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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Birds of a Feather

Learn about feathers and how nature can be a great source of inspiration in this fun STEM activity!

Materials Needed

  • Item with VELCRO® Brand fastener
  • Magnifying glass
  • Recyclables and other objects from around the home
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Turkey/bird feather (or other large feather)

At-Home and Classroom Instructions

Gather a turkey/bird feather (or other large feather) from your local craft store and check out the detail of the design under a magnifying glass. The soft, feathery part extending out from the stem of the feather has barbs (like fishing hooks) with tiny hooklets. These barbs and hooks attach to each other, holding the strands of the feather together, making it smooth and retaining its shape even in windy conditions.

This barb and hook structure is similar to the VELCRO® Brand fastener, the design of which was inspired by nature! National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee George de Mestral went on a walk, and while pulling burrs from his jacket, he began to think about how burrs could stick to clothing and his dog’s fur. Upon further investigation with a microscope, de Mestral discovered that there were tiny hooks that entangled themselves in the loops of fabric and fur. This allowed the seedpod to catch a free ride on the fur of passing animals. This discovery inspired de Mestral to design a unique, two-sided fastener just like VELCRO® Brand! One side was made up of stiff hooks like the burrs, while the other side had soft loops like fabric or fur. Check out the VELCRO® Brand fastener under the magnifying glass, too!

Your Task:

What might you build that is inspired by nature? Will it be able to attach one object to another? With the help of an adult, gather scissors, tape and recyclables from around the house or classroom to build with. Draw a sketch of your ideas and then start creating your prototype!

Looking for more STEM activities?

Check out more engaging and exciting STEM activities on our blog and on our Camp Invention Facebook page!

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