BioMachine Design Challenge

BioMachine: 2021

The BioMachine 2021 Design Challenge was an opportunity for students to identify and research issues that were important to them and then design their own sustainable solution through art and science. Middle and high school students from Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque participated. Students were asked to use biomimicry to design an imaginative ‘BioMachine’ that explored the topic of biodiversity loss and pollinator decline and its importance to our community, our food security and the health of our planet. The teachers were given the online BioSTEAM Curriculum Tool with a biomimicry curriculum derived from our guest BioSTEAM artist, Ana MacArthur, whose installation at Taos Land Trust called Pollinator Concentrator, inspired this design challenge. Teachers had to find the time amidst COVID and online learning to integrate the BioSTEAM activity into their core curriculum. Each teacher designed a unique curriculum that integrated the challenge into their subject area i.e. math, science, art, etc.

The BioMachine Design Challenge received a total of 197 student entries which included a drawing and a design statement. The jurors were Ana MacArthur, and Andrea Polli, sci-artist and founder of STEAM NM. The Best of Show prize is $300 and the seven category prizes are $100 each. A $100 Educator Engagement Award goes to the teacher who engages the most students with a comprehensive curriculum design.

The Educator Engagement Award goes to Justine Carryer of Taos High School for most students engaged through a comprehensive curriculum design entitled 'Applied knowledge of mathematics and its relationship to the natural and biological world.

The School Engagement Recognition goes to TAFT Middle School in Albuquerque New Mexico for best school-wide engagement through a comprehensive curriculum design entitled 'Honeycomb Design and Sustainable Material.

Special thanks to our OUR SPONSORS that made the BioSTEAM project and BioMachine Design Challenge possible.

Best of Show

Sky's Eyes

Otto Manley

Taos Charter School, Grade 8

Design Statement: Nature has been figuring out and working on problems forever. We need to start figuring out how to use plants and animals as an answer sheet and use what they know to help us. The intelligent aspects of so many plants and animals can be used to make a bio-machine. I looked far and wide to find plants and animals that had great characteristics to put into a bio-machine. Within my multiple sketches, I figured out a machine that combines most concepts from bats and pollinators. There are a lot of things messed up in this world. What I focused on in New Mexico is migration. My machine is created by 20 triangles creating an icosahedron. This machine uses bat biosonar to see bigger animals like deer, and then it uses butterfly and bee eyesight to see flowers blooming. You can track the pollinators from the pollen. Pollinators help New Mexico vegetables, fruits, and greens. The machine will be helpful because then people can isolate the problem and be sent out to the locations to revive the habitat and make it so that the area can persevere through tough times. It does morally question the rule that you don't interfere with nature, but because we messed nature up so much, I think it is up to us to fix it. Now for the functionality aspects of my idea. This machine needs to be ultra-light so using futuristic materials is essential. The reason I use the shape of the icosahedron is that if the top is being used by the rotor and the bottom five triangles open up, then it still has ten more sides to reflect against the walls to increase range. It has three propellers on the top to increase stability. Powered by a rotor on the top five triangles, this does take a lot of power so the walls of the machine have internal batteries covering all 20 triangles. The walls have a layer of clear cicada wing structure on the outside and a solar panel underneath that supports a battery under both. Cicada wings have a very clean structure, which will be useful because it creates a protective layer to cover the solar panels. This information needs to be stored somewhere so I think that it should have a long broadcasting range and be able to send it to the nearest “station.” If the machine crashes it will be fine, because it can always use the solar panels to collect sunlight and recharge the batteries. I think that this machine will help New Mexico and will help us turn the world around.

Most Sustainable

Humliniya Flower

Savannah Romero

Taos Magnet School and Upward Bound Math and Science, Grade 10

Design Statement: The project was made to filter water from rain and distribute it to plants in the area. The water that would be distributed would occur by a water root system that would evenly hydrate its surroundings. The structure was based on the following pollinators: Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. The bottom of the project is a dome that is made of hexagons based on bees and the honeycomb structures that they produce. The flower was based on a flower that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Both pieces of the project are colored red since it’s a color that stimulates the pollinators’ eyes the most and attracts them to the structure. This machine is an art piece but also a Bio-stem machine that helps pollinator's spread pollen and make the earth green again. What makes it an art piece is that it symbolizes pollinators and what they use to help grow other plants, aka flowers. This machine was meant to be used in dry areas such as New Mexico; the dirt here is dry and structured a certain way to where only the top layer of dirt gets watered, but the rest is dry. Plants that grow longer roots may not get all the nutrients it needs since the top layer of dirt is the only part that is receiving water. With this project, it can help us spread plant growth.

