About 80 students designed, built and flew drones as part of a robotics class at Neshaminy High School.
It’s a drone world.
Those unmanned flying objects have gone far beyond a military use into the realms of real estate, law enforcement, agriculture and others.
Not wanting to be left behind, Neshaminy School District officials started a drone program in November as part of the high school robotics class, and students who signed up for drones delved deep into them for the rest of the school year.
Using computer software and other techniques, about 80 students in three sections learned how to fly drones of different sizes both indoors and outdoors. The drones and related equipment were purchased by the school district for $9,500 from Office Depot.
At the end of the program, students had the option to take a Federal Aviation Administration test to be able to fly drones on their own, said Neshaminy High School engineering and technology teacher Josh Elliott, who taught the drones course along with Bob Wood.
“We started with classroom sessions with power points on flight physics, components of a drone, different applications and career paths,” Elliott said. “We did flight simulations with real controllers so the students could build some skills before they actually started flying the drones around. We were flying them indoors in January and February before it got warm enough to go outdoors.”
At a class near the end of the school year, students practiced flying the drones both indoors and outdoors, maneuvering them around various objects in the classroom and then taking them outside.
“It’s really interesting and fun to fly them,” said freshman Kaeleb Lowry. “There are so many commercial applications for drones now, and it’s expanding every day, but I see myself flying them as a hobby, having fun with friends.”
Sophomore Megan Pritchard said she doesn’t rule out a career in drones, though adding it’s too early to set her career path in stone.
Megan, whose father is an electrical engineer working in the satellite industry, said taking the drones course was a natural extension of her interest in technology.
“I went to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camps in elementary school and I’ve gone to my dad’s work and watched what he did,” she said. “I’m not sure about pursuing drones as a career but it’s really interesting to see all the things they can do now.”
Giving students a glimpse into all the career possibilities opening up in drone technology was one of the big reasons for offering the course as part of robotics, said Elliott and school district Technology Director Kathy Christie.
Drones are used by law enforcement for investigations and surveillance, in agriculture to crop dust and scan farms for ways to increase crop yield, in real estate to take pictures of properties, in the cellphone industry to inspect towers and many other areas, Christie said.
“The list is endless,” she said.
“We try to always relate stuff to the real world in our classes,” Elliott said. “We don’t like to teach things about science and technology without explaining why we’re doing it. We want the kids to understand that drone technology is another option available to them.”