Design engineering puts problem solvers to the test. We want students to use their heads and hands to solve real world problems. A bit of failure along the way is ok – it leads to new, and even better, ideas.
Engineering is exciting and useful. It challenges students to put their science and math skills to practical use.
Learn more about the James Dyson Foundation’s free classroom resources – from exploring the design process to pulling machines apart.
Edward Linacre won the 2011 James Dyson Award with his invention AirDrop – a low-cost, low-maintenance aid to the problems of farming in arid areas.
Find more engineering trailblazers to inspire your students.
During this year’s Computer Science Education Week, the James Dyson Foundation hosted a hands-on workshop at the Albany Park and Edgewater branches of the Chicago Public Library. Both sessions provided a hands-on learning opportunity that featured the coding and design engineering inside Dyson’s new autonomous, connected robot vacuum—the Dyson 360 Eye™. The workshops, which were…
Today, James Dyson opens some of the world’s most advanced engineering facilities at the University of Cambridge – giving the institution’s students and academics the space and means to prototype, invent and collaborate on cutting-edge research. The development has been funded by a £8m donation from the James Dyson Foundation – the largest gift ever…
“Do you know about STEM? Do you incorporate it in your classroom? Learn an easy way that I found to incorporate it in mine! In October I was invited to a Education Leader Summit. While there, I learned about the James Dyson Foundation from a friend. Who would have thought that Dyson would have so many resources for…
The James Dyson Foundation visited Phoenix Military Academy in Chicago to conduct a rapid-prototyping workshop with high school sophomores on Thursday. The event was a part of STEM Career Accelerator Day (#STEMCAD2015), a national campaign and series of events hosted during the week of October 19-23 designed to engage and expose students to career-focused experiences.…
“AS A YOUNG GIRL I was always outside, digging in the dirt and just asking questions. I was (and still am!) fascinated by the scientific world, but I actually became a scientist by accident when I was 18 years old. I had a friend at university who was taking a higher level biology course and suggested…
Torey Kocsik didn’t understand what being an engineer meant until she was well on her way to becoming one. “Growing up, my dad was probably the biggest influence on my decision to study engineering in college,” Kocsik said. “His background is in chemical engineering, and even though I didn’t know what he did at work…
Lack of safe and secure storage space in the classroom. Leaky shower heads that’s dripping keeps you awake at night. Learning time wasted at the pencil sharpener. These are just a few of the many challenges experienced by the 150 students from ten of the James Dyson Foundation’s Design. Build. Test. (DBT) after school clubs…
The James Dyson Foundation has donated $18 million to Imperial College London, to create the Dyson School of Design Engineering. Technology leaders of the future The first new engineering department established at Imperial in two decades, the Dyson School will teach a four year Master of Engineering degree in Design Engineering from October 2015. The curriculum,…
The James Dyson Foundation is back with more hands on engineering challenges. Join us at the Westfield Old Orchard Mall on Saturday, March 21st, as we dive into boat building and airplane design. The fun starts at 10:00am and the event is free. Kids who complete all three challenges will go home with even more…
“My cause is the shortage of engineers. By 2020 the UK will be hamstrung by a shortfall of approximately 470,000.” It is clear to me that the only way to deal with this scarcity is to engage young people at an early age and show them how exciting engineering really is – a job where…
Design engineers turn bright ideas into a product on the shelf.
But the design process is not linear. Every design will go back and forth between designing, building and testing. It took James Dyson 5,127 prototypes to create the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner. James’ perseverance paid off.
Great designs make life easier. The first step is to identify the problem that you want to solve. Everyday frustrations are often the best inspiration.
Dyson engineers start by wrong thinking – going against the norm and trying things differently. Wrong thinking often leads to the best ideas. And sometimes the craziest ideas lead to that “eureka” moment. So remember, any idea goes.
Sketching starts immediately. Getting an idea out of your head and onto paper is the first step to making it a reality. You don’t have to be an artist – it’s about communication not style.
Dyson engineers keep a confidential sketchbook and pencil handy to jot down new ideas. The engineers never worry about how pretty a sketch is. The important thing is that your sketch communicates your idea. The engineers always sign and date each page – an important tool to prove the originality of your idea during the patent process.
