When it came to the attention of The James Dyson Foundation that students were dropping out of design and technology courses at the GCSE (General Certificate in Secondary Education) level, they decided it was time to do something that would show young people what a career in engineering or design can actually be. Dyson created a pilot program in 2012 that would introduce equipment and software on par with that being used in international manufacturing. Andrew Barker a representative of The Dyson Foundation said that program was developed to give students access to a “modern kit that shows what modern engineering looks like. Because it’s hard to show that to students who are using blunt old hacksaws or chisels.”
The Hayesfield girl’s school in Bath, England was one of the first beneficiaries of this idea. They had already received a grant for over $125,000 from The Dyson Foundation and had developed a reputation for being among the best in the country for design and technology education at the secondary level. With further support through Dyson’s pilot, the design studio at the school underwent a further 1.35 million dollar upgrade. When Emma Yates took over as headteacher at Hayesfield, she was already impressed by the school’s studio. Now, with the expansion of the facilities, the school also has a multi-axis router, an industrial laser cutter, and six 3D printers. The studio also has access to some of the latest CAD software and a host of other machines.
This is not Dyson’s first foray into education. He was part of the group responsible for creating revisions to the design and technology national curriculum in 2013. Dyson sees this type of investment as a way to remedy the projected shortfall in British engineering. As Dyson sees it:
“By the time today’s school children are of working age, the UK will need more than 2 million additional engineers. It’s important that we demonstrate what a career in engineering is actually about and how exciting it can be.”
And what better way to generate interest than by giving the kids some of the cool stuff to play with that is part of the real world operations of the career, while they are still deciding where their interest lie. It will take years to know if the outcomes of the program have been a success in those terms. Until then, however, the strongest indicator of the program’s future success is encapsulated in statements by students such as 8th grader Akosua Lune:
“We created a prototype, and it was quite simple…before this we’d never thought about making stuff. It’s really fun.”
What do you think? Is Dyson’s drive to bring 3D printing and other tools into classrooms, the path to a better education system? Let us know in the Dyson education forum thread at 3DPB.com.
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