Friday, August 3, 2007

Innovative Faculty and the Dyson AirBlade

A couple of weeks ago I was in Providence, RI visiting my daughter. We ended up going over to the Providence Place Mall for lunch and then we spent some time walking around the mall. We spent considerable time in both the Apple store and the Sony Style store, as we always do, playing around with as much as we could get our hands on. The piece of technology that impressed me the most on this day (I had already spent a couple of hours with the iPhone on a previous visit) was actually in the Men's Room.

You may or may not be familiar with Dyson - a UK company started by James Dyson to make bag-less vacuum cleaners. In the 1970's James did a lot of vacuuming and found himself constantly emptying the bag on his Hoover Junior to maintain a high level of suction. Frustrated with the performance of bag vacuum cleaners, he became obsessed with developing a new vacuum cleaner that would not clog up and brainstormed the use of cyclonic separation. After 5 years and 5,127 prototypes his pink (yes pink!) G-Force vacuum cleaner was born - the world's first bagless vacuum cleaner. Incredible design and wonderful product but without a manufacturer or distributor in the UK. Not one to give up, James started his own manufacturing company and started selling the product via catalog sales in Japan. Well it took off there winning the Japanese 1991 International Design Fair prize. Fast forward to today - James and his research team have developed products that have achieved sales of over $10 billion worldwide.

Let's get back to that Men's Room in Providence - attached to the wall were a couple of shiny new Dyson AirBlades. The AirBlade is a hand dryer that is unlike any air hand dryer you have ever seen. Hand dryers in rest rooms have always given me the creeps. Perhaps it's my Microbiology undergrad background - I've always seen them as a great way to spread germs around. Think about it - and the next time you are in a rest room read the instructions on the traditional blower models. They tell you to first shake the excess water off your hands (!) and then blow the rest of the water off your hands with warm air. Makes sense right - let's shake and then blow germ aerosols (bacteria, mold and viruses) at a nice warm temperature around the rest room............ How long can you hold your breath?

Well Dyson has come up with something a little different - here's a video to give you an idea if you have not seen one.

400 mph room temperature air scraping the water off your hands with the water passing through a HEPA filter that remove 99.9% of bacteria and mold from the washroom air it sucks in - in 10 seconds. Sounds a little far fetched right? I can give a testimonial - it works extremely well - fast, cost efficient and hygienic just as the Dyson website claims. You need to try one of these things out!

Dyson is one of those innovators with different ideas - you can bet people laughed at him with his vacuum cleaners - some are probably getting a chuckle right now over these hand dryers. I also bet the ones who are chuckling have never tried one.

Why am I writing about this stuff ? This summer I've been around the country giving presentations on new technology and its use in the classroom. Combined audience over 1000 people. In my travels I've met some faculty with amazing drive, ideas and ambition that lack one critical piece for success in the classroom - administrative support. So many incredible people who are not being encouraged or supported by their fellow faculty, Dept Chairs, Deans, VP's, etc.

On the flip side I've met just as many faculty who are supported and encouraged by their administration and yes - actually implementing some incredible work. You can pick the lucky ones right out - new laptops and smiling faces:)

If you are in an administrative position perhaps you've been on the fence about things like blogs, wikis, podcasts, video, etc. Maybe you have not taken the time to learn about these things. Maybe you've even flat out told your faculty no. Times are rapidly changing and this stuff is not going away. It's time to start encouraging and rewarding your motivated and innovative faculty.

If you are faculty in a position where you are not being supported stay motivated, keep plugging away and keep your options open like Dyson.

Note: If you are viewing at go to to see the video version of this blog.

1 comment:

Mark Viquesney said...

The Dyson AirBlade is a great idea. Dyson shows that it is ok to be different, to think "outside the box." I am lucky that my deptartment chair embraces ideas that enhance student learning. My wife, at the same school but different department, runs into a brick wall everytime she tries to bring "new" technology into the classroom. It has to be supported by the president of the college as well, not just the deans and chairs.