Drones In Education

Drones In K-12 Education

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At the start of the new millennium, academic research identified a potential problem for students in the United States.  Compared to their counterparts around the world, American students are less prepared for the modern global workforce. A multitude of studies have identified a particular shortfall in science and math-related concepts.

In response to the problem, in 2001, the U.S. National Science Foundation coined the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics).  The problem is that despite this known data and the STEM initiative, schools aren’t adopting STEM curriculum rapidly enough or in extensive enough depth.  

One area of STEM that would be hugely beneficial to adopt are drones.  While originally used for military purposes, drones now boast diverse capabilities and usages.  In recent years, drones have begun to play a significant role in STEM curriculum and education in general. Drones can help teach a wide range of concepts and life lessons that otherwise might be difficult for students to understand. Most UAVs are easy to learn to fly, and many are inexpensive, making them accessible to everyone.

Drone Benefits In Education

Drones — ground-based, submersible, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — offer many benefits to educators and students.  

Drones, and UAVs in particular, are excellent complementary tools for STEM education. Students benefit from exposure to technology, show signs of increased information retention rates, and can experience learning on an individual or group level. Educators benefit from high-quality resources, such as coding software with professionally built lesson plans.

As a form of technology, drones are both simple and sophisticated at the same time.  From coding and electronics, which teach children how to write code and program, as well as become familiar with the mechanical innards of electronics, to critical thinking and cognitive development in general, drones are perhaps the best option schools have at their disposal for break-through STEM learning.

Drones, like computers and the internet, will have an impact on society – but ten times as big,” said Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly (an award-winning, drone solution company).

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects more than 100,000 new jobs in unmanned aircraft by 2025.  Demand for technological proficiency is only going to continue to rise, and students who had training during their school years will be far better prepared to enter the workforce and find employment right out of high school.

How Are Drones Being Used In Education?

1. Develop Motor Skills and Hand-Eye Coordination 

Drones require a lot of focus to use while navigating from one destination to another and drones can help develop depth perception by requiring the user to judge the distance in space that the drone is flying.  This study, conducted at the University of Chicago, illustrates that not only does the hands-on aspect improve the retention of knowledge, but it also aids in the development of core skills such as fine and gross motor skills.

      2.  Teach Coding Skills 

Coding is one of the most popular jobs in the world right now that is seeing an excess of students navigating towards that career. Learning how to code can be less intimidating if students use drones for the hands-on learning experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers had a median pay in 2019 of $41.61 per hour.  In the same way, many schools have adopted robots to provide a framework that allows students to experience first-hand the effects of their code, many educators are using drones to engage students in writing programs that allow drones to conduct autonomous flights. This can be very useful to teach computational thinking.

     3. Building Intellectual and Creative Skills

Some students learn best by destroying and rebuilding. These habits tend to show improvement in memory building, as well as improving the child’s intellectual skill set.  build creativity within the minds of young students by providing them with the different components of a drone. Drones come in a variety of assembled options. Watch as each child thinks on their own and places the different components in different places.  Letting students try, fail, and then succeed, is time-consuming and frustrating. But patience builds over time, and in the end, it’s about the process and learning along the way.  These are invaluable in the learning process to create true thinkers!

     4. Teaching Science & Physics Concepts

Flying drones can provide very real examples of how physical laws work.  Teachers can illustrate how the controls become the outside force acting to make the drone move.  To teach the law of gravity, the drone should be positioned in the air just a few inches or feet above a soft surface and turn off all of the controls.  The students will see gravity in action. According to an article titled Drones Take Their Place in the K–12 Classroom by Wylie Wong, teachers at a Colorado middle school are using drones to teach the “conceptual physics of how the aircraft work, their different parts, and how to fix them when they crash or break”.

     5. Project-Based Learning & Engagement

Finding ways to allow students to work with their hands on a relevant project is important for student engagement.  Drones allow students to work hands-on, making their learning easier by providing a tangible way to experiment with those things that they are being taught.

     6. Develop & Practice Descriptive Writing

Another way in which drones can be used in the classroom is by using drone imagery to base a descriptive writing piece around.  Have students describe a drone-captured image using descriptive writing. This way of using drones helps expand students’ descriptive skills as well as engage them in the activity. By utilizing the student’s descriptive language skills, students are therefore more able to build a rich vocabulary to aid them throughout their academic career.  Additionally, these skills can lead to improved reading comprehension for students.

     7. Promote Physical Activity

A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 80% of children between the ages of 11 and 17 are not as physically active as they should be. The desire for sports and spending time outside has been replaced with technology, such as the likes of video games, mobile phones, and interactive tablet devices. Teachers can use drones to get the students outside and base physical activity around interaction with the drone.

     8. Teaching Math Concepts

In most cases, students hate math simply because they can’t relate it to real life.  Drones are just the thing to change this.  For instance, you could track the path followed by your drone and ask students to calculate the distance and make a corresponding graph.  A school in Bangkok is having students learn how to make and read graphs, calculate distances, and acquire some basic trigonometry concepts by following the path of different drones.

     9. Career Exploration

Drones are pretty cool, which gets students engaged, but they’re also used as tools in various industries (shipping, agriculture, construction, entertainment, and more), which creates a career connection.  Covering drone technology in the classroom helps prepare students for jobs in the fast-growing, multi-billion dollar industry. From here, students might explore careers as pilots, or look at jobs in programming, design, engineering, mechanics, and data analysis.

     10. Teaching Geography

Drones are increasingly being used as a cost-effective way to gather geospatial data. Drones can be used to quickly survey the landscape, filming a stretch of coastline or stretch of river. They can be used to capture footage and videos of locations students might not normally be able to access.   Landforms that have been previously inaccessible such as landslides can now be surveyed from a safe location.  This kind of data relates to creating and reading topographical maps. 

Where To Start?

Are you an educator that finds all of this drone and coding business intimidating?  Well, it doesn’t have to be.  We have vetted 3 drone models that are user-friendly while also offering all the necessary real-world foundational skills.  You can check out CoDrone & CoDrone Mini.  

In addition, you may be interested in one of the STEM kits that we have vetted that include drones, such as RobotLab’s Box V2 or the 9-12 STEM Lab.  These kits have all the necessary components to get you and your students started with ease.  RoboLink has a new drone hitting the market very soon called CoDrone EDU which has even more features that cater to education.  Following our inspection, CoDrone EDU passes with flying colors!  Be sure to keep an eye out for the announcement of its availability.  Details on CoDrone EDU will be posted in our newsletter as soon as it is released.  So, be sure to sign up to receive notification, if you aren’t already subscribed so you don’t miss out!

The examples above make it clear that drones are easy to integrate into every aspect of education and real life.  Educators are tireless professionals always searching for new methods to make the educational process stronger.  The benefits of UAV technology, particularly as a part of a STEM curriculum, are well worth the investment while being crucial in preparing students for the future.

About the Author: Alicia Verweij

Alicia is a seasoned educator that is passionate about teaching children to think critically, problem-solve, and function in an ever-changing digital world so that they will be prepared for future careers. She’s an active supporter of new educators and is known as an innovator in STEAM education. As a teaching veteran of more than 12 years, she holds a Master of Education in Educational Leadership, a B.S. in Business Management, an Alternate Route Education Certification, and an endorsement in Gifted Education. She is an educational influencer, founder, and consultant at EDGEucating LLC.

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