Science, engineering studies, technology and mathematics are not the easiest, according to the majority of the learners. However, as studies show, play makes everything fun and easy to understand. This is why there are endless play options when it comes to introducing STEM in current education programs and exciting interest in learners. There have been a lot of toys introduced to learners from an early age, which help in the development of the child. But one thing that has taken the education system by storm is the introduction of drones as a learning tool.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in the recent past, have featured heavily on many Christmas wish-lists. It is not a wonder that they have also taken over a lot of hobby stores. We see news almost daily about amazing things done courtesy of drones. We have seen incredible photography and films thanks to drones. We have seen these UAVs help rescue lost explorers, deliver shopping or medical aid, and bring innovative solutions in so many other sectors including agriculture. In the near future, drones will be among the most commonly used tools thanks to its versatility.
Apart from the fact that flying a drone is a thrilling experience, it is one of the tools used today to introduce STEM in schools. The use of drones in STEM learning has proven to be exceptionally effective. In addition to being an exciting toy, UAVs introduce students to current technologies. This works excellently because learners are often curious about how things work. The best part of the play is that students are actually interested in learning about drones!
The information available online can be overwhelming, especially if you have just started looking for options to introduce drones to your school. As such, we’ll try to keep it simple here. For starters, here is a simple classification of drones you can consider; indoor and outdoor.
Indoor drones, unless flown by an experienced person, stand risks of flying into ceilings floors, furniture and even people! Indoor drones have features such as the first-person view, can take photos and videos, and come with instruction manuals. They are programmable and owners or learners have access to professional development resources such as in-person training, webinars, digital resource library and even phone support! These education drones also come with safety features to make learning as incident-free as possible. Indoor drones can be used by learners in elementary school, middle school and high school depending on which drone is under study.
Outdoor drones are pretty popular with beginners. They are also buildable, programmable and come with a variety of safety features such as return to home, prop guards, position hold, obstacle avoidance and distance/altitude limiters depending on the brand. These drones are perfect for high school and college learners, and the curriculum takes about 16 lessons. The lessons could be longer depending on a variety of factors such as add-ons, length of each session, etc. Outdoor UAVs also introduce the learner to real-world drone applications, coding, electrochemistry, flight physics, engineering design, data transmission and drone operations depending on the drone in use.
There are several factors to consider before buying drones to promote STEM learning. It is important that you consider the learners’ age so that you pick the drones that are appropriate for them. Additionally, note that educational drones offer varying options of what the learner can get from interacting with them. Therefore, always check the specifications on the brand you wish to purchase. Here are a few basic considerations you should always have in mind when buying educational drones.
• Price versus the features offered
• The recommended age range
• Build, configure and tune
• Safety features
• The curriculum
• GPS, FPV and flight simulator
• Professional development and availability of support
Let have a brief look at each of these considerations.
The price depends on a range of variables. Some of the variables that affect the price at which you buy the education drones include the following.
• The number, type and features of items in the drone kit
• The type of drone in the kit e.g. ready to fly, build to fly etc.
• Features and capabilities of the drone
• How the drone contributes to learners’ curriculum
• The number of drones you will buy
It is important to note that there are some drone kits that do not include all the accessories that will be needed to comfortably run the UAV. As such, you must budget for the extra accessories if you choose an incomplete kit.
When choosing a drone, consider the one that will offer the best educational experience to the learners. A drone that gives an immersive experience exposes the learner to career opportunities that innovations in UAVs bring about. At this age of technology, it is important that the workforce is as tech-savvy and as innovative as the job market needs.
Age range depends on the features and extent of the technical functions that the drone can offer the learner. Elementary school educational UAVs will not have the same capabilities as STEM drones meant for college learners. It is important that robotics technology is introduced appropriately according to the learner’s age and gets advance as the learner grows up. While using drones will teach many STEM attributes, introducing complex concepts too early makes it harder for the learner to absorb the information.
When buying a STEM drone, be sure to check out the recommended age range. If that information is not clear up front, consult with the seller. Additionally, it would be easier for you if you were acquainted with the features that are important for the age range of the learners you wish to introduce the STEM drone to. There are exceptional insights online on the features that are essential for each age group.
The ability of a drone to be built and programmed is one of the vital features to consider when looking for the perfect STEM UAV. If your perfect educational UAV is a ready-to-fly drone, it’s probably not a good idea to get a modular quadcopter. Any drone that is not meant to be deconstructed will probably not give value in a robotics classroom.
Depending on the age range, STEM drones should be easy to take apart, rebuild, tune and configure. These experiences are important in offering the learner a fully immersive educational experience which eventually translates to career options later on. It is very easy to spark the interest of an engineer-in-training when the drones are effectively introduced.
