June 28: Legler Branch, 115 S Pulaski Road, 60624
July 10: Little Village Branch, 2311 S. Kedzie Avenue,
July 11: Douglass Branch, 3353 W. 13th Street,
July 20: Rogers Park Branch, 6907 N. Clark Street,
August 11: Mt. Greenwood Branch, 11010 S. Kedzie Avenue,
August: 29: Hall Branch, 4801 S. Michigan Avenue,
September 13: YouMedia, Harald Washington Library Center, 400 S. State
September 18: McKinley Park Branch, 1915 W. 35th Street,
This is what James Dyson wants kids to do: get frustrated.
Then he wants them to think about how they might alleviate that
frustration - how they might solve a problem that frustrates
Then he wants them to build a prototype.
Then he wants them go to engineering school. And, you know, make
the world a better place.
The Dyson Foundation and the Chicago Public Library system is
teaming up to teach kids how to turn frustration with everyday
problems into opportunities for changing things. Their 90-minute
"Design, Build, Test" workshops will immerse kids in a
collaborative process in which they will design a solution to an
everyday frustration using cardboard, glue and bits of Dyson
And the basic rule is that you have to make mistakes. Mistakes
are the best way to learn.
James Dyson knows this. He made plenty of mistakes inventing his
now revolutionary vacuum cleaner. It took him five years, and more
than 200 prototypes before he finally had a working product, which
removes fine dust by using centrifugal force rather than vacuum
But Dyson almost didn't make it as an engineer. He was a
designer. Then he took a product design course at London's Royal
College of Art that changed his life. Dyson has designed high-speed
cargo boats, the Ballbarrow, and other products that have answered
questions that most people weren't even asking.
In fact, the idea for his vacuum came when he visited a sawmill
and noticed the cyclone in the back. The contraption spun sawdust
out of the air, collecting it in a chamber. Dyson thought the same
idea might be applied to vacuums.
The library workshops, which are scheduled through the end of
September, are modeled after a Dyson Foundation after school
program. The foundation, itself, was launched in the UK in 2002 in
order to introduce kids to the concept of engineering as hands on
and fun, rather than a bunch of equations. In 2011 the Foundation
was expanded to Chicago - which is the home of Dyson's American
The goal is to create more engineers. And to keep them in this
"The U.S. is losing it's engineering workforce," says Erin Webb,
manager of the Dyson Foundation in the U.S.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, less than 5
percent of college kids are getting engineering degrees in the
U.S., compared with 33 percent in China. Moreover, many of those
engineering grads aren't U.S. citizens, so they get all this
experience and then take it back to their own countries to put it
Webb wants those kids to put their engineering ideas to work in
The first library workshop, held earlier in June at Albany Park,
was actually over capacity - with 32 kids taking the 25 allotted
spaces. And it ran long.
"The kids actually weren't ready to stop prototyping," Webb
There are eight more workshops through the end of September. And
Webb and her colleague, Valerie Gardner, are more than happy to
entertain ideas for creating more after school programs. They also
want teachers to know about their other programs, like the
Engineering Box - a kit that includes a Dyson vacuum, tools and
instructions for taking the vacuum apart and putting it back
together. To contact the Dyson Foundation, click here.
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