Anyone in the field of technology would agree that the most daunting task is keeping pace with the changes that occur almost daily. What is state of the art today will be obsolete in a few years or even months. Schools try to keep up, but budget constraints affect even the most affluent schools. How could disadvantaged schools in rural communities have a chance to give their students a modern classroom with the tools students need to be successful?
The future of aviation is at our doorstep.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Remotely Operated Flight, Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Drones, are all names that are currently filling the news. Originally only associated with the military, Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming mainstream and readily accessible to the public. With the advancement of electronics, batteries, and motors becoming smaller and cheaper, it is now possible for anyone to build his own remotely piloted vehicle.
When Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is offered as a unit of study, the teacher has an opportunity to immerse his students in both introductory level activities and advanced design challenges. The UAV activity offers additional design problems and challenges that teachers can add to as they see fit. The course will teach students about the principles of flight, aircraft construction, and electric power systems while using modern manufacturing processes such as 3D printing and CNC machines. The unit focuses on an Introduction to UAVs, basic electronic control, mechanics, design engineering, scientific process, project management, problem solving, teaming, and the development of workplace competencies. The explorations are designed to allow students to begin to understand the digital world in which they are up. They will develop the project management skills that today’s managers need, as well as make connections across multiple disciplines.
Mr. Anderson has been developing this program off and on now for a couple of years. In 2006, he came across a few old projects that the previous students had been working on. One of them was an old gas trainer RC airplane. He pulled it out from storage and hung it up in the classroom. It generated a lot of interest amongst the students and they wanted to fly it, but only a licensed member of an AMA club is permitted to fly a gas plane. You also need a lot of space.
Mr. Anderson did some research and came across a website that had a section on “scratch built foamies,” which are small lightweight airplanes made out of foam board. It seemed to be a great way to introduce students to many concepts related to design, manufacturing and the principles of flight.
The students were so enthralled about making planes, that Anderson made it a classroom project. “There is quite a learning curve to understanding all of the parts, systems and processes that go into building a plane from scratch. I have put a lot of time and research into this program, refining and developing activities. I believe that it is a great activity that can be taught using almost any technology education setting for those that are willing to put in the effort.” (Mr. Anderson)
The next chapter
Our robotics class helps to train students how robotic systems interact, and how they can help design systems for the future.
Students at our school come from a variety of backgrounds which include the spectrum of occupations in our community. We are also isolated geographically from events and experiences that larger urban areas can access. Students have limited opportunity to visit locations to experience educational activities. Our school is attempting to bridge that gap, by providing classes needed to be successful in the 21st century. Our robotics classes are a part of a larger STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) pathway that encompasses curriculum extending down to the elementary school. Starting in 6th grade, students are introduced to programming using LEGO MINDSTORMS. In high school, students continue learning using VEX ROBOTICS and eventually to designing and building robots from scratch using CAD software and CNC machines to cut them out. Students program the robots using Robot C to compete in area competitions including BOTS IQ and Battle BOTS. This pathway gives students experiences, training and valuable insight into the world of engineering to prepare them for careers in STEM related fields.
By showing students that robotics is multi-faceted, encompassing land, sea, and air, students will have a better understanding of how we can use robots to help study our world. With help from our community and partners in education like 3DRobotics, our students are being trained to take the next step into STEM careers, preparing them for the jobs of the future.
Tyler Anderson (age 14) flying the Iris+ Drone for the first time