Best Biomimicry


Ashlynn DeHerrera

Milagro Middle School,Grade 8

Design Statement: My biomimicry creation is inspired by a Sugarbird. This design not only pollinates but also filters air to help reduce pollution in the air. It is powered by pollen as it flies through the air filtering out particles as it flies through the air. Now, you may be wondering how it does what it does and I'm here to explain to you that there is a filter inside of my pollen powered bird. While the bird is flying the mouth is a little open allowing air to go in. When the air goes in it causes the filter to turn, so the blades will start to spin. Once the air goes in it passes through a purifying filter inside of the bird (doesn't take long at all) the air comes out and it is all clean. The electric bird is designed after a Sugarbird. It has all of the Sugarbirds features and it also drinks pollen. Actually the bird is powered by pollen. When the bird is flying the pollen is giving it energy but when the bird is all out it lands on one of the flowers it has programmed in his/her system and drinks up. Once it is fully charged again it will take off and start to filter again. This is also the way it acts as a pollinator. The bird is made out of sustainable and recycled materials. Aluminum from cans is a very light metal. This metal is lighter than regulated metals because it is thin and less dense. The wings are made out of a recycled light fabric, recycled wires, and a little bit of wood. All these pieces are connected and once they are the bird has wings. The wings can be powered two different ways one by someone that is good with “drones'' or it can be on auto pilot. The tail is made out of feathers that have been found around on the ground and it also has a few light weight metal pieces on it. The design looks and acts like a Sugarbird, and It is less complex. The body is shaped like an oval and the head is round. The design has the same shaped feet as any other bird would have. The wings aren't as detailed but that's because with too many things on it it would be too heavy and won't be able to fly. This can actually be purchased in stores and anyone can fly it and have one. They would be having fun while cleaning the world. It also uses recycled materials so when you buy one you're filtering the pollution and cleaning up the world. So in closing, who wouldn't want to have this amazing cool thing! If they go get one at the “Pollinator Sugarbird Headquarters” they can fully customize it with color choices.

Most Innovative


Sasha Kushner & Lilith Safford

Taos High School and Upward Bound Math and Science, Grade 12

Design Statement: Our Biomachine contributes to the world of emergency medicine. The Biomachine uses only solar power through micro solar panels on its wings. It has the ability to locate wounded soldiers in combat and cauterize their wounds as well as administer stitches until they are able to receive further medical attention. This idea was inspired by our love for medicine and questions that came up between us about how soldiers get access to emergency medical help when they are not able to receive proper medical care. Butterflies are able to see the color red making them able to locate blood and wounds on soldiers in combat. The idea to use the wings as solar panels to create energy came from research on the black wings of the Rose butterfly which can absorb light and create energy. With the invention of these drones, thousands could be sent out into the field and save countless lives.

Best STEM Machine


Theo Blaustein & Brandon Mirabal

Taos Charter School, Grade 7

Design Statement: Our team has complete faith that the DREE is the machine to save New Mexico. The adaptor bee population has been suffering a rapid decrease because of this immense drought that New Mexico has been experiencing. The culprit behind the deaths is the fact that the plants New Mexico adaptor bees rely on are dying out. Such plants include the daliah, yucca, and lavender flowers. The DREE is going to help save the adaptor bee population in times of drought by using biomimicry, and high grade technology to increase plant population in areas of moisture in the adaptor bee habitat. It also assists plants in growth, therefore helping everything above in the food chain. To add on top of all of that, it helps increase biodiversity wherever the dree is launched. To sum it up you're getting four benefits in one machine. We can do all of that, and be cost efficient. The dree is packed with high grade tech that we can funnel into the 250 dollar price per DREE. That means if we can get this to be a government funded project, we could make 10,000 DREES for 2.500,000. Our DREE’s goal is to find areas of moisture within the adaptor bee habitat while in the air. Once that objective is complete, it goes down and plants a calculated ratio of seed species based on the area. Our DREE is programmed to check on the plants every two weeks to record data on the growth. Using bee pheromones, our machine can tell how many bees have been in the area since it was last there, so we can record effective data on progress. Thanks to the exoskeleton being made out of 60% carbon fiber and 40% spider web synthetic, it is very durable. We know that carbon fiber isn’t biodegradable, but New Mexico is one of the poorest States in the country. Luckily, each DREE is fitted with a tracking chip that is highly protected so that if the machine breaks, we can track it, and fix it, so we can reuse every DREE we produce. To run the battery in an eco-friendly way, we use two sources of renewable energy. We mimicked a fish gill in the way that it is shaped as well as the method it uses to capture CO2. So on each side of the machine, we have the gills where the bee stripes usually are. It captures carbon and turns the energy into an AC electric current to power our battery. Our secondary power source is located on the “legs'' of the machine: rotating blades that generate energy by spinning when the machine is in the air. Keep in mind that we have mimicked bee wings to fly the machine, not the blades. The blades are there just to generate energy. The DREE is able to see areas of moisture because of lenses that were mimicked from bee eyes. So the machine is able to detect moisture based on color; blue being areas of moisture and red being completely dry, and every color in between. Thanks to the DREE being a drone, it can make up large amounts of distance, for a machine that only weighs 377.7 grams. Since all the factors such as cost and design are so perfect, because we are fortunate to have a great team, we have no doubt in our minds that the DREE will be a huge success. If you take into consideration all the facts that have been bestowed upon you, it is now clear that the DREE will be more than capable of saving the adaptor bee population, and more, by planting seeds in areas of moisture using biomimicry, and its given durability. Since the bee and flower populations are down, we need to take action . We here at DREE Productions believe that with our innovation, we can change the world. But we can’t do it without you, so please help us save New Mexico. With future invitation, hard work and biomimicry, we can make this possible. We hope that the DREE will be an inspiration for other future tech and innovation using biomimicry. So in conclusion, we here at DREE Productions hope that you are ready to see more of us, because we’re not going away any time soon.

