Engineers in the 21st century can no longer isolate themselves and must be prepared to work across disciplinary, cultural, political, and economic boundaries to meet challenges facing the US and the world. Recently, a greater emphasis is being placed on understanding social, economic and environmental impacts of engineered solutions. Undergraduate education must train students to not only solve engineering challenges that transcend disciplinary boundaries, but also communicate, transfer knowledge, and collaborate across technical and non-technical boundaries. One approach to achieving this goal is through introducing bio-inspired design in the engineering curriculum. Bio-inspired design encourages learning from nature to generate innovative designs for man-made technical challenges that are more economic, efficient and sustainable than ones conceived entirely from first principles. This paper reviews the literature pertaining to current approaches to teaching bio-inspired design in and engineering curriculum curriculum at different institutions as well as the essential competencies of the 21st century engineering. At James Madison University a Concept-Knowledge Theory instructional approach was adopted for teaching sophomore engineering design students bio-inspired design to foster many of the 21st century competencies. A pilot study was conducted to demonstrate that the 21st century competencies can be targeted and achieved. The results of study are presented, and the significance and implications of teaching bio-inspired design in an engineering curriculum are discussed.

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