One of the best STEM drones is the RubiQ. It is the first open-source educational UAV and is perfect for training aspiring pilots. This modular educational drone can be built from the ground up. This gives the earner hands-on experience in key areas such as electronics, physics, robotics, and wave dynamics. RubiQ comes with inbuilt safety features such as position and altitude hold, return to home and programmable failsafe. This is one of the drones that are popular for introducing learners to winged robotics.
It is important, as a trainer, to understand how the drone will work or will be assembled even before you buy it. Given that the drone’s control board is like a computer motherboard, reassembly might involve some soldering. In this case, you may need to budget for a soldering station. It is important to get a drone that can be broken down and reconstructed several times as it ends up being more affordable than single-use educational UAVs. If you do prefer the multiple-use STEM drone, look for units that do not need soldering. It is also important that you get a drone with parts that can be easily replaced.
Educational drones must have the appropriate safety features for the recommended age range. These safety features apply in flying as well as taking down and reassembly of the same. Let’s take a simple 55lbs quadcopter as an example, through educational drones tend to be lighter. With the propellers rotating fast enough to lift that weight off the ground and stay airborne, coupled with speeds that can reach up to 80mph, it is quite possible that a collision can cause serious damage.
Now, even if it’s a lot of fun, drones can be quite risky; to people and property alike. This is where safety features come in. Keep in mind that the drone is used by learners, who may not be very conversant with the controls. As such, it is important that concise safety features are available to mitigate these risks.
Educational UAVs such as PCS Discover Drones are made with safety as a priority. The safety starts with including clear and vivid warnings to learners’ packages. Their kits include safety glasses, pre-flight checklists and a good number of policies to follow to ensure safety. When the kit has incorporated safety measures, the instructors can focus more on education.
Here is the thing; STEM Lesson for drones needs to be short and fun. It is almost a sin to make quadcopter learning boring and unnecessarily lengthy. What you need to do is make sure that the learners are enjoying the lesson while giving them immersive, hands-on experience.
There are educational drones that come with suggestions for STEM curriculum such as the Discover Drone kits. It is extremely important that the instructor incorporates the lessons into the flying and robotics fun experience.
There are options such as the interactive Droneology app that gives learners an introductory lesson into drones. It gives the learner information on drone operations, history, regulations as well as how the general tips on handling unmanned aerial devices. Depending on where you buy the educational drone, you will get a variety of resources on how to craft the curriculum. One other resource that is popular across the board is the LABCards, which are as fun as flying the drone itself.
GPS, first-person view, flight simulator; all of these features are needed when training piloting skills! Pilots in training do not get a seat at the cockpit on their first day; they get flight simulators to give them the feel of it and acquaint them to the feel of flying and control of the drone. Ask professional flyers and they will tell you that they have logged hundreds of flight hours on simulators. This feature is essential in training the learner to have sharp flying skills.
The best thing about flight simulators is that they give you a feel of flying a real drone, but saves you the trouble should any incident happen. Therefore, on a simulator, you can incorporate risky manoeuvres into your practice sessions without worrying about crashing an expensive drone. The best part is that the first person view simulator display matches the scenes experienced by racers who wear FPV goggles!
Simulator FPV goggles give the learner a bird’s eye-view of scenery, something similar to virtual reality. The feed is linked to the simulator so that you get a feel of real-time FPV you will experience when flying a real drone.
GPS is a feature that works hand in hand with safety features such as return to home. In addition to being an excellent safety feature, the students get the opportunity to learn how global positioning systems and satellites work while enjoying flying.
While these three features are not exactly very vital in drone flying, their expandability, functionality and adaptability make them perfect for cross-disciplinary experiences.
Supposing you now have the right drone and have even started classes. How do you know that you have assembled the drone well and that it is safe to fly? If the drone is involved in an incident during one of the practical lessons and needs arms replacing, what happens then? How do you integrate the drone’s technology with the training standards you want to set? Well, this is where support capabilities and professional development come into play.
When you encounter any issues with your drone, you need the assistance of a drone professional to get things back on track. You can get in house training sessions, webinar or whichever other training platforms you prefer. It is important that you are the instructor fully understands the drone before you place it in the hands of the learners. Depending on where you buy the drone, you can ask and get dedicated support line and training sessions as is necessary. Additionally, professional development support is essential when using drones for Higher Education.
Drones incorporate incredibly advanced technologies which are constantly being improved. This means that there will always be something new and more advanced in the market. As such, you need to give learners the basics as well as advance their lessons by incorporating new technologies to the lessons. Remember; keep it short, fun and educational!
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