Teens in Valley County are getting first-person flying lessons aimed at getting youth excited about science and math as part of a new drone camp offered by University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development.
Developing a Program
Rich Stowell approached Alysson Statz, 4-H coordinator for UI Extension, Valley County, about the idea of educating youth about drones. Stowell is a 20-year master flight instructor and saw the need to teach youth about the rules and regulations of owning drones, along with the science of flight.
“Rich is the lead on this and it was just a good opportunity for us to partner,” Statz said. “There has been more of an excitement for drones recently and we’ve heard stories of drones shutting down other flights. I wanted them to understand that there are rules. 4-H is so good at saying this is a great project that we can do and do it the right way.”
The first drone camp was held Aug. 20-24 in McCall and Cascade with six participants. A grant from the Idaho STEM Action Center allowed the youth to attend free of charge and education resources company PCS Edventures in Boise provided curriculum and equipment.
Over the course of the five-day camp, the future drone flyers learned safety regulations and procedures; built modular, open-source training drones; practiced flying using simulator software; took an online droneology course; and piloted drones while wearing first-person view goggles.
“They realized that there was a lot more to it than they thought,” Statz said. “It opened up doors to different possibilities within science and those kind of careers. A couple of them really want to be pilots, and to have a real mentor that is being practical with how to get there was great.”
Future STEM Plans
Statz and Stowell are already planning for next summer’s drone camp and hope to expand it to include more participants.
“Having six youth that were very excited was awesome,” Statz said. “I know it’s a small number, but when you’re testing something out it was perfect. We feel confident that we can have a larger group.”
In addition to the camp, Statz wants to provide drone education in classrooms. Both Statz and Stowell have completed the PCS Edventures training course, Ready, Set, Drone. Stowell also completed additional training for the larger outdoor RubiQ drone.
“We can work with teachers to see if this would fit into some of their core standards,” Statz said. “We’d have to break down the education into small units for elementary schools. We’re going to see if we can engage with a couple teachers to test it out.”
Stowell is also in discussions with the McCall Municipal Airport about turning one of its buildings into a dedicated STEM action center that would include 4-H programs. The goal is to offer additional programs such as welding that are no longer taught in local schools. The airport provided a hangar for the drone camp’s indoor drone instruction this year.
“The airport has been an awesome partner for us because of Rich’s involvement and his experience as a pilot,” Statz said. “We are also fortunate to have his help as a 4-H aero science leader.”
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Published in October 2018.