Youth Design Challenge Enters its 5th Year: See What’s New

Originally published by the Biomimicry Institute

Calling all middle and high school educators! The Youth Design Challenge opened registration today for the 2021–22 program cycle, and you can gain access to engaging instructional models aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) here.

If you’re new to us, the Youth Design Challenge serves as a bridge from core concepts to advanced project-focused learning for students. We equip learners with the tools they need to solve the world’s pressing problems using the teachings of nature.

Our challenge provides a framework for educators of all types to introduce biomimicry as a lens for exploration and problem solving — within and beyond the classroom. It sparks curiosity and ingenuity in middle and high school students, turning learners into makers.

We believe addressing our planet’s most pressing issues requires a new approach, and the Youth Design Challenge was created to share that with students and educators across the globe.

New for 2021–22 Challenge Year

We have been hard at work on using educator feedback to update the Youth Design Challenge and want teachers to know there have been quite a few exciting changes to the new curriculum. One of the significant changes this year is that the curriculum will be available to all educators without sign up. This means all educators that are wanting to incorporate biomimicry into their classrooms will now be able to do so without registering.

Another change is to the MIMIC lessons. We feel the updated lessons have a smoother transition and there are clearer support opportunities throughout. This was done to give educators an easier way to incorporate biomimicry into their classrooms. Each section of the MIMIC framework has been updated with educators and students in mind.

The 2022 challenge will open up the scope to all of the Sustainable Design Goals (SDGs) and let students choose which goal they would like to pursue based on their interest. We wanted to give choices on whether climate change was the most pressing issue in students’ immediate communities or if there were other problems for which they would be more inspired to create solutions. The renewed version of the YDC will allow students to design with all areas of sustainable goals available to them. Climate change is used as model design focus, but if you and your students want to submit a project focused on solving other local and global challenges, the practice of biomimicry will support those designs as well.

For educators, we want the website to be more accessible to you (and hope to further establish an open pathway for feedback so we can continue to hear what you and your students need to be successful in creating biomimetic design solutions). Along with changes to the curriculum itself, you will find that there will be a revamped website. Educators will now have quick access to everything the curriculum offers, as well as biomimicry resources. Newer, more streamlined pages will make it easier to navigate through our website.

The Youth Design Challenge began in 2018, and we are proud of the previous challenge participants and winners. We are also very grateful to the many coaches that make it possible each year. Some of the notable winners from the previous year in the high school category included The Current Cleanser, a contaminant filtration system that was inspired by fish gills, and The Black Carbon Keeper, a device that captures black carbon particulate emissions from wood stoves that was inspired by bees, sea cucumbers, and fiddlers crabs.

Winners from the middle school category included the Adopto-Panel, a solar panel designed to maintain efficiency (even at high temperatures) that was inspired by leaves and the Oriental hornet, and Project RED, a maple seed inspired device that combats deforestation by making it easier to plant trees. Find more inspiration from previous winners here.

The value of the Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge is clear. We invite you to join this opportunity for accelerated learning to help us go beyond the curriculum and apply students’ learning to issues that matter to them personally. The Challenge is designed to encourage students to solve real world problems through a rigorous approach to learning.

We look forward to seeing how you introduce the Youth Design Challenge into your classroom and offer a new lens for your students that encourages them to engage with and learn from nature.

To get started, visit If you have questions about upcoming professional development opportunities, please email

The Biomimicry Institute empowers people to create nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet.