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Outdoor Economy

How does Outdoor Recreation Inspire Scientific Discovery and Innovation?

 

BenFranklinDuplessis

Did Ben Franklin discover Kite-boarding?

“When Ben Franklin was 9, his eldest brother was lost at sea, still Ben never lost his love for the water.

On a pleasant day, while young Ben was flying a kite, he decided to go for a swim.  Still wanting to fly his kite but reluctant to leave the water, it occurred to him he need not forgo one diversion for the other.  While in the water he let the kite pull him across the pond without the least fatigue and the greatest pleasure imaginable!”

(“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv)

Could this event have led Ben Franklin to discover electricity and kite boarding!?

Ben Franklin did spend a lot of time playing outside as a child and was insatiably curious about what he encountered. Franklin’s curiosity would later inspire him to write theories about electricity, weather, ocean currents, and other discoveries that influenced many of the innovators who would follow.

Many scientists and inventors that have led to the technology and inventions we take for granted today have been inspired by their time recreating outside and observing nature.  Nikola Tesla was known to take long walks and spend time at the park contemplating his many theories.  Much of the modern wireless technology was developed from his ideas. 

How does Outdoor Recreation in natural areas inspire innovation?

Outdoor recreation in natural areas has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being.  According to a number of studies conducted over the last 25 years, unstructured physical activity in the outdoors inspires natural curiosity, improves social and emotional development, enhances perception and motor skills, builds creativity, encourages self-expression, and develops appreciation for the environment.

In a Janaury 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Burdette and Whitaker show that free play outdoors promotes problem solving and decision making, which is one of the highest executive functions.  Several small studies along with surveys of parents and teachers have shown that free play also reduces attention deficit disorder and improves focus.

Our experiences shape the way we view the world.

Children that play outside see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem and are exposed to natural laws. Children that spend time in the natural world are less fearful of it.

Many people in the developed world spend most of their time disconnected from the outside world.  From their home, to the car, to school or the office and back, people do everything they can to keep a barrier between them and nature.  The average American child spends less than 30 minutes in outdoor unstructured play.  Studies have shown that the sedentary, plugged in lifestyle may be responsible for the 200% rise in obesity and trepidation in the outdoors. A 2009 study showed that 62% of children surveyed in developed countries had a fear of natural events such as snow, thunder, and rain.  Inventors like Franklin and Tesla embraced natural events as opportunities to gain a better understanding of the world.

Outdoor Recreation is exercise for your brain.

Physical activity in natural areas has also been shown to increase attentiveness and greatly improve the brains ability to learn and retain information. Physical activity causes the brain to function more efficiently through a process called neurogenesis, where new brain cells are produced stimulating BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which has been nicknamed “fertilizer for the brain”.

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning” according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  Some of the highest performing schools in math and science in the world are incorporating physical activity as part of the curriculum. “Exercise and the Brain” has been the focus of several courses led by Wendy Suzuki, associate professor of neuroscience at New York University.

Outdoor recreation is not just Childsplay.

Canadian researchers found that physical activity greatly improved the cognitive function and physical well-being of elderly adults analyzed over two to five years in a 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An understanding of nature is being encouraged by many businesses.  Companies such as IBM, GE, Boeing, Airbus, Nike, Levi’s, Johnson & Johnson and others are now encouraging their engineers to spend time observing nature in order to design the products of the future. The study of natural systems has led to incredible nature inspired innovations on desalinating water, architectural design, powerful adhesives, medicines, aviation design, and extremely strong and lightweight materials.

 

766px-Kitesurfer_in_closeup_exmouth_devon_arpOutdoor recreation has also been shown to reduce employee stress and stress related absences causing an increase in productivity and morale in the work place.

“Let My People Go Surfing” was the attitude and book title of Yvon Choinand, CEO of Patagonia. He attributes Patagonia’s increase in sales from $20 million to $100 million from the mid 1980s to 1990 to the culture of happy, motivated people that worked for the company and often went recreating outdoors during lunch breaks and weekends.

Whether raising a child, improving grades, stimulating a business, or developing the next genius, breakthrough invention, it might be time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Scientific Discoveries and Inventions Inspired by Nature

There are amazing products, systems, and technologies that have been invented as a result of studying nature.  We learn a tremendous amount from observing the natural world and understanding how it works. These designs have been echoed in many different ways.  Here are just a few products that have come from nature’s design.  

