“Painting rooms can be really messy,” said Samantha Murray, a seventh grader from Canton. “Why don’t we invent something to make it easier?”
“No,” said Tim Endredi, a seventh grader from Powder Springs. “Let’s create a spam filter for snail mail (from your mailbox) with two pipes to suck up the mail, one for regular mail that would deposit it to your house and one for junk mail that would put it in your recycling.”
The two students are part of Cornerstone Prep’s “Who Wants to be an Engineer” class this fall, and they were brainstorming during one of the classroom sessions. As part of that class, they've been able to participate in the James Dyson Foundation (JDF) Engineering Box program, a free program that exists to encourage young people to think differently, make mistakes and invent.
Cornerstone Prep is the first school in the southeast to use this program, and teacher Susan James has been thrilled with the results. “This four to six-week program enables our students to gain a history of this inventor and his extensive process for inventing his first vacuum. The students can disassemble and reassemble a vacuum with a discussion of the importance of each part and its function within the machine.” The students learn to look for problems and then find a solution. James explained that actually being able to take apart and put the vacuum back together has been invaluable to the students.
The class of 10 students—nine boys and one girl—held numerous speed contests to see who could do it the fastest. Andrew Barnes, an eighth grader from Acworth, holds the class record at two minutes and 41 seconds. “I was just glad I didn’t mess up,” Andrew said about his win.
Andrew grew up playing with Legos, so taking things apart and putting them back together is fun for him. While he’s not sure if he wants to be an engineer when he grows up, he says it is definitely in his top three of possible careers. Having this classroom experience has opened his eyes to the possibilities out there.
Nothing is outside the realm of possibility according to Dyson company founder, James Dyson. And he should know. To create to the best-selling Dyson vacuum, he created over 5,127 prototypes. It is this type of perseverance and creativity that the JDF hopes to foster in students with the Engineering Box.
"I was given a choice at school: pursue either arts or sciences," Dyson said. "There was no happy medium for a boy who enjoyed solving problems and making things with his hands. I stumbled across my flair for design engineering by mistake. Forty years on, I'm passionate about it. And I've realized what I missed out on at school."
The JDF, founded in 2002, seeks to inspire and nurture the engineers of the future.
Cornerstone parent and Dyson employee Windy White brought the program to the school’s attention.
“You don't have to be an engineer to solve a problem,” White said.
JDF is passionate about exciting students about design and engineering, demystifying the design process, and encouraging creativity. While the Engineering Box includes a DC26 Dyson vacuum and tools, eight Torx screwdrivers, an in-depth case study of the development behind a DC26 Dyson vacuum cleaner, profiles of Dyson design engineers, the history of how the bagless vacuum cleaner was developed, and other activities, White made the project even more interesting by bringing in several more Dyson products for the students to investigate hands-on.
Students turned the vacuums, fans and heaters on, off, upside down, and all around. Parents would have been shocked to see how much fun their students had using a vacuum.
“Who Wants to be an Engineer” is an elective class for Cornerstone junior high students in seventh and eighth grades that lasts one semester. James will teach the class again in spring semester to another group of students and has already booked the JDF Engineering Box for a return session.
“Working with a hands-on project like this excites their imagination in a way that no book curriculum can,” James said. “We are thrilled to have this partnership with the JDF and their commitment to fostering the creativity spirit.”
JDF offers the Engineering Box to all schools free of charge, though only a limited number of boxes are available. This program has been widely used in the UK and Chicago. For more information on the program, contac www.jamesdysonfoundation.com.
Cornerstone Prep is a University-Model School where parents and teachers partner together to provide students with an academically challenging, college-preparatory, Biblically based education. The K-12 private school is currently located in Acworth. The school has close to 400 students in its ninth year of operation. For more information about Cornerstone Prep, contact www.cornerstoneprep.org.