Six representatives of USU’s Aggie Drone Academy traveled to Southeastern Utah this May in order to promote safe flying to high schools in the area. The group consisted of faculty members Shawn Barstow and Shalyn Drake, as well as students Steve Baxter, Nicole Zinger, Parker Rollins and Dallin Grant.
These six drone enthusiasts went to Navajo Mountain, Whitehorse, Monument Valley, Monticello and San Juan high schools to distribute “Know Before You Fly” educational kits to high school faculty and students. “Know Before You Fly” is an education campaign organized by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) in partnership with the FAA and other aviation-related organizations. As drones become increasingly popular and easy to purchase for personal or commercial use, Know Before You Fly provides prospective users information and guidance to fly safely and responsibly. (quoted from knowbeforeyoufly.org) AMA reached out to Shalyn Drake and offered to donate 40 of these kits if Aggie Drone Academy would take and distribute them to underserved parts of the state. The kits contained frames, programming, goggles, mini cameras and flight controllers.
In addition to distributing these kits, USU’s crew also gave students and high school faculty hands-on experience with drones. Students flew quadcopters and fixed wing drones, and learned about the various applications of UAS such as aerial photography and videography, search and rescue operations, and scientific research.
Several teachers expressed enthusiastic interest in learning more about Unmanned Aerial Systems. As a direct result of this trip, the Utah State Office of Education is funding multiple teachers from Southeastern Utah to attend USU’s drone summer camp to prepare to teach drones in their schools.
“I know it sounds cliché to say, but these kits literally changed the lives of teachers and students,” said Shalyn Drake. “One teacher in San Juan changed his teaching schedule for this coming fall to include a drones class, and twenty-five students signed up for it within the first twenty minutes.”
This class, and others like it, will allow students to receive college credit from Utah State University as part of a concurrent enrollment program. Because of AMA’s donation of “Know Before You Fly” kits and Aggie Drone Academy’s visits, teachers will be able teach students across Southeastern Utah how to safely and effectively use drones. This will give both the adults and the youth increased opportunities and a competitive advantage in their professional pursuits.