Too often in life, the general public takes the brilliance of technology for granted. Millions of people get in an automobile each morning without much thought of its origin, completing tasks on a second nature manner to move from point A to point B, all while never recognizing the fact it takes a myriad of components to make the vehicle run. Scientific concepts such as Newton’s laws, inertia, momentum, Bernoulli’s principle, kinetic and potential energy, heat energy, electrical energy and changes of energy hardly flash through the mind during one’s daily commute.
The same can be said for any other technological device that has become ingrained in our daily lives — airplanes, elevators, escalators, the list is aplenty.
Within the confines of the Admiral Farragut Academy STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) lab, a group of students are dedicated to mastering the aforementioned scientific principles as they contribute to the genius of technological advances. Since the middle of March, members of the Drone Club have been constructing drones from scratch as a part of “Drones, Lead the Way” project conceived by Upper School STEM director Rob Milliner, fully funded through the Rossignol Academic Chair in Science.
“What this project does is bridge all the aspects of STEM into one project by utilizing the specific components of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Milliner, who was inspired to apply for the grant after reading the Drones for Schools program in an article written by Matthew Schroyer for Education & DIY Opinions. “For instance, the construction of the drone gives students insight into how all the electronics work, what their functions are, and how they all work together in a system. From that, they are able to see first hand how the flight computer, the motors, the transmitters, the antennae, all have a specific function and there’s a science behind each of them. The students not only learn how each part works but how they work together as a system and it helps their mind connect a lot of dots in a mathematical sense. They essentially assume the roles of engineers.”
Working in teams of two, the students are tasked with building, programming, and operating their own UAV (Unmanned Aeronautical Vehicle), using skills they don’t normally utilize in the classroom like soldering and assembling electronics through prototyping by wiring a microcontroller to external LEDs.
In addition, the project puts students in situations that mirror the real world, so to speak. Milliner highlights how students will learn the various legal and ethical requirements involved with the operation of a drone.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on December 21, 2015, a streamlined and user-friendly web-based aircraft registration process for “owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms) including payloads such as on-board cameras.”
“As drone technology becomes more and more pervasive and accessible with the general public, laws are being applied through real examples,” said Milliner, who had his students participate in the registration process for each drone that is being used by Farragut. “This allows them to be involved in the process, much the same way a person in the real world does.”
Finally, the club has given students a different avenue for after school activities and has allowed them to feel connected with the school in much the same way athletics, dramatic arts, music, and the drill team has.
“It’s given people with a certain skill set and interest a way to become fully engaged with after school activities,” said Kenny Stutts ‘16, who is the student director of the Drone Club. “In addition, we’re able to provide video footage and photography of the campus for the Advancement and Marketing Department. We’re able to record sporting events, parades, special activities, the drill team, and even graduation.”
Drone Club Members:
Matsuyoshi, Eiki “Luke”