Content themes:
Zoology, Physics, Engineering, Regional Science

For grades K–6

If you want to build something bigger, better, faster, or stronger, chances are you can find the answer in nature. Nature has been running field tests for millions of years, and this show demonstrates how scientists can take the best of what nature has learned and apply it to new technology.

In engaging, interactive demonstrations, Wild By Design serves up numerous examples.

  • A video showing a slinky being thrown off a roof six feet above the ground is used to explain how the tension in the toy is similar to the interplay of muscles in an elephant’s trunk. Studying those trunk muscles have helped researchers improve the range of motion in robots.
  • To explore the natural engineering of the giraffe, a zookeeper on video explains how the giraffe’s heart, blood vessels and skin keep its blood flowing smoothly, allowing it to eat from the treetops and bend over for a drink of water. Next, students are invited on stage to try out a pump simulating the animal’s massive heart. Then we bring in scientists and engineers in a ‘video conference’ describing how new developments in medical technology, and even G-suits for fighter pilots, have been inspired by the giraffe’s unique biology.
  • Take a look at wind turbine blades inspired by whale fins. Discover why their bumps or tubercles help to reduce drag in the water. Scientists are using this same design to build more efficient fan and turbine blades.
  • Finish with a bang while experimenting with the power of pressure. Enjoy a demonstration of the Knob Pinecone’s survival strategy in which we model its explosive release of seeds in a time delayed reaction. Fire suppression systems used on Earth and in Space operate in a similar way.

Produced in partnership with PPG

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Special thanks to Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium