BACKYARD SCIENCE AND…ROBOTICS? by Jennifer Swanson

It’s summer! YAY! That means it’s time to get out and have some fun. Hang on a minute, for many of us, depending on where you live, it is still a time to be somewhat cautious.. As tough as it is, considering how and where you will venture out is still something to keep in mind. What if I told you that you could find some amazing ways to use your imagination and explore things right from your window or in your own backyard.

For a kid, summer is a time of exciting exploration—at least that’s what it should be. No classes. No tests. Just a time for you to let your imagination run wild. (this applies to kids of ALL ages, too. After all, everyone needs a chance to let their imagination take over.)

I have wonderful memories of my summers as a child. Aside from eating lunch, I spent all day outside. My favorite place to be was exploring the creek in our backyard. Frogs, toads, minnows, and tiny water bugs kept me entranced for hours. I would watch them swim, jump, or swim through the shallow moving water and wonder what it would be like to be one of them.

Animals are amazing creatures! We humans can learn so much from them. I guess that’s why when I discovered the science of biomimicry, I got SO excited! Biomimicry studies how animals and nature work and then mimics it or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems.

That means watching how a bird flies might inspire you to build an airplane, or maybe it will give you ideas of how to quiet a loud fan in your house. Sound intriguing? I think so!

My love of science, animals, and nature inspired my new book BEASTLY BIONICS: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature  (NGKids Books)

This book is chock full of tons of new biomimetic inventions. Did you know that scientists have developed a bionic tool shaped like an elephant’s trunk that helps lift heavy objects? Or that the needle-like pointed beak of the kingfisher bird encouraged engineers in Japan to change the design of the Shinkansen “bullet trains” to reduce noise? How about that  studying the poison dart frog helped engineers create a liquid mixture to keep plane wings free of ice? And even that examining slugs contributed to the invention of a surgical bandage that could one day be helpful in open-heart surgery? COOL, right?

Many of the inventions in this book are still in the prototype stage. That means that these scientists and engineers are still working to perfect them. Science takes time. It involves a lot of trial and error and re-tooling to get things right.

But above all, science and engineering takes IMAGINATION!

You there. Are you bored with sitting in your house? Take a look out your window outside. What kind of animals do you see there? Birds? Bugs? Spiders? Frogs? Snakes? Start to look at these animals in a different way. What kinds of things do they do that might be used to help humans? Do they have a unique way of moving? Do they carry things that are really heavy easily? Maybe they glide through the air effortlessly. Think about how you could translate that into something that you can use.

Grab a pencil or pen. Draw your design. Imagine how you would use robotic parts to build it. Then either go get some parts or build it out of your building blocks at home. Test your idea (safely). And make changes if necessary.

Here are a few ideas to get you started (from my Beastly Bioinics book)

© image from Beastly Bionics NGKids Books

Think about biomimicry the next time you go to the zoo. As you walk in front of the animals, watch them carefully. Notice how they move, eat, sleep. Do they use their arms or legs in unusual ways? Are they able to be silent when they walk? Ask yourself: how can these traits be helpful to humans?

© image from Beastly Bionics NGKids Books

What are you waiting for? Innovation and Exploration are right out your window, or in your own backyard, or at the zoo, or in the ocean…it’s EVERYWHERE! What kind of biomimetic creation will YOU invent?

For more information about Beastly Bionics, look at these links below

Starred Review from School Library Journal  https://www.slj.com/?reviewDetail=beastly-bionics-rad-robots-brilliant-biomimicry-and-incredible-inventions-inspired-by-nature

Top 6 Picks for June from School Library Connection  http://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/reviews?fbclid=IwAR3-pS10TbKo1LzDOFdM7NobvgSk6GBmHVRt_j7NOUqQB6WyYh2LipziTgA

www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

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Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of over 40 books for children, mostly about STEM. Her books have received many accolades including the Green Earth Book Honor Award, a Florida Book Award, a Parent’s Choice GOLD award, and multiple California Reading Association awards, and National Science Teaching BEST STEM awards. Jennifer is also the founder of STEM Tuesday and STEAMTeam2020.

An accomplished and exciting speaker, Jennifer has presented at National NSTA conferences, the Highlights Foundation, the Atlanta Science Festival, the World Science Festival in NYC and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival. You can learn more about her and book her for speaking engagements and in-person and virtual school visits at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

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