The Costa Rican Classroom

By Zach Samalonis

Recently a group of Industrial Design and Biology students had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for the start of a new collaborative project. The class “Biomimicry for Industrial Design” runs collaboratively with the Biology “Field Studies in Costa Rica.”

The course itself consisted of ten days of intense field and classroom work in the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, a UNESCO world heritage site. By running the two courses together the Principles of Biomimicry are taught in a hands-on manner with students engaging in biological field work and applying that research to develop a design.

The trip consisted of both daytime fieldwork and nighttime lectures. The fieldwork began at Cabanas de Bromillias on the Caribbean side of the divide as an introduction to the rainforest.  The next location was the Pitilla biological station for three nights to experience the Atlantic slope rain forests. The remainder of the trip took place at the Santa Rosa Conservation Center on the Pacific side of the divide, where students had the opportunity to visit the tropical dry forest and analyze it in the context of the other tropical forest types. Field activities include an introductory walk in which students receive guidance into how to assemble a field notebook, an introduction to hypothesis testing using leaf-cutting ants, and small group projects which focus on observations of processes that take place in the field.

Students from the trip are now working towards developing a project booklet that shows their research both in the field and in the built environment, their design process, and their Biomimicry proposals. The final projects will be submitted to the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge by the end of the semester. In the words of ID Junior Charles Barilo “The course was unlike any other trip out there. Living almost totally off the grid and experiencing nature of all kinds first hand is an experience I won’t get anywhere else and one I won’t forget.”

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