James Dyson Foundation launches new air pollution workshop for schools with students at City Heights E-ACT Academy, located in one of London’s most polluted boroughs
16 June 2022
Ahead of Clean Air Day on 16th June, Dyson’s charity, the James Dyson Foundation, hosted a new school workshop that introduces engineering’s role in tackling air pollution, with fifty students aged 12-13 years old from City Heights E-ACT Academy School in Lambeth. Clean Air Day is the UK's largest air pollution campaign, bringing together communities, businesses, schools and the health sector; the aim of this workshop was to empower and educate the school’s students on the role engineering and design can play in finding solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.
At the school, located in one of London’s most polluted boroughs, the activities covered the problem of air pollution and how practical and creative skills in engineering and design play crucial roles in finding solutions. The three-hour event, hosted by Dyson Engineers Sam and Kay, encouraged the students to discuss why air pollution matters to them, identify its causes, and prototype their solutions using cardboard, Dyson machine parts and tape. From purifying lampposts to drones that monitor and clean up air pollution, the students got creative and hands-on in bringing their air pollution solutions to life and presenting them to their peers.
Errol Comrie, Principal at City Heights E-ACT Academy School, said: "Our Year 8 students had the pleasure of working with Dyson engineers to produce several prototypes which could potentially solve some of the issues that affect the quality of air. This is just the start of a drive for City Heights Academy becoming more environmentally friendly. The workshops were a fantastic way for our young people to share their ideas and develop their presentation skills, whilst also raising their awareness of the negative impacts of air pollution across the world.
It is well-known that air pollution adversely impacts our children’s learning, health, and overall wellbeing and because of our location as an Inner-London Academy, it is important that our students (who are our future) contribute to the improvement of the environment. This workshop has inspired our young people to actively engage with initiatives to continue to improve not only our school, but also the local community environment, through problem solving. We cannot wait to see this manifest with the support and our developing relationship with the James Dyson Foundation!"
The James Dyson Foundation’s mission
The UK faces a shortfall of engineers. It’s estimated the industry needs 200,000 skilled engineers between now and 2024 to meet demand. Moreover, the latest Education Policy Institute report evidences the take up of Design and Technology (D&T) in schools, a subject closely linked to the engineering industry, has fallen significantly over the past decade; 44% of students took D&T GCSE in 2009, but this fell to just 22% of students in 2020.
James Dyson believes that engineers have the potential to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, like air pollution. A mission of his Foundation is to inspire young people and encourage engineering education across classrooms around the country. The charity creates engineering educational resources, with the help of Dyson engineers, to support teachers from primary through to secondary age groups.
City Heights E-ACT Academy School is the first school in the UK to partner with the James Dyson Foundation in hosting its new air pollution themed workshop during lesson time, led by Dyson engineers. Mark Martin MBE, Governor and Technology educator at City Heights E-ACT Academy School, worked with the Foundation to organise the workshop after he saw great engagement from students with previous teaching materials from Dyson’s charity.
Mark Martin said, “Students have been empowered by the James Dyson Foundation’s air pollution resource. It builds a solid air science knowledge foundation that informs their ideas about how to solve the problem of air pollution. The hands-on and creative engineering activities allow them to take control of an issue that effects their daily lives.”
Air Pollution in London
Every year air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK; the World Health Organisation have found that 93% of children under 15 years breathe toxic air that puts their health and development at serious risk. Lambeth has consistently ranked as a highly polluted borough in London, and the A23, alongside the South Circular, which run nearby to City Heights E-ACT Academy School, are some of the busiest roads in the city and are now back at pre-pandemic levels of traffic.
Beyond the workshop: Engineering Solutions: Air Pollution
The Dyson engineer led workshop is just one of the air pollution-themed educational offerings from the James Dyson Foundation. The charity also has lesson plans for teachers across primary and secondary level called Engineering Solutions: Air Pollution which challenge students to act like real life engineers – investigating the problem of air pollution and building their own solutions. Alongside the lessons, the Foundation has donated nearly 200 air quality sensing devices to over 30 schools in the UK to support the delivery of these lessons. Students build and code the devices to monitor air pollution around their school environment. The resource also comes as a self study workbook which was popular for at-home learning during Covid lockdowns.
On the collection of teaching resources, Lydia Beaton, Global Head of the James Dyson Foundation, said, “Air pollution is a worldwide issue and, just like other global problems, there are many possible solutions. By hearing how Dyson engineers approached the problem, students will understand how science and engineering can tackle air pollution and start to apply this knowledge in their own design solutions. This resource is packed full of hands-on and challenging engineering activities which we hope will inspire students to consider engineering as a possible career, as well as be fun to teach!”
The workshop at City Heights E-ACT Academy School is the first in a series of James Dyson Foundation air pollution workshops in schools across the United Kingdom to mark Clean Air Day. Dyson engineers down-tools throughout the month of June to educate hundreds of children on the importance of air quality and problem solving with the James Dyson Foundation air pollution workshop. Locations so far include Bradford, London, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and Swindon.
The workshop was led by two Dyson engineers, Sam and Kay.
“For me I hope that the workshop gets the students thinking about the air around them, but more that that I hope they start thinking about how they can create a solution. I’d be over the moon to find out that even just one of them was inspired to think more about how they can shape the world around them, and to maybe consider a career in engineering.”
“I have been very interested in air quality (and its impact on health) for a number of years now, and I am keen to do what I can to help educate young people on this issue especially as it is oftentimes an invisible problem. I hope the workshop will get young people, whose bodies are still developing and could be more strongly affected by air quality issues, thinking about the air that they breath and what they can do to protect themselves from air pollution and drive change.”