Designers working with the James Dyson Foundation have devised a series of science and engineering tasks they say can help keep kids entertained during lockdown.
The initiative, which is made up of 44 Challenge Cards, aims to provide young people with ample stimulation as families adjust to spending more time at home because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shut down of schools.
Challenges put forward by Dyson’s designers include making a marble run, building a periscope and designing a bridge made of spaghetti. The 44 tasks have been split into two groups: those focusing on science and those focusing on engineering.
Each project comes with a brief, method, a list of materials and an explanation as to how the science behind it works. Crucially, most can be completed with common household items and have been designed to be completed by children themselves.
Creating “free thinking mavericks”
Beyond the initiative, Dyson design manager Ben Edmonds has also launched a daily livestream of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) challenges, with the aim of getting “kids’ brains engaged and thinking”.
The daily #LockdownSTEMchallenge videos, which can be found on Edmonds’ Innovation Ben Facebook page, have so far garnered interest from families across the world as far reaching, he says, as the US and New Zealand.
“These challenges are about getting kids’ brains working creatively and providing them a set of transferable skills that will set them up for life,” Edmonds tells Design Week. “I don’t want to teach kids to merely follow instructions, I want to create free thinking mavericks who are empowered with the skills to change the world.”
“Skills for life” from the contents of a recycling bin
More than just getting children thinking in design and engineering terms, Edmonds says the challenges are there for parents to get involved too.
“Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve found more and more parents wanting to join in [with lessons],” he says. “Helping the parents to ask more questions, provide less answers and to help the kids to think for themselves is one of the things I’m most proud of.”
Moreover, he says, the challenges aim to ease the pressure currently being experience by parents, who feel they need to meticulously recreate the school environment to keep their children engaged and learning.
Instead of trying to replicate a school environment, Edmonds says, providing children with “the contents of the recycling bin and a few extra materials” is an effective way for them to learn “skills for later life”.
The James Dyson Award and coronavirus
The news of Dyson’s engineering challenges comes as the Foundation launches the 15th edition of the James Dyson Award. Last year’s recipient of the award, former University of Sussex student Lucy Hughes, won with her bioplastic invention MarinaTex.
Dyson has also been in the news as of late for having been approached by the UK government to design and develop a ventilator to help treat coronavirus patients, in the midst of the pandemic. The company intends to make 10,000 of its CoVent devices for the NHS.