Atlanta Students Build Drones for a Better World

Atkins Drones Eleanor and Zoie building a QuadcopterMore than 200 middle- and high-school students and their teachers, mentors, and volunteers gathered at Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia, to discuss how technology impacts today’s world and show off some nifty flight skills, too. Kids and adults alike rolled up their engineering sleeves to participate in this year’s G3 Robotics Drones for Good (DFG) challenge where they considered drone applications for everything from saving local wetlands to helping firemen save lives. Those same participants had a blast learning how to design and build drones from scratch and fly them through some incredible obstacle courses and timed game challenges – all designed to help kids learn more about STEM than they’d ever imagined.

G3’s “Drones for Good” says it all. To participate in this program, 20 middle school teams were required to think beyond the technical and present how they believed drones might realistically have a positive impact on improving their communities and the processes used when turbulent events strike. Student projects investigated humanitarian aid applications including search-and-rescue, first-responder assistance, delivery of emergency supplies, and national park surveillance and research.

Each middle-school team worked against the clock to solve specific research and technical problems, including how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are built, flown, and made competition-worthy – all in just six short weeks! Students received kits composed of electrical components, a flight controller, and K’nex parts to tap their curiosity for principles of electricity, physics, programming, engineering, design, fabrication and flight. Throughout their limited time period, the teams attended a series of increasingly difficult flight “check-ins” where persistence and a culture of break-it-to-make-it-better ignited their passion for STEM. From research to design and build, to flying blind with remote spotters in simulated search-and-rescue missions, teams worked alongside Grady robotics student mentors to learn to succeed. They learned to view collaboration as a way of developing their design and their approach to using drones to solve problems in the community.

From G3’s student drone team lead, Gabriel Kupersmith, “I’m excited to teach these kids; they naturally love to fly, don’t mind breaking things, and aren’t intimidated by making mistakes or starting over to do something big and bold.”

Grady’s robotics students were thrilled to share their STEM talents with younger students. As seasoned robotics competition veterans, they underscored the importance of communication and collaboration as keys to STEM success. These high school students gained appreciation for the complexities of successfully planning, staging and funding an entire competitive STEM event for young students from start to finish, which included designing and building an obstacle course, a competition-day game, a game manual and technical training material to share with the teams. According to 12-year veteran team coach Mr. Andrew Nichols, the students got more out of their involvement than expected: “DFG provides a unique opportunity for the high school members of G3. By designing and implementing this program, they gain project management experience. By building and flying their own drones, they grow their own STEM skills to more effectively pass them on.”

The G3 Drones for Good challenge day saw one inspiring moment after another – from freestyle flight exhibitions to tight turns along a series of hula hoop courses, finishing with a balloon-bursting challenge. The middle school students were charged and ready to go from one competitive task to the next throughout the day. Parents, teachers and mentors were blown away by the skill level of these young and capable contestants. Volunteer judges were enthralled to hear students describe how they’d advanced in their knowledge of UAVs and their humanitarian applications, and how much their flight skills had improved in just six weeks, making it hard to award final trophies.

G3 Robotics students were honored to support such a significant STEM-related activity both within Grady High School and in the surrounding community. With the addition of the G3 Drones for Good project, G3 is excited to see Atlanta students, teachers, mentors, and community partners embrace and grow what has become a phenomenally popular program. Planning is already in the works for the 2016-17 season, as well as sharing the program with more professionals, teachers, and robotics teams around the country as they expand their reach.

If you’d like to learn more about G3 Drones for Good, reach out to G3 Robotics at www.g3robotics.com. An additional Engineering Week video of the Grady G3 Drone Team’s outreach efforts can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NMy8yHpVYU

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