The idea doesn’t stay on paper for long. Prototyping, no matter how crude, transforms the idea into a 3D model. Cardboard is a great tool for design engineers – it’s cheap and easy to model.
Dyson engineers use cardboard and foam to model each Dyson machine. Sometimes they add weights to the cardboard models to test the ergonomics of the machine. It helps them understand how the final machine will feel and move in the finished model.
A few cardboard prototypes later, engineers will use Computer Aided Design (CAD) to create technical drawings to plan how the components fit together – it’s a great tool for refining design detail but is no replacement for early sketches and models.
Dyson engineers use CAD to draw out the existing components, like the motor, and then sketch the components still in development by hand. The engineers will revisit CAD later in the design process when the details of the design are worked out.
The CAD file is a blueprint for 3D printers. The printer reads the file and then slices the image into hundreds of layers. These layers are then printed one by one and laid on top of one another to create the prototype – a bit like a loaf of bread.
Before 3D printing was developed, Dyson engineers could only build a couple of test rigs. They were delicate and not able to withstand rigorous testing. Now Dyson engineers create 40 to 50 fully functional machines using 3D printing. Rapid prototyping isn’t cheap. Each machine costs between $8,000 and $15,000. But working out any kinks in the design before manufacture saves a lot of time and money.
With a few working machines at the ready, design engineers can begin testing – a vital part of the design process. It’s a chance to identify and evaluate the weaknesses of the machine. This is where the design process begins to go in circles. But perfectionism creates a better design – one that can withstand the abuse of users.
Dyson engineers use mechanical rigs to replicate how the machine will be used. For vacuum cleaners, a specific quantity of special test dust is rolled into the carpet and then vacuumed an exact number of strokes. The bin is then weighed to determine the pick-up of the machine.
Mechanical rigs and robots also allow engineers to test the durability of a machine – each prototype will withstand 10,000 repetitions by a test robot. It’s a lot quicker than having an engineer replicate the same motion again and again.
Dyson engineers don’t stop there. A high speed camera captures 40,000 frames a second revealing the finest detail of the air and dust moving through the machine. This helps the fluid dynamic team at Dyson fine tune the airflow of the machine.
And then it’s on to sound. Dyson vacuums are powerful so engineers take care to measure and reduce noise volume. Anechoic chambers are used to test the noise volume but also the sound quality of Dyson machines. Certain pitches can cause irritation – and drive pets mad.
Once the design has survived testing it’s time to think about manufacturing – a design process of its own. A new team of engineers now have to figure out how to turn the prototype into a machine that can be mass-produced.
Injection molding creates the prototype by shooting hot plastic into a mold to create a solid part. Each part of the machine requires a separate mold – so there’s a lot to work out. Injection molding tools are expensive and the design of the tool is as important as the design of the machine. Complex tools with multiple injection points are very expensive – up to $150,000 – so engineers are challenged to create the simplest tools for complicated parts.
The new machine is sent back to the test lab for more banging, hitting, dropping and pulling. A turntable helps the machine replicate the thousands of miles it will travel across the floors in a lifetime – the average prototype travels more than 9,000 miles or the distance from London to Chicago.
But testing is not just left to the robots. There’s nothing like getting the machine into the hands of users so each machine hits a user course where a team tests the machines to breaking point – 200 cycles of machine abuse.
When the machine survives this second round of testing it’s off to the assembly line. Here a cunning design technique is put to the test – poke yoke ( or ‘pokey yokey’). Engineers fail-proof every machine so that people can only put it together one way, avoiding mistakes and confusion. So if the engineers have poke-yoke’d the design correctly the assembly line keeps moving along.
Before the machine can hit the store shelf, you have to protect your idea.
Patents are legal documents that ensure that you are the only person allowed to produce your idea for 20 years. The patent process is extremely expensive and 20 years isn’t very long. So the moment you choose to patent your idea is nearly as important as the patent itself.
But patents are not just about profiting from your invention – it’s also about sharing your idea. The 20 year limit allows people to take your technology and improve upon it.