The de MESTRAL Project: Using Macro Photo-Journaling to Stimulate Interest in Bio-Inspired Design and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Disciplines

The de MESTRAL Project: Using Macro Photo-Journaling to Stimulate Interest in Bio-Inspired Design and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Disciplines


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

28 February 2017
| Citation



Bio-inspired design (BID) and its many variants (biomimetics, biomimicry etc.) continues to be a promising innovation methodology in which practitioners from industry and academia search nature’s evolutionary diversity for meaningful design opportunities. However, despite BID’s potential to contribute greater value to society, it remains an obscure field. In this paper, we present a case dem- onstrating how a novel educational exercise could play an important role in advancing the field by stimulating student interest in BID and the more broadly associated Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields which drive it. Specifically, we discuss a cross-disciplinary university seminar that uses an experimental photo journaling exercise called the “de Mestral Project” which aims to recreate the successful invention process of Velcro by Engineer Georges de Mestral. This exercise cultivates observation skills, or the ability to look closer at the natural world as a foundation for uncovering new opportunities for design. Critical to the activity is the use of macro photography to help facilitate this discovery process. The outcome of this project has led to early stage BID concepts that have been explored more deeply in subsequent funded research efforts and in capstone Industrial Design studio projects. The development of the de Mestral project in ongoing; the purpose of this paper is to describe its methods and preliminary outcomes.


bio-inspiration, bio-inspired design, biomimicry, biomimetics, interdisciplinary collaboration, innovation, sustainable design, STEM.


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