King Fisher 800px-Shinkansen

The Bullet Train

The Japanese Bullet train takes its design from the beak of the King Fisher and the plummage of the owl.  It makes it one of the fastest, most efficient passenger trains in the world.  This same inspiration is being used in various aircraft as well.

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Mullusc superglue

So if mussels and acorn barnacles can attach to to the side of rocks and concrete pilings and be able to withstand powerful tidal flows and waves of salt water, why can’t we make a glue that can do the same?  Well that is just what scientist are doing now. They are trying to figure out the chemical structure of the that  extremely powerful mullusc glue to use for practical human applications.

 

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Velcro

 

Velcro

In 1948 a Swiss electrical engineer named George de Mestral came up with the idea for velcro  when he was hunting in the Alps and began to examine the burrs sticking to his clothes from burdock.  He noticed the hundreds of hooks  when he examined the burrs under a microscope.  After several years of trial and error, he managed to come up with the design we know today and commercialize it.

 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Uspn

gecko

Gecko Tape

Manchester University Scientists came up with the design by studying the feet of Geckos. The tiny hair-like structures called setae allow the lizards to climb walls and ceilings. The tape uses the same type of hairs and has become a popular alternative to adhesive

 

 

 

 

 

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Bat Sonar Navigation inspires new products for the blind

By studying how bats communicate, scientists and inventors are creating new products for the blind including canes and sunglasses that communicate the distance to the user.  These new fascinating tools will revolutionize how the blind interpret their surroundings and may open new opportunities for  other inventions and drone robots in the future.        

We still have a lot to learn from nature.

What other inventions can we come up with from studying the genius of nature’s design?

Also View:

Nature Inspired Inventions and Engineering for Aviation

Top Scientist Engineers and Entrepreneurs Look to Nature for Inspiration and Guidance 

 


RESOURCE GUIDE: Scientific Discovery

Some of the greatest innovations of our time have been inspired by nature.

Food sources, medicines, alternative energy sources, textiles, adhesives,  and architectural design are just a few examples of  incredible break-throughs that have occurred as a result of studying the natural world.

There is a lot more that can be done.

New technologies are constantly being discovered that  spin off into new companies and revolutionize existing ones.

We will keep tabs on the most exciting innovations that have come from studying natural resources and trace back the methods of how they came about.

RESOURCE GUIDE SUB-TOPICS:

Scientific Discovery

Some of the greatest innovations of our time have been inspired by nature.

Food sources, medicines, alternative energy sources, textiles, adhesives,  and architectural design are just a few examples of  incredible break-throughs that have occurred as a result of studying the natural world.

There is a lot more that can be done also.

New technologies are constantly being discovered that  spin off into new companies and revolutionize existing ones.

We will keep tabs on the most exciting innovations that have come from studying natural resources and trace back the methods of how they came about.
 

 

The Millennial Generation Holds the Future of the Outdoor Economy

The future of the outdoor economy is going to be largely determined by the “Millennial Generation” and their interest in the outdoors. It will be critical for outdoor entrepreneurs to take time to learn how the next generation views outdoor education, trips and travel in order to prepare for the trends.

Girl Contemplating

Who are the Millennials?

Definitions and names for the Millennial Generation vary. The name “Millennial Generation” usually refers to people born between the 1980s and early 2000s (also called Generation Y). Millennials are often discussed in general as individuals in developed countries that have grown up immersed in technology and have experienced dramatic changes in the economy. Some studies have shown that the rising cost of education and living expenses may have caused many to return home to their parents for a period of time which has led some media to refer to them as the Boomerang or Peter Pan Generation. Studies have also shown that a large number of Millennials often look for flexibility in work and social responsibilities. Millennials are also characterized as confident, self expressive and open to new ideas.

Although these sweeping generalizations may be true for a large segment of the Millennial Generation, studies have shown that they are far from a homogeneous monolith. There are wide variations in individuals of the same generation within immigrants, minorities, geography, gender, economic status and those with and without children. One thing is certain, this generation is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Guy in Canoe

Millennials and the Outdoors?

