Biomimicry - Natural Rocket Science

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The natural world is abundant with sustainable solutions to the many-fold challenges of survival: from keeping cool to preventing  the spread of disease, these are also problems that scientists and engineers struggle to solve on a daily basis. Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature. The objective of this lesson is to teach students the value of studying nature in order to solve difficult engineering problems - introducing 3D printing as a transformative technology that unlocks the door to solutions that were in the past prohibited by the limitations of traditional manufacturing. 

The lesson pivots about the process of researching and designing a novel aerodynamic profile for a rocket nose cone, based on drag-reducing forms found in nature. The design task is set in OnShape, a free cloud-based parametric CAD application, in which a template has been prepared that only requires students to draw a profile and a completed 3d model of the nose cone will be automatically generated - making the task accessible even to students with no CAD experience. You can find the template here, feel free to have a go yourself! 

The nose cone and tail fins are then ready to be fit onto an air rocket constructed with off-the-shelf PVC piping, for launching and testing in a follow-up lesson. The template is set up to generate parts that fit onto a 40mm OD pipe, but due to the parametric nature of OnShape this can very easily be adapted to what you have to hand - just change the pipe cross section. The STL files included show 3 example nose cones and an example tail fin, with an example set based on the hydrodynamic forms of the Antarctic Minke whale. The printed parts you can see were very kindly printed on a Form 2 in Tough without supports (nose cones) and Grey with supports (fins) by David at Formlabs Berlin. Thanks Dave!

This lesson plan was a submission in the Create to Educate lesson plan contest with MatterHackers, sponsored by Ultimaker

Design Files

File Size

Biomimicry Rocket Science - slides and design task.pdf
3.62 MB
Biomimicry Rocket Science - lesson plan.pdf
76.1 KB
Nosecone v3-2 metric.stl
2.72 MB
nosecone v1-2 metric.stl
816 KB
minke fin 2 metric.stl
166 KB
Nosecone v2-2 metric.stl
661 KB


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