A hands-on introduction to biomimicry and eco-design, an innovative teaching method at IMT Nord Europe


Professors at IMT Nord Europe have developed a distance learning course to provide students in preparatory classes with a hands-on introduction to the challenges of eco-design, biomimicry and manufacturing.

Second-year students at IMT Nord Europe (L2 program) have not yet chosen their future Engineering specialization. As such, “elective” modules aim to give them an overview of different topics.“Our idea was to address three cross-cutting, highly topical aspects in materials sciences: eco-design, meaning how to design parts while minimizing their environmental impact; biomimicry, which involves looking to nature for inspiration; and knowledge of manufacturing processes through 3D printing,” says Dmytro Vasiukov, research professor at IMT Nord Europe and co-designer of the module with professors Abderrahmane Ayadi and Sébastien Charlon.

This module is divided into two parts. First, students use online resources to acquire foundational knowledge: mechanical design software, principles of eco-design and biomimicry, manufacturing processes etc. The next stage is more hands-on. Working in groups of 5 or 6, students design their own mechanical parts, then choose the most suitable manufacturing method.“The teaching team manufactures, tests, then grades the proposed parts, based on the criteria of mechanical strength, saving in raw materials and manufacturability,” explains Dmytro Vasiukov. In the final session, the groups must find examples of biomimetic inspiration in various industrial sectors and give a presentation that is graded by the other students, “which makes the activity very motivating,” says the research professor.

This module has been running for two years, and feedback has been very positive. “Students are excited about the idea of making their own part and obtaining an experimental assessment of its performance,” he says, with satisfaction. If the health situation allows, next year Dmytro Vasiukov would like to further involve the students in the manufacturing and testing phases, by opening the doors of a laboratory to them.

This is an educational innovation project submitted for the 2021 IMT Teaching Awards.

Illustrator: Lionel Tarchala