Inside Out: UF Undergraduates Using Leonardo and Dragonflies to Teach K-12 Students

Julio Quinones

Authors:  Julio Quinones, Lillie Rooney, Bernard Mingo, Patricia Perez, Jake Freedman, Maria De Vecchi, Marina Ascunce

Faculty Mentor:  Marina Ascunce

College:  College of Agricultural and Life Sciences


Leonardo da Vinci’s view of the science of flight through his observations of birds and insects is the inspiration of this newly developed interdisciplinary Course on Arts, Science and Education (CASE). For this CASE 2020, our theme is “Leonardo’s mechanical dragonfly and the evolution of flight in insects”. Students are learning how to use art technology such as 3D printing to print insects, the physics and mechanics of dragonfly flight, and the evolution of insect flight. The 3D models of real dragonflies are compared with Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical dragonfly machine. Then, students are using that information to create and conduct hands-on outreach educational activities with K-12 students at local schools. This service learning approach allow us to share what we learn inside UF to the outside local community. Our goal is to inspire current and future college students to be inventors. Because dragonflies are being used to develop biologically-inspired Micro Air Vehicles, this course will provide the students the opportunity to think broadly and foster in them an unlimited way of approaching scientific questions such as insect flight. As one of the University of Florida statements says: “We see things not as they are, but as they could be.”

Poster Pitch

Click the video below to view the student's poster pitch.


Click the image to enlarge.
12 Responses
  1. Marina Ascunce

    Thank you for visiting our poster. We are holding an open zoom virtual presentation, please join us using the link below.

    Join Zoom Meeting

    Meeting ID: 713 717 503
    Password: iris2020

    If you are interested in our CASE course and want to volunteer “virtually” to teach middle school students about Arts and Science, please email Dr. Ascunce (, we are planning to start our virtual visits the second week of April 2020 and continue over the summer as well, so there are going opportunities.
    Also, we are planning to develop a new course on Arts and Science for Summer B.
    Dr. Ascunce

  2. Tarolyn Plumley

    Beautiful poster! As an entomology major myself its awesome to see insects being utilized to teach kids about flight. I am curious about the choice of the dragon fly for this project? Does it have anything to do with the fact that they have indirect flight muscles and fly totally differently than most other insects? Thanks!

    1. Bernard Mingo

      Leonardo Da Vinci Modeled some of his flying machines after the dragonfly, thus we chose the dragonfly to be the lens we studied flight through in the course. It is true that dragonflies use indirect flight, but out focus was how dragonflies could use four wings. The use of 4 winds independent of each other made for an interesting case study.

  3. Dehlia Albrecht

    I love the organization of your poster – it is beautifully visual and laid out. I also think it’s great that you are teaching interdisciplinary topics using insects. Great work!

  4. Marta L. Wayne

    Great project– love providing resources to our middle schools. Good timing re the Leonardo anniversary too.

  5. Julia Garcia

    How were you able to differentiate the activities for different grade levels? Obviously you cannot explain Da Vinci’s ideas to a six-year-old the same way you could for a sixteen-year-old.

  6. Leah Barnes

    Very cool how you integrated dragonflies into education of so many grade levels. With online classes, I am impressed you were able to transition so smoothly online. Were the activities still hands-on, like using resources from their houses, or were online activities provided?

  7. Dr. Donnelly

    Really nice poster – visually appealing and informative. Also liked the interdisciplinary nature of the project, nice work!

  8. Jade Monteiro

    How does Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine compare to our current understanding of flight in birds versus insects? Thanks!

  9. Ryan Husain

    How feasible would a flying machine that uses the same flight mechanism as a dragonfly be with our current knowledge of physics and mathematics?