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What is the
Bionic Learning Network?

After investing considerable effort in the subject of bionics since the start of the 1990s, Festo founded the Bionic Learning Network in 2006. The Bionic Learning Network is a collaboration by Festo with renowned universities, research departments, and small innovative companies. With the Bionic Learning Network, Festo leverages a “bionic” approach to solving problems in the automation industry. The Bionic Learning Network is closely linked to the innovative processes within our learning company, Festo Didactic, and demonstrates our commitment to technical education and training.

Click here to learn more about the Bionic Learning Network. Click here to explore their bionics projects!

Bionic Thinking

Discover what can be learned from animals and how, for example, what the Bionic Learning Network team at Festo has learned can be applied in industry

How We Use the Engineering Design Process

Engineers use the engineering design process to guide them as they solve problems or create products. The first step in the design process is to identify the needs: who needs what because why. At this stage, it helps to learn from the experiences of others, so performing some background research on existing solutions to similar problems is very important. The next step in the process is to brainstorm and develop possible solutions, and then select the best solution after analyzing each to determine which meets the design requirements. An operating version of the solution (or prototype) is built, tested, and evaluated. The design process then involves multiple iterations and redesigns of the solution. Testing, redesigning, and changes are all part of the process of creating the final product.

During all phases of the design process, it is important that our team members remain confident and do not get discouraged, especially in the early prototyping stages when we share our initial designs with managers and other colleagues.

View the video clip to see some of the phases of the engineering design process in action by our engineers during the development of the BionicANTs.

Our Interdisciplinary Team

In addition to our innovative “bionic” approach to solving problems, collaboration between the interdisciplinary team members of the Bionic Learning Network is essential for our success.

The Bionic Learning Network’s core team consists of engineers, designers, computer scientists, biologists, and robotics specialists. Our team also collaborates with external partners from all over the world! This interdisciplinary approach offers new perspectives and inspiration. We learn from each other, gaining an understanding of how the different disciplines work together and interconnect.

Teams differ in relation to the tasks they are trying to achieve and the role each team member plays. Our teams perform a variety of tasks, from generating innovative ideas to problem solving to designing new products. When our team works together on bionics projects, each of us contributes to the team’s effectiveness because we use our strengths and manage our weaknesses by fulfilling team roles correctly.

In addition to picking team members who are qualified for the roles they will fill, sometimes focusing on certain personality traits can help build the proper team for a specific project. When picking an interdisciplinary team for a bionics project, we ask “Who are the best individuals for the team?”.

Even though our team members are scientists and possess similar personality traits, we look for individuals who are stronger in certain qualities when building our interdisciplinary team. We designate the core team roles as “the builder”, “the analyzer”, “the observer”, and “the creator”.

The personality test for team building can also be done in the classic way with paper and pencil. To record your selections on paper, click here.

Using Nature to Help Create Teams

Do the test and create teams with the help of nature

Asking team members to take a personality test is one way of identifying characteristics when building teams. We created a fun way to mix this process up by using nature to help classify personality traits as “the builder”, “the analyzer”, “the observer”, or “the creator”. These are the core roles on our Bionic Learning Network interdisciplinary team.

You can use this activity to see which role fits you and your teammates best when you build your core team.

On each screen, you are presented with two animals. Discuss the characteristics of each animal. What do they have in common? What are their differences?

After the discussion, click the animal you like best. Some of the characteristics and how we rated each are revealed. We didn’t identify what the ratings are based on because this is part of the fun activity! At the end, your personality trait is revealed!

The individual roles in interdisciplinary teams

With the test result you can now look up here what role you are and learn more about what skills and competencies are needed for successful teamwork at best.

The builder

“The builder” dives right in and gets things done! He or she is creative and has strong communication and problem-solving skills that can be used to develop equipment and devices.

Whether developing a concept or designing a product, “the builder” uses a variety of tools. Most products consist of different parts made from diverse materials, and these parts are sometimes part of an assembly with each part having its own function. The builder must therefore understand functional requirements and material characteristics in order to successfully design a product to function as intended.

“The builder” plays an important role during the prototyping phase of product design. Prototype production typically falls into two processes: additive manufacturing, such as 3D-printed parts, and subtractive manufacturing, or CNC-machined parts. When developing a prototype, “the builder” must understand the various tools available and the many processes used for producing different parts within a design.

You can act as “the builder” and create a prototype using simple tools, materials, and components. What’s important is that your prototype helps you move from concept to reality.

 

The analyzer

“The analyzer” is very thought oriented, a great organizer, and extremely precise in his or her work. “The analyzer” is always asking questions. He or she can figure out problems and search for the facts.

On our Bionic Learning Network’s team, “the analyzer” is the person that brings our design concepts to life. This team member understands that technical products have advanced functions thanks to the combination of electronics and software applications.

Think of today’s smart devices. They consist of electronics, hardware, and communication capabilities that allow us to connect, share, and interact with each other and other smart devices. But what makes them smart? Someone must program them while also understanding the constraints of the hardware and the interface requirements to components and the end user.

Depending on the hardware and the functionality, different program languages are used. C++, Java, and Python are some of the languages used by developers for building solutions.
If you want to experience tasks similar to what our “analyzer” team member does, you can start by using graphical-based programming tools, or open-source platforms that have their own software editor (like Arduino), and begin building your own electronics projects.

The observer

“The observer” has a strong desire to understand the environment and to understand the strategies used by living things. Research is an integral part of his or her role on the team. During the development process, generating and analyzing knowledge is key to problem solving. Asking the right questions, as well as defining problems, allows the team to design and redesign solutions and prototypes correctly. These steps are part of the engineering design process used to guide engineering teams as they solve problems.

On our team, “the observer” is consistently documenting our progress, including all testing results, pass or fail. This allows us to make improvements along the way. Videos, drawings, and reports are all part of the process required to successfully develop our bionics projects.

You too can act as “the observer” by researching the Internet or conducting experiments, and then documenting and presenting your findings.

 

The creator

Imagination ignites creativity! “The creator” is imaginative and inspired. He or she has the ability to design and create what was previously imagined.

The universe inspires “the creator”. A creative person genuinely sees things differently compared to the average person. Their mind is a non-stop machine fueled by intense curiosity. On our team, “the creator” first pitches an idea during a brainstorming session. Together the team begins analyzing possible solutions and then selects the best one that meets the design requirements.If you are always asking “what if?” and “why not?”, you may fit best in the “creator” role on a team.

Try collecting your ideas, identifying the best from your list, and evaluating it to see if it meets your intended purpose. Then you can design some simple prototypes and present these to your friends or family. Remember, any idea is nothing without realization. And some are like small plants that can easily be trampled on by others who cannot imagine that one day they could grow.