated. The objective of this presentation is to encourage others to follow suit building on the lessons learned at ASU.

Biomimicry Ice Breakers and Discussion Starters for Participants of All Ages
Jane Petring

This presentation will offer a number of interactive biomimicry-themed activities that can be used in the classroom or in presentations to spark interest in this fascinating field while encouraging participants to interact with each other. Participants will create a human tree to learn about tree functionalities, rotate partners to retell biomimicry success stories, and see how AskNature can be used to create dynamic activities. While technology can certainly enhance the activities, they can also be used in situations where there is no electricity or internet connection.

From Curiosity to Essence: a biomimicry journey
Raul de Villafranca, Universidad Iberoamericana

This presentation will awaken and inspire educators to delve into the essence of biomimicry, in a way that connects them with its deep relationship to nature and nature’s creative processes, so that formal and informal educational systems are able to spark the inborn curiosity of students in genuine benefit of their communities.

Biomimicry for Vulnerable Communities
Viviana Otálvaro, Technological Metropolitan Institute

Social innovation is about how people build relationships with others, and build organizations and communities. But what really happens when people are in vulnerable conditions? How can we learn from nature to build social relationships between people that live in the street? How can we learn from nature to improve the condition of kids that live in extreme poverty? How can we improve relationships between the contexts and obtain the best from crisis? Nature is an excellent example of building new societies; industrial design is the bridge to create better life conditions. This presentation will share examples from biomimicry analysis in the program of industrial design engineering at the Technological Metropolitan Institute in Medellín, Colombia.

11:00 am



Biomimicry Bioblitz
AJ Wacaser, California Academy of Sciences
Colleen Mahoney, Mahoney Architects & Interiors

A Bioblitz is a citizen science activity in which community members use smartphones or cameras to document and share observations of as many living things as possible that are found in a designated geographic area. In this outdoor workshop, we will use the iNaturalist website and app to conduct a “Biomimicry Bioblitz” and demonstrate how educators can use the framework to facilitate discussions around function in nature, biomimicry, and biodiversity/climate change research with students in their local areas.  Please download the iNaturalist app to your smartphone prior to the workshop.  For more information about BioBlitz walks, visit:

Factory as a Forest Game: Closing the Loop on Industrial and Biological Wastes
Theresa Millard, Biomimicry Iberia
Alessandro Bianciardi, Planet sas

The Factory as a Forest Game is an interactive team exercise used to teach the importance of thinking in a holistic, systems way about material flows, business models, community development, and innovation. In this outdoor workshop, participants will work in teams of 6 – 8, create closed-loop business cycles, and present their solutions in 3-minute presentations to the entire group.




Pathways to Unleashing Biomimicry in Universitiy Settings
Jakki Mohr, University of Montana

This presentation will share research conducted in a business context and use it to address three topics in bringing biomimicry to university contexts: 1. Why is it so difficult to embed biomimicry in a university context? 2. What are the pathways to overcoming the challenges to bringing biomimicry into university teaching and research?  and 3. What can non-scientific educators (business, legal, education, arts and humanities) do to infuse their curriculum with biomimicry? Moreover, Mohr will explore how biomimicry could be used to overcome bottlenecks in university decisionmaking and bureaucracy.

Biomimicry & Strategic Design as Business Catalysts
Giselle Carr, head of brand strategy and planning, Inglefield/Ogilvy and Mather Caribbean Limited

This session will explore the relationship between triple bottom line business practices (models that create value for people, planet and profit), and strategic design as a catalyst for biomimicry within business. Carr works with brands to develop strategy,
 and often it leads to discussions about a company’s imperatives and intent. The 21st century calls for a definition of business and strategy that creates thriving cultures for people, planet, and profit. Carr sees biomimicry training as a means to that end and will demonstrate its strategic advantage to creative enterprise and leadership.

Spider Silks: Super Strong Fibers – A Peek into their Nano-scale Architecture
Sujatha Sampath, University of Utah

Spider silks are remarkable fibers which spiders produce for multiple purposes: webs, prey capture, and egg cases. They are extremely strong fibers, stronger than steel, ounce for ounce. The chemical composition and the nano-scale molecular ordering impact how these silks perform in strength and flexibility. To bio-mimic and produce fibers which are comparable to or outperform natural spider silks, it is essential to understand how the natural silk is made and performs. Nano-scale structure and the link between the silk’s molecular arrangement and high mechanical strength will be presented. Use of high energy x-rays to look into the spider silk at the scale of atoms and molecules and current efforts to mimic natural spider silk to make smart designer polymers will be discussed.