Best STEM System

Floating Garden

Dominique Vigil

Taos High School, Grade 10

Design Statement: My design will use biomimicry to create a sustainable machine. I am going to create a floating hydroponic- Called a “Floating Garden.” This biomachine collects and filters water. I believe this will solve water waste in gardens and attract pollinators. Using the hexagon shape from honeycomb bees, I will create a reflective shield that will attract bees and reflect larger amounts of sunlight. That material is going to be an acrylic mirror which is considered highly effective. The acrylic glass will be cut into hexagon shapes and colored, allowing the glass to be molded easily. For the base, I will be using a Sulapac (wood-based) material lined with a glass compartment—to prevent leakage. Within the base will be a natural filtration system to filter and dispense fertilizer/Carbon dioxide (algae). The valve pump that supplies the water to the plants will also have a three-layer filtration system. The first layer will consist of gravel, the second layer will incorporate cardboard; which will be used from recycled materials, and the final layer will be an ocean sponge mimicry system that filters pollutants. My biomachine can be placed above a large magnet that will give it a “floating Affect” my garden will attract bees, be self-sufficient, and recycle materials such as wood, glass, and cardboard.

Best Community Response


Grace Carmona Yong

Taos High School, Grade 10

Design Statement: My goal with Butterfabric is to help people. The pollinators that inspired my design were the butterfly and the bee. Butterflies have been discovered to have hydrophobic wings. Moreover, bees produce beeswax, which is a waterproof material. This would also help the fabric be more sustainable. Butterfabric is composed of a warm layer of cotton material on the bottom, followed by an insulating layer, then a hydrophobic layer. The hydrophobic layer is inspired by butterfly and bee designs. I was inspired to create this because of the problem of homelessness. Since it is still winter, I thought I would design a waterproof blanket that people could wear to stay warm and dry. It is big enough to cover a structure that can fit one person. If that person is living in an area with inclement weather or a cold climate, they will stay warm. Butterfabric can also be useful in helping people that are affected by natural disasters to stay warm.

Most Empathetic

The Seeing Cane

Siena Price

Taos Integrated School of the Arts, Grade 6

Design Statement: The seeing cane was inspired by bats and can specifically help people who are blind  by guiding them using a type of echolocation.  The seeing cane has this device on the bottom  of the cane that sends out a sonar. Sonar is originally used for underwater research, and sends out a sound pulse. The pulse is sent out  from something called a transducer. The sonar is able to detect fairly big objects, rather than something like a bug. After the pulse comes  back from whatever it bounced off, the pulse works like echolocation and predicts how far away the object is and what it is. Then there is  also a gps that is sound activated so you can  find where you want to go.  In the center of a transducer is  piezoelectric material. The main materials that the  piezoelectric material is made of is lead zirconium  titanate. The gps would be a regular gps except it  can be voice activated. The cane would be the  same other than the transducer at the bottom and  a device that allows the transducer to tell where  things are and what they are. The device in the  bottom of the cane that will send out a sonar  every time it is tapped on the ground, it will  see if there is anything in the way. If it does  “see” anything it will tell the person holding it.  Such as “There is a car on your left”  therefore the person would know not to  continue their walk.

Space Messengers is made possible in part by the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund for U.S. Alumni; an opportunity sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by Partners of the Americas. This project is supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts

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