Biomimicry Institute Reveals Winners of 2021 Youth Design Challenge

Winners build interdisciplinary solutions to address deforestation, clean energy, climate change and more

Missoula, MT, May 25, 2021 — Today the Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit organization that empowers people to create nature-inspired solutions for pressing design problems, announced the winners of the 2021 Youth Design Challenge. The Youth Design Challenge, now in its fourth year, serves as a bridge from core concepts to advanced project-focused STEM learning for middle and high school students across the world. The Biomimicry Institute has bestowed awards across five categories, all of which speak to the inherent strengths of the different solutions.

The Youth Design Challenge introduces and immerses students in biomimicry—the practice of looking to nature for inspiration to solve design problems in a regenerative way. Students, along with teachers and coaches, engage in design-focused and project-based learning to solve a problem they’ve identified. Solutions are generated through an iterative design process as students engage with nature from a new perspective.

“This year’s ten winners are truly representative of the myriad of solutions that can be addressed through nature-inspired design: shelters to protect vulnerable communities from flooding, new materials to lessen energy consumption, and new tools for carbon sequestration,” said Rosanna Ayers, Director of Youth Education at the Biomimicry Institute. “We are proud of all of the students who participated in the Youth Design Challenge, and we are grateful for the educators who worked hard to apply this new perspective to advanced STEM learning.”

In a world with increasingly complex problems and systems, biomimicry provides a lens for tomorrow’s leaders to create sustainable solutions for the benefit of people and the planet. By transcending the walls of the classroom, students gain hands-on experience in STEM-focused learning, and educators have an interdisciplinary platform to connect subjects to one another, further inspiring students’ curiosity and ingenuity for years to come. All of the submitted projects addressed a wide range of problems, leveraged unique nature-inspired viewpoints, and showed the passion and commitment of young students to embrace the planet they will inherit.

The Youth Design Challenge is open to middle- and high school-age students across the globe. To learn more about the Youth Design Challenge, and how to get involved, visit

The winning projects of the Youth Design Challenge are awarded among five categories:

  • Naturalist Award: For comprehensive research into biological models, thorough explanations of their natural history and strategies, and selection of appropriate organism models to inform the design.
  • Changemaker Award: For an innovative design proposal that could potentially move forward in future research and development and/or would have a significant impact if implemented.
  • Design Cycle Award: For perseverance in the iterative design cycle including exploration of multiple design ideas, using creative techniques to test potential solutions, and/or getting feedback from diverse experts and interested community members to inform design revisions.
  • Problem Definition Award: For systems thinking, thoroughness, and creativity in researching, identifying, and defining a problem to solve.
  • Storyteller Award: For an engaging presentation of the required application materials that creatively and accurately captures the team’s innovation process and learning journey.

There is no hierarchy to the awards, all of these teams are winners! To get to the award panel, teams had to perform well across all categories in a preliminary review process. In many cases it was difficult for the judges to decide which award each team would receive, because they were all strong in multiple areas.

In addition to being recognized as winners, each team also received an award of $500 to be donated to a charity of their choosing. The teams chose charities focused on conservation or sustainability, further showing these students’ incredible commitment to the planet and environment.

Click here to meet the winners.