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JAMES DYSON

James Dyson is known as the inventer of the 'bagless vacuum cleaner but he's done lots of other amazing things and is passionate about design and engineering.

The first product he designed was the ballbarrow - it had a ball instead of a wheel (this would stop it sinking in mud...a handy thing in England!)

He then wondered about vacuum cleaners and how they lost power when the bag was clogged. It took many years, but eventually the Dyson bagless vacuum was born! It became the fastest selling vacuum in the UK. James made 5126 'prototypes' (samples) of his vacuum before he found success, so he's a good example of not giving-up on something.

We asked James some questions that we thought you might like to know. Here they are:

1. Do you still live in England and do you think itís getting better there or worse?

Yes, I live in the South West of England, very near Bath. Iíve lived in England my entire life. As an inventor Iím interested in good technology, plenty of which has come out of the UK, Rolls Royce and the Concorde being two famous examples. Unfortunately, weíre suffering from a lack of engineers graduating from universities in Britain. It seems my profession has lost favour with the young people of today who are studying media subjects. Without engineering you canít make anything new, so Iíd very much like to change this perception.

2. We read that you give money to science, engineering, medicine and education, but is there one particular cause that is special to you?

Well, I think education is very important, especially for children that want to study design engineering. Itís because of this that Iím opening a design school for engineering near Bath for 14 to 19 year olds. Theyíll be able to study different aspects of the design process and even come and visit during school holidays to take specialist courses.

3. Were you very bright at school and did you do all your homework on time?

I was more interested in running and drama than I was in books at school. From a very early age I did pull things apart and then put them back together though, I was fascinated at the way things worked. Iíd spend hours cross country running which gave me plenty of time to think about things that frustrated me. I guess thatís why I redesigned the vacuum cleaner in the first place. Its design limitations frustrated me so much that I set about making it better!

4. Weíve heard engineering and music are closely related, do you play an instrument?

I played the bassoon while I was at school, but I havenít played for a very long time. Music is very pioneering, itís always changing and new styles are always being developed. Engineering is like that as well, I think you have to think about things in a different way to come up with new designs and sounds. As Albert Einstein put it: ďImagination is better than knowledgeĒ.

5. If you could have a middle-age `gap year`, what would you do?

I spend a lot of time with the 500 engineers working in our research and development centre in Malmesbury in the UK. Itís where all our ideas start and where we develop the designs that eventually make it into our shops. If I had a year off I would spend all of my time in the centre, But minus any other day-to-day distractions. Iíd also spend more time in my garden, but thatís a very grown up thing to say isnít it?

6. Have you got any advice for teenagers today?

Make lots of mistakes! Strange advice I know but itís the best way to learn. I think teenagers should be marked on the amount of mistakes they make, not the amount of right answers.

By Imogen Wadlow

A BIG 'thank you' to James for taking the time to answer our questions and also to Sarah for organising it. To find out lots more about James, his work and his the James Dyson Foundation, go to:

www.dyson.co.uk/about