Introducing Systems Thinking into Biomimicry Methodology: a New Way of Thinking and Connecting Innovation and Creativity across Business
Giane Brocco, Biomimicry Brasil
Luis Henrique Rodrigues, Biomimicry Brasil

This presentation explores the connections between biomimicry and systems thinking and their application in practice at Samarco, a mining company in Brasil. The presenters will demonstrate the systemic impacts in space and time of the adoption of such practices and how the connection between methodologies allows for more effective change within existing systems, to act more in accordance with the processes of the natural world.

1:00 pm / 1:30 pm

(begin at 1:00 pm)



Contemplative Science Through Permaculture and Biomimicry
Kendra Krueger, founder, Vesica Pi Labs LLC

With the burgeoning of sustainable design sciences such as biomimicry and permaculture an opportunity arises to interface these principles directly with the scientific method. In this discussion based workshop we will confront some of the limitations of our current scientific paradigm and see what tools can be used to develop resilient, regenerative and contemplative scientific communities. We will review the contemplative aspects of biomimicry and the systems-based thinking and ethical frameworks of permaculture. With this context we will engage in small group discussions to explore what an authentic and intentional design process could look like.

A Nature Walk Among the Trees
Amy Coffman-Phillips, co-founder, Biomimicry Chicago
Faye Coffman, educational adviser

Act like a kid and experience an elementary focused workshop (K-3) in which students explore Life’s Principle of resource efficiency through multi-functional design. Explore through a kid’s viewpoint the multi-functionality of trees, linking the key concepts to your own multi-functionality and the multi-functionality of things in your own world, including Kindles and iPads. Students begin to understand that items that serve multiple functions save resources and energy and they begin to apply that concept to possible future inventions. This workshop ties together STEM and Next Generation Science Standards and workshop materials for implementation will be provided. This workshop was originally developed as a mini-course for the instructors’ daughter (and granddaughter)’s elementary school.

(begin at 1:30 pm)


Watson for Biomimicry
Ashok Goel, Georgia Institute of Technology

IBM’s Watson system is famous for playing Jeopardy, and is becoming increasingly accessible to educators. I will share how we used Watson to support biomimicry in a college-level class on computational creativity. Student projects in the class resulted in six Watson-based tools for supporting biomimicry. In the process of developing these tools, the students also learned about biomimicry. Further, these interactive tools themselves act as scaffolds for learning about biomimicry.

How to Equip and Manage a Citizen Open Lab with Biomimicry and Circular Economy
Théo Richard
Xavier Coadic
Judith Meyer, founders of Le Biome

More and more open space and Fablabs are opening these days, getting people together, putting tools in their hand to collaborate. We asked ourselves, founders of the 1st European biomimicry fablab, how can we equip our lab using biomimicry and circular economy principles ?
This purpose of this presentation is to present our answers to this question and provide everyone interested with tools to equip their own space or workplace using biomimicry and circular economy.

Bioinspiration: On lightweight and deployable structures
Sudarshan Krishnan, Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

We can best appreciate nature’s mastery of functional efficiency by understanding its underlying operational principles. Those of particular relevance to architecture and structures are — symmetry, lightweightness, movement, self-healing, multi-functionality, hierarchy, and compliancy, among others. Drawing analogies from nature, this presentation will focus on the characteristics of lightweightness and deployability. The former results from optimal use of materials thus leading to cost-savings and the latter helps to reduce the volume of structures, thereby facilitating adaptive-use, storage and transportation. This presentation will provide insights into how nature’s principles can be effectively used for creating efficient building structures.

Load Bearing Duct: Infusing Biomimicry in Civil/Structural Engineering Design
Stylianos Yiatros

This presentation will focus on the presenter’s personal experience with biomimetic design as a student, researcher, and educator in higher education civil engineering courses. Biomimicry can offer design solutions in Civil and Structural Engineering with the potential to have great impact due to the sheer size of civil engineering projects. Looking at a structure as an ecosystem with integrated building services changes the objective function of design. The presenter will reflect on his own research and how this was incorporated in design modules initially at Imperial College London and then the Cyprus University of Technology.

