Adaptive Evolution of Teaching Practices in Biologically Inspired Design

  • Jeannette YenEmail author
  • Michael Helms
  • Ashok Goel
  • Craig Tovey
  • Marc Weissburg


At Georgia Tech in 2005, we developed an interdisciplinary undergraduate semester-long course, biologically inspired design (BID), co-taught each year by faculty from biology and engineering. The objective of this chapter is to share our teaching experience with those interested in teaching such a course themselves. The specific curriculum of a BID course must depend on the student mix, the institutional context, and instructor goals. Therefore, rather than presenting a particular curriculum, we present key problems that we encountered in our 8 years of teaching and how we addressed them. We expect that any who try to teach such a course will face one or more of the same challenges, and we offer numerous pedagogical approaches that can be tailored to their specific circumstances. By describing our solutions, their consequences, and the extent to which they met our expectations, we also point out where tough student challenges still exist that are in need of attention from the community.


Teaching biologically inspired design Learning biologically inspired design Problem-driven design Solution-based design Analogical design Cross-domain analogy Design by analogy Understanding biological systems Functional decomposition Structure-Behavior-Function Design evaluation Team design Interdisciplinary design Interdisciplinary education Design creativity Engineering design Engineering creativity Multi-disciplinarity Team-based learning Analogical reasoning 



We are grateful to several colleagues who have contributed to this work over the last several years, including Inbal Flash-Gvili, Wendy Newstetter, Swaroop Vattam, and Bryan Wiltgen. We thank the US National Science Foundation for its support of this research through a TUES grant (#1022778) entitled “Biologically Inspired Design: A Novel Interdisciplinary Biology-Engineering Curriculum,” and a CreativeIT Grant (#0855916) entitled “Computational Tools for Enhancing Creativity in Biologically Inspired Engineering Design.”


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeannette Yen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Helms
    • 2
  • Ashok Goel
    • 2
  • Craig Tovey
    • 3
  • Marc Weissburg
    • 1
  1. 1. School of BiologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2. School of Interactive ComputingGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3. School of Industrial and Systems EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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