caption - title

The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dyson project for young engineers

Recently I found out from a friend that Dyson (think vacuum cleaners) has a "engineering box" that they loan out free to schools.  Yay for us, homeschools qualify.  I read the below details on the James Dyson Foundation page:

More than 130,000 students in the UK and the US have tackled engineering with the James Dyson Foundation Engineering Box. Using screwdrivers to discover design clues and learn how machines work. Each year the Foundation increases our inventory of Engineering Boxes to challenge more students to think like engineers.
The Engineering Box is a reverse engineering kit that takes students through the design process by disassembling a Dyson machine – understanding how a machine works by taking it apart. It contains:
  • 1 Dyson vacuum cleaner as a case study
  • 7 Dyson turbine heads for disassembly
  • 1 Dyson carbon fiber cleaner head as a case study
  • 8 Torx screwdrivers
  • Teacher’s Pack with instructions and curriculum
  • Posters for the classroom

  • The Box and training materials are available to classrooms completely free of charge. The Box is loaned to a school for 4 weeks at a time. It’s ideally suited for students in 5th-8th grade but can be adapted for any classroom.
    Use the link above to order the Engineering Box. The James Dyson Foundation will ship the Box and collect it when you’re done free of charge. You can watch a video of the Box in action here.
Wow ... I knew Hunter would LOVE it.  He has been overly fascinated with vacuums since he was a toddler and already had a good understanding of how they worked.  I figured the being "ideally suited for students in the 5th-8th grade" didn't apply here.  So I ordered a box. (You can order one by clicking here.)  
The box arrived late one afternoon.  Hunter just spread all the parts out and spent time studying them.

We really didn't need 7 of the turbine heads, but that is standard since it goes to classrooms.  (And some of the homeschooling families I know that have ordered this have lots of kids.)

He was disappointed he didn't have a lot of time that night to really get started.

 After Hunter went to bed, Solomon decided he better examine things:

The next morning Hunter flew down the stairs, into the living room, and quickly put together the vacuum.  Then he turned it on to test it.  Success!  Before breakfast he had several rooms of the house vacuumed.  (NOTE:  EXTRA BENEFIT OF THE DYSON BOX:  YOU WILL HAVE VERY CLEAN FLOORS!) 

Later that morning I began reading to him from the Dyson book that came with the kit.  And I let him read sections of the book to me so we could check off his reading time for the day.  :)  It was actually really interesting to read how Mr. Dyson came up with his vacuum and all the steps along the way.  (I finally have a good understanding now of what an engineer actually does.) Back in 1978 Mr. Dyson was very frustrated with his vacuum cleaner not working well.  So he took it apart and found out what the problem was.  Taking inspiration from an industrial cyclone he had encountered in the manufacture of another of his inventions, he tackled the job of making a good vacuum.

It took 5 years and 5,126 prototypes to finally get there.  Did you notice that?  Over 5000 times?  That is one persistent man!  

The quote on the first page of the book sums up his philosophy:  "Learn from the failures as much as the successes."

The next day we followed the directions in taking apart a turbine head.  I decided to do it too since we had so many.  Hunter really didn't need the book, but he wanted to try it exactly the way they said it.

As soon as we got them apart, I had to stop and put Solomon down for his nap.  When I came back, Hunter had not only put his part back together but mine too.  Ha!

I liked in the book how at each step of the disassembly process, the book listed out several questions.  Lots of whys to get kids (and adults) thinking.  Why were certain materials chosen?  What is the purpose of certain parts?  Why particular locations selected to place them in?  Etc.  It was interesting going through these with Hunter.  (The answers are in the book.)

Another day I read to him how to take apart the actual vacuum motor part.  That was pretty interesting too.  But Hunter was a bit disappointed because you were only supposed take portions of it apart, and not the whole thing.   I have to say I'm really impressed with how well Dyson's work and it is interesting to literally know the ins and outs of them. We get to keep the kit for a couple more weeks.  So far, Hunter has been continuing to examine parts and take things apart and reassemble them every day.  He's even got Solomon helping vacuum too.  Remember I said this thing would get you clean floors?  :)

Much to Hunter's bafflement, Solomon found another good use for the turbine head.  Using it to pile pieces from the Ants in the Pants game on it:

What about Tabby?  Vacuum cleaners and taking stuff apart aren't her thing.  She had more fun helping distract Solomon so Hunter could work in peace:


  1. We have a Dyson especially made for houses with animals. That thing is amazing! It doesn't work as well as it used to--but we've had it for six years. Time for a new one, but we'll still be buying a Dyson!

    1. I'll have to tell Hunter - he'll be delighted! And if we lived closer, he'd ask for your old one. ;)