3:00 pm



From the Essence to the Sacred: A Biomimicry Journey

Ana Robles
Raúl de Villafranca, Universidad Iberoamericana

Through conversations and experiences, this workshop invites nature educators to explore biomimicry from a sacred perspective and light up their senses in such a way that they apply their perception of the sacred in nature in their role as educators.


How to Implement a Successful K-12 Biomimicry Program – Lessons Learned
Kelly Siman, PhD candidate at The University of Akron

How do you implement a successful regional K-12 biomimicry program? In Northeast Ohio (NEO), we’ve started to do just that. The University of Akron PhD Biomimicry program and Great Lakes Biomimicry are leading a collaborative effort of place-based innovation. The PhD Biomimicry Education Fellows work directly with schools and informal learning environments, such as local zoos and museums. With the initial implementation, we’ve encountered numerous challenges along the way. Some challenges were met with success; some with setbacks. What they do have in common, however, is that each provided invaluable lessons learned for moving forward when implementing a K-12 biomimicry education program in your area.

Introducing Biomimicry to K-7 Bilingual Students: a framework of cultural competence
Sayuri Yamanaka, Bilingual Nature Educator
Azucena Garza, Environmental Communicator, Educator
Jenny Nazak, Permaculture Educator

A 30-minute bilingual presentation to share insights and successful experiences of working with biomimicry with students from different cultural backgrounds. This session will share with educators insights and experiences of how other cultures translate nature into their cosmologies, in a way that empathy becomes a cultural competence that will allow formal and non-formal educators to integrate biomimicry as a tool for transformation and reconciliation in their communities.

Bioinspired Kid Conversation Starters
Mara Bernal, Sayuri Yamanaka and students

A 10-minute family friendly presentation to share bioinspired experiences at classrooms with the participation of elementary school bilingual students. This session invites biomimicry enthusiasts to dialogue and shared bio-inspired experiences as a innovative way to bring meaningful kids-adult conversations, so (bilingual) students, educators and families levers up to a collaborative participation.

Designing a Systems Based Curriculum to Develop 21st Century Sustainability Literacy and Communication Skills
Andrew Bernier, Adjunct Faculty, Paradise Valley Community College

This presentation challenges modern education by identifying linear and industrial design flaws in current education and offers a new model inspired by living systems. The presenter demonstrates a tested sustainability curriculum that adopts biomimicry by using the strength of living systems, organic molecular and cellular structure and communication dynamics. The result is a relationship based competency assessment that materializes into a cellular shaped model used as visual aid for a student’s systems thinking. Using the findings of the systems curriculum in a secondary classroom from the presenter’s dissertation research, this work offers a new tool to the field of sustainability education and challenges all educators to adopt living systems into their own instructional designs.

Systems Thinking: How can wearing socks teach us about ecosystems?
Cheryl Spector, Principal of Spector & Associates, A.I.A. LEED A. P.

Ecosystems can be a complicating thing to explain and understand, especially when you plug in human consumption. Systems Thinking will be illustrated first through a natural ecosystem and then a human created one- the process of making socks! Examples will be provided as to how to begin to shift our normal ways of thinking to that of Systems Thinking. A fun interactive exercise that engages everyone at once with individual actions will be performed followed by feedback by participants about their observations. Attendees will learn simple ways to demonstrate Systems Thinking and how observing nature and human behavior provides beneficial systems solutions to our daily lives.

Biotectonica: Resiliency inspired by Caribbean microclimates
Edlyn García La Torre, Lecturer/ Researcher School of Architecture, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
Wilfredo Mendez, Lecturer/ Researcher School of Architecture, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico

A strategic location, 18°15′N 66°30′W within 100 x 35 miles provides a natural laboratory for direct immersion and extraction of biological intelligence for design solutions. Active seismic zone, tsunami prone areas and microclimates from dryforests to rainforests serve as a challenge for our built environment. Biotectonica Research and Design Studio is an interdisciplinary laboratory in Architecture School,PUCPR that aims to foster an education model based on biomimicry. For resilient technologies, we research biological strategies and adaptation towards natural disasters and extreme weather conditions in the Caribbean. Through exploration of growth patterns, contact with natural environment, and biobrainstorming we choose models to explore, abstract and prototype possible solutions.

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We believe that the widespread adoption of nature-inspired solutions will catalyze a new era in design and business that benefits both people and the planet. Let’s make the act of asking nature’s advice a normal part of everyday inventing. We hope you will join us.

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