For most Millennials in developed countries, computers, smartphones, and social media have become part of their daily lives and has shaped their view of the world. Many youth that have grown up with an indoor, plugged in lifestyle tend to be hyperconnected to social networks and often feel disconnected from the natural world. A study by the Nature Conservancy shows that 88% of American youth say they spend time on-line every day while less than 40% participate in hiking, fishing, or natural areas on a weekly basis. Research by IDEO for the “Retail of the Future Project” has shown that many Millennials refer to the “outdoors” as places near their home where they can interact socially. Still, there are numbers of Millennials that have enthusiastically taken to outdoor recreation. Numerous reports show that Millennials are more interested in experiences rather than collecting things. Out of the millions of people who participate in outdoor activities, the largest groups were Baby Boomers and Millennials. Studies show that a large number of Millennials are interested in adventure travel, especially with friends. There are strong groups of young outdoor enthusiasts such as Outdoor Nation (ON), a non-profit founded by a community of Millennials who are dedicated to reconnecting members of their generation to the outdoors by hosting summits, awarding grants, leading outdoor outings, and working with youth.

Why should outdoor entrepreneurs be interested in Millennials?

Millennials are currently the largest generation of consumers with more than 80 million in their ranks.  There is a tremendous opportunity for outdoor entrepreneurs to grow the outdoor economy instead of competing for market share.. They are larger than the Baby Boomers and 20% larger than Generation X. According to a recent report by Barkleys, Millennials currently make up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases and have a combined purchasing power of over a trillion dollars. Their influence on the outdoor economy will be larger than anyone else in the next century and cannot be ignored. They can easily get hooked on adventure and exploration once they have been exposed to it. There is huge, untapped potential to reconnect this generation to the world that they have inherited. Outdoor entrepreneurs that address the needs and motivations of Millennials will be in the best position to succeed.

Why should Millennials be interested in the outdoors?

Outdoor education can help develop skills that are highly sought after in the job market. According to a 2011 study, companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on outdoor experiential education designed to develop leadership skills, teamwork skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills and trust (Brymer, Gray, & Cotton 2011). Many companies are seeking individuals who are environmentally literate to develop new innovations in science, engineering, and technology. The field of “Biomimicry” has also been gaining considerable momentum over the last century. Outdoor recreation itself is a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow rapidly as one of the largest industries in the world. Also, numerous studies have shown that physical activity in outdoor settings can greatly improve one’s mental and physical well being. There are opportunities to connect with the outdoor community of vibrant individuals who tend to live healthy lifestyles and have a well-developed awareness of the world. Outdoor recreation is also a whole lot of fun where one can build lasting memories with people they care about!

How to reach Millennials?

Although there are large variations in the Millennial Generation, there are some things that are fairly consistent. Getting online and social media savvy is a must. Studies show that Millennials often plan ahead for travel and look to their friends and social networks before purchasing. Price and convenience tend to play the largest role in their buying decisions according to some studies, although quality and service remain high priorities. Opportunities to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way are important to most Millennials. Unique experiences that are fun and enjoyable are appealing to them. Millennials are more likely to align themselves with companies that support a cause they believe in than any other generation before them. They are well informed and able to conduct research at the touch of their fingertips. Also, educating parents on the benefits of outdoor recreation remains important not just for the Millennials who have moved back home under the influence of their parents, but also because many Millennials have become parents themselves. A 2012 study showed that the 31 million Millennial parents tend to be conscious of health, the environment, social causes, saving money, and raising kids with strong family values.

The main thing to remember when reaching out to this generation is to speak honestly and conversationally do not insult their intelligence. It will be important to communicate the mutual benefits for the outdoor economy and for the Millennial Generation and the generations that they will influence.

 

Ref:

Live Science:  Millennials Generation

Barkley: American Millennials 

Nature.org:  Kids in Nature 

Outdoor Industry Research Files

Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

Biomimicry

Outdoor Nation

Outdoor Industry 

Benefits of Environmental Education

Experiential Training for Leadership Development

Adventure Travel News: Outdoor Retail

Entrepreneur Magazine: If You Want Millennials to Love You, Market to their Mothers

 

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