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Drones & STEM Inspiration

“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” (National Science Foundation) 'Flying machines' have captivated, fascinated and inspired ever since humans looked up into the skies.

Now, everybody can build flying machines - drones. Everybody can programme them, everybody can fly them and everybody can find new uses for them. More importantly, this almost natural fascination with flying machines can now lead to new ways of learning. Creative learning that utilises and develops young people's core competencies and skills and takes them further. Inspiring young people to think outside of their experience and explore where STEM can take them.

At ExCAELO we wanted to create an educational programme that enthuses young people to want to learn and explore new skills. Skills that will broaden their horizons and open up their aspirations. A programme that provides exciting opportunities for young people to realise that learning digital competence can open up real world opportunities for them in their lives. Opportunities that helps to develop a set of skills, knowledge and attitudes to enable confident, creative use of new technologies and systems. That lets them explore the technology in their pockets, technology that is more advanced than the systems that put a person on the moon. As the first step in our programme development, we have designed a new indoor workshop aimed at supporting schools to deliver learning centred around Computational Thinking, Problem Solving and Modelling.

Throughout the course of the workshop pupils hypothesise and plan solutions, test their ideas, analyse their results, share their successes and approaches, to ensure a workable collaborative solution to the problem. This builds resilience, an appreciation of the value of collaboration and the value of project recording in a replicable way.

All through the use of drones. Clearly, educational content and structure were forefront in our minds whilst developing the workshop. Nevertheless, selection of the most suitable and flexible equipment for successful and effective delivery was crucial in order to achieve our learning aims.

As with anything, the decision making process for our choice of equipment was based on a number of factors: 1. Price - the drones needed to be competitively priced. We would need a fleet of drones for the workshop to be effective and we fully expect a relatively short life-span for the equipment. Schools are a challenging environment for any equipment. 2. The equipment needed a reliable, efficient replacement parts system and support network. 3. Compatible with iOS & Android Platforms. We can provide all the equipment required for each workshop, but we always feel it's good for students to have continuity in the systems that they're operating. We also felt that being able to use their 'own' equipment meant that pupils could document their work in such a way as to facilitate follow-up work in class. Equipment isn't 'standardised' in schools, so flexibility was required. 4. Programmable via Tablet platforms i.e allows flight programming & coding - suitable for school application, via an app. 'Free Flying', whilst a lot of fun, doesn't really deliver on our educational objectives and can be difficult to manage in an indoor environment.

5. Safe - A primary consideration. The equipment needed to be suitable for indoor use and small enough not to damage persons and objects in the event of a collision. It also needed to be small enough to allow more than one drone to be flying at the same time in the same teaching space. In addition, there was a requirement for sufficient structural design and fail-safe mechanisms to make it's use with children suitable. 6. Easily available for quick replacement of the whole drone if necessary - school use can be a hard-life for equipment. We needed the equipment to be 'off-the shelf' and available overnight, from multiple 'high street' retailers. 7. Robustness - School use is a tough working environment. Accidents are bound to happen and the nature of the workshop does mean that the drones are subjected to multiple collisions with obstacles.

We're now delivering the workshop with young people and the work is generating a lot of interest and enthusiasm. If you'd like us to deliver the workshop at your school or provide you with the resources and advice on how to set-up and deliver a similar programme in your educational setting, give us a call or drop us a line.

#education #workshop #programming #drones #coding

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