Cas Smith at SXSW Eco 2015 – Recap

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Cas Smith at SXSW Eco 2015 – Recap

Learn more about our bioinspired innovation work and services by emailing us at biomimicry@terrapinbg.com and reading our report, Tapping into Nature. Follow the conversation on twitter: @TerrapinBG | #TapNature.

Terrapin traveled down to Austin for SXSW Eco 2015 for a packed three days dedicated to building a healthy and sustainable world. Terrapin was honored to be a part of this year’s inaugural Biomimicry Track, and the team was looking forward to hearing from so many different speakers about new and exciting ideas. And for anyone who couldn’t make it to Austin, the keynotes are all available online here

The biomineralization process that corals use to build their carbonite skeletons inspired Blue Planet's process for making carbon-negative cement additives from CO2 extracted from flue streams. Image copyright USFWS Pacific Region/Flickr.

The biomineralization process that corals use to build their carbonite skeletons inspired Blue Planet’s process for making carbon-negative cement additives from CO2 extracted from flue streams. Image copyright USFWS Pacific Region/Flickr.

Terrapin’s own Cas Smith spoke to a packed house of over 120 professionals in the session “Tools to Bridge Science, Design & Discovery,” part of the inaugural Biomimicry Track. Using Tapping into Nature’s interactive graphic, Cas demonstrated the breadth of bioinspired technologies currently in various stages of development to an engaged audience that was eager to learn more about biomimicry, and tools to aid the process. He discussed in depth several particularly promising technologies, including Harbec’s capillary cooled plastic injection molds, Blue Planet’s carbon negative cement additives, and a termite-inspired humidity device for managing humidity in buildings. Cas emphasized that the bioinspired innovation process is similar to any other type of innovation process, it just has the added layer of starting with a natural inspiration. But because bioinspired innovation starts by looking to nature, the products and systems that result are inherently sustainable (as long as the innovators stay true to the natural inspiration). As Cas put it, “if you are doing bioinspired innovation correctly, sustainability is at its core.” Cas is the project manager for Terrapin’s bioinspired innovation services and co-author of Tapping into Nature.

Cas was joined by Marjan Eggermont, founding co-editor of Zygote Quarterly and an associate dean at the University of Calgary, and Gretchen Hooker of The Biomimicry Institute. Gretchen presented The Biomimicry Institute’s free online database of natural strategies and nature-inspired products, AskNature.org. Marjan discussed the work being produced at Zygote Quarterly, a free online publication on bioinspired innovation and related fields. Zygote Quarterly is moving toward an expanded role in the bioinspired design world with their digital modeling work of the Issus’ (commonly known as a leafhopper) gear, which allows the tiny insect to jump extraordinary distances. The session sparked some interesting conversations around the process of bioinspired innovation and the need for more resources for innovators, particularly a library of 3D models of structures found in nature like the Issus’ gear.

Follow this link to listen to the audio recording of the whole panel discussion.

In addition to the Biomimicry Track sessions, the team was especially excited to hear the conference keynote from Isha Datar on growing animal products without the animals (another great example of how biology is solving global challenges), and the Place by Design micro pitches. Each of the pitches presented unique solutions to various urban design issues. It was inspiring to hear about the work being done by such dedicated people.

Throughout the conference, Terrapin heard the buzz of biomimicry in the halls, spilling over from the Biomimicry Track’s sessions. Seeing this many people embracing this burgeoning field demonstrates how biomimicry has grown from a concept to a movement. Looking to nature for solutions may soon become the standard, not the exception.

Allison Bernett is an associate project manager and the public relations coordinator for Terrapin Bright Green. She graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis with a double major in architecture and biology. Allison’s interests focus on architecture, sustainability, and bioinspired innovation.