More than 75 students, coaches, mentors and parents from the tri-county area gathered at the Pax River Naval Air Museum on Dec. 4, to learn about a new quadcopter program being offered to students in Southern Maryland. The session was the first in a series of three training segments designed to introduce high school students to safety and flight principles associated with quadcopters and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
Initiated by The Patuxent Partnership (TPP) through a STEM-for-All grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the quadcopter initiative is designed to address the educational components and theories of UAS operations and flight … specifically quadcopters. The program is open to all high school students / teams interested in learning about quadcopters and developing skills associated with the building and flight of these systems.
The training sessions, approximately three hours in length, are instructor led overviews of curriculum areas such as flight safety, principles and physics of flight, basic piloting skills and maneuverability, programming skills, sensors and functionality, payloads and advanced flying skills.
The final element of the program is a student-designed skills demonstration scheduled for April 2017. Teams will develop a skills demonstration of their choice and present their topic during an end-of-season expo. Because the expo is not “competition based”, teams are not required to have specific quadcopters or advanced sensor packages, thus allowing teams of all levels and skills to participate regardless of resources.
“Our hope is to generate increased student interest in unmanned systems, eventually leading students to pursue careers in STEM fields associated with UAS operations.” said Bonnie Green, TPP Executive Director. “Future Workforce Development is a key element to sustainable operations. Having students in the educational pipeline now ensures a qualified workforce will be available to meet the demands five to 10 years from now.”
The three-year ONR grant was awarded to TPP for the purpose of developing educational programs supporting future Navy and Department of Defense workforce requirements. The quadcopter program is one of several initiatives covered by the STEM-for-All grant.
ASEC, an industry leader in commercial UAS operations, training and certification, developed the quadcopter curriculum specifically for this program. Certified instructors present the material in group training sessions. Coaches and students are then able to access computer-based training modules to further explore the topic areas in a self-paced environment.
The Naval Air Warfare Center – Aircraft Division’s Education Outreach Office provides UAS subject matter experts to serve as mentors, assisting teams with building, flying and skills development throughout the program. Program mentors are highly skilled and most are Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) members certified in UAS operations and an essential component of the program. The mentors also ensure the safety protocols are followed during flight operations and that the Federal Aviation Administration regulations are adhered to.
“We are very excited to introduce this STEM-for-All initiative to the students of Southern Maryland.” said Barbara Ives, TPP Grant Manager. “Our vision is to create a quadcopter program that can expand to include every high school student interested in participating while being financially sustainable long after the grant has ended. We believe focusing on an educationally-based program not only meets the grant objectives, but compliments existing programs such as AMA’s UAS4STEM competition” stated Ives.
To learn more about the quadcopter training program, visit http://www.stem-link.org/quadcopter-initiative/.