Okay, so I spent last night listening to this podcast, an interview with James Dyson (inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, etc).
It’s a beautiful case study of design (and the potential for it to change the world).
The idea for the vacuum cleaner came to him whilst solving a different problem. He was painting wheelbarrows and got the idea from inefficiencies in the extraction fan
It then became an engineering problem, which he solved through thousands of prototypes in his backyard shed (whilst he had three young children I might add)
It then became a design problem to make it fit the needs of the user
It then become a marketing/communication problem about how to sell millions of the things
The podcast is quite a perfect fit for inspiring students in this subject:
Featuring this gem:
RAZ: And what were you doing in the shed? Like, was it, like, trial error, trial error? Was it…
DYSON: Exactly that. It was empirical - entirely empirical because this is before the days of computer simulation.
RAZ: Yeah, sure.
DYSON: I was building one prototype at a time, making one change at a time. So I knew what difference that one change made, and so I progressed. There were quite a number of problems to solve. Firstly, at that time, the state of the art was that cyclones were only good at separating dust down to about 20 microns, whereas I had to get it down to half of micron - cigarette smoke-type particles. So that was the first problem. And the second thing was that I found that hairs and fluff would go straight through the cyclone and not be collected. And I built 5,127 prototypes before I got it right.
Used the Dyson video as the catalyst for assessment task. We deconstructed my own Dyson Vacuum (and then reconstructed), and two vacs from different companies, then evaluated design and construction. The other two were always non functional after deconstruction. Students really enjoyed the activities and it provided great insight.