Incorporating engineering into lifesciences

Fish Ladder, Bonneville Dam, OR

What are some good activities and lessons to incorporate engineering into biology/life science?
– K., Connecticut

There are several websites that will give you lesson plans to incorporate engineering into all topics in science. Search the NSTA Learning Center ( for ideas and check my collection which you may find useful: .

The possible end products of engineering design are: theoretical plans; models; list of procedures; and, finally, prototypes or actual working designs. Here are a few possible design projects that come to mind loosely organized by engineering disciplines.

Civil Engineering:

  • Migration corridors for different species. Start with a case study on how engineers help a species safely migrate across roadways, pipelines, dams and other human-made barriers.
  • Irrigation systems to minimize erosion.
  • Campgrounds which have a zero-carbon footprint and are ecologically friendly.
  • Waste handling systems

Electrical Engineering:

  • Use geographic data to place a hydroelectric dam in the most advantageous and least disruptive location for an ecosystem and watershed.


  • Traps to safely capture organisms.
  • Reclaiming plastics from oceans
  • Biomimicry: construct something using features found in nature.


  • Artificial limbs and organs for animals or humans. This also allows you to incorporate 3D printers for prototyping.
  • Use computer probes to collect data on heart rate, oxygen, and more.


  • Systems to protect jets and airports from birds.
  • Collect environmental data using drones or weather balloons.


  • Use microprocessors like Arduino or Raspberry Pi and program sensors to collect physical data on habitats, aquariums, terrariums, and more.
  • Create enclosed habitats or greenhouses that collect data and respond to changing conditions.

Hope this helps!


Photo credit: Don Graham via Wikimedia Commons

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1 Response to Incorporating engineering into lifesciences

  1. Gabe Kraljevic says:

    Since submitting this blog NSTA has released “Engineering in the Life Sciences, 9–12”, available in print and/or electronically. You can find it in the NSTA Science Store and download a sample chapter.

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