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Biologically Inspired Design


Be Your Own Hero

Background Research

“...the more serious crimes –murder, rape/sexual assault, robbery and driving while impaired– still happen more at night.” (US News & World Report)


“...metropolitan areas have 79 percent more violent crimes than other American cities and 300 percent more violence than rural areas.” (Glaeser and Sacerdote)


“The clusterwink snail flickers its shell with a bluish-green a defense mechanism to dazzle and confuse predators.” (Edith Widder) “Periphylla periphylla jellyfish...use the luminescence as a distraction.” (MentalItch)


“When a flashbang detonates, it… releases a burst of light of around 7 million candela. A common candle emits light of about 1 candela of intensity.”


“flashbangs cause an effect called ‘flash blindness’ which is due to overloading the light receptors in the eye and causing a significant afterimage.” (Bhend and Tyler)



In the dark depths of the ocean, bioluminescence can be used to attract prey or mates. However, the clusterwink snail and the tubeshoulder fish both use light as a defense mechanism. When threatened, both species use light to stun and confuse predators. The clusterwink snail will glow intensely while the tubeshoulder fish, true to its name, will shoot bioluminescent gel out of its shoulders. In the dark depths of the ocean, a sudden flash of light is capable of giving the organism the distraction it needs to escape.


Similarly, we have all had our retinas burned by a camera flash when taking a picture at night. Nova would repeatedly project a light as bright as a flash omni-directionally in an effort to stun the would be robber, allowing the user the chance to escape unscathed.

An important distinction to make is that while a flashbang grenade is often used offensively, Nova is a defensive device that allows the user to run away from a dangerous situation rather than escalating it.

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“Red meets yellow, dangerous fellow. Red meets black, friend of Jack.” Impersonating an officer may be a felony, but in nature mimicry is a key to survival. The benign Scarlet Kingsnake closely resembles the deadly Coral Snake. A plagiarism to this degree allows the Scarlet Kingsnake to survive by fooling predators such as the Redtail Hawk into thinking they are venomous. In a similar sense, the 5-Oh will feature flashing red and blue police lights when deployed to fool potential thieves into thinking the alarm has been raised and that the police are en route.


The metaphor will be extended even further by broadcasting sound clips of police chatter with phrases such as, “Robbery in progress. All units converge on this beacon’s location”. This example of mimicry is founded in the assumption that thieves would prefer to avoid a potential altercation with the police and leave the user alone. After all, what is more threatening than impersonating the predator of a predator?



Be Your Own Hero

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Be Your Own Hero

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All 3 ideas were well received. Andrew Scialabba had the brilliant idea of making it into a full system that is incorporated into your backpack or perhaps a certain backpack that you take studying with you when you know safety may be a concern. Robby recommended that I investigate avalanche backpacks.


Things to note that I did not make clear enough in the ideas above: Nova is not impersonating an officer. Doing so would be a felony. NOVA gives the user a chance to run away while 5-OH makes the thief run away.


Accumulating all this feedback, I decided to pursue a combination of Nova and 5-OH either as a backpack or as a system which can be attached to an existing backpack. The first line of defense would be 5-Oh with its sirens, police lights, and cop chatter. If 5-Oh fails to dissuade the thief, then the second line of defense would be Nova. The user would have a remote that they could discretely press to activate the strobe light feature of the LED lights.


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