Page 18 - THE Journal, May/June 2018
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program off the ground. “He’s a hobbyist, and he drives race cars. He was exactly the right guy to do this. The kids really love
him, and he has a lot of energy,” said Giles, adding, “You need somebody on faculty who is very enthusiastic, likes to tinker and can fix broken drones, because we break them just about every day.”
Choosing a Drone
Long Cane MS primarily uses the $55 UDI U818A-HD drone, which, according to Giles, is the “most widely sold drone in the world.” Uniformity is important, he added, because that ensures that the league competi- tions started by the school will be won or lost based on “the skill of the pilot,” and “not on whoever’s parent can buy the coolest, fastest, best drone.”
The school keeps about 200 on hand for its own courses and to have enough to share with other schools. All of the drones have cameras and are equipped with rotor guards that protect the propellers or blades. What’s not needed is a GPS, insisted Crowley.
A primary variation with drones concerns the caliber of the camera. “You’re not paying for a better drone — you’re paying for a better camera,” suggested Crowley. Jersey City
PS started out with the low-cost AR drones sold by Parrot, which come with cameras. Those are still in use, three years later. But the district also has a few “paparazzi-caliber” drones outfitted with high-definition cameras that cost in the low four-figures.
Duration of battery is also an important consideration. In fact, Crowley advised that given the choice between buying a bunch of additional batteries and rechargers or buying a new drone, she’d go for the batteries. “They go fast,” she said. For both school systems, drone battery life is limited to between six and 12 minutes per charge.
Accessing Lessons
Because lessons haven’t traditionally existed covering drone use, both Giles and Crowley have been involved in creating their own. In Crowley’s case, they were initially designed as math units to be used by the teachers in her research project. Many of the lessons appear on her research project’s website,
“Division B Drone Project“ and cover the basics, including the standards to which it applies and ways to assess the students. However, once she finished with that initial cohort, she realized that restricting the drone usage strictly to math was unfair to the many educators asking her to help them get started with drones in their classes. As a result, those lessons show up in a book she co-wrote with two education colleagues. “Drones in Education” (see “The Book on Drones in Education”) includes coverage not just for math but also social studies, sci- ence, language arts and an interdisciplinary
mix (a study of the Underground Railroad), along with activities related to art, PE and journalism.
Long Cane PS, on the other hand, had an entire course to fill. The 45-day block of classes as an elective attended by students in grades 7 and 8 uses a “level system.” “Everyone starts out at level 1,” Giles explained. To get to level 2, students must pass a safety protocol test and a “basic drone comprehensive test,” which includes history, aeronautics, drone components and drone laws. They must also do a basic flight performance test. To make it to level 3, the
1. Seek help from educators who have already done what you’re trying to do. For Long Cane MS, guidance came from experts at three higher-ed programs (the University of North Dakota, Kansas State Polytechnic and Troy University). Also, both Giles and Crowley make themselves available to confer with other schools and districts.
2. For students who struggle with flying the drones, consider outfitting them with tablets and a simulation app like QuadcopterFx so they can practice with that in between flight times. “Flight simulation is very cost-efficient,” said Giles.
3. Drones don’t need separate consoles. Nowadays, students are used to play- ing on games on smartphones and tablets, so they’re just as comfortable using those as the control devices to fly drones, too, stressed Crowley.
4. Although Long Cane students wear safety glasses when they fly, drones are quite safe — “knock on wood” — insisted Crowley. “All the apps have emer- gency features. So you hit the button and it drops. The drone just lands, no matter where it is.”
5. The thing about drones is that when they’re flown outside, they tend to get lost or stuck in places that are inaccessible (trees, reservoirs, neighboring yards). Keeping extras on hand is important, as is not getting too riled up when they disappear.
6. Consider setting up a student drone repair team. At Long Cane, a team of interested students get together on a regular basis “in a little room with tools and broken drones,” said Giles, “and they fix drones.”
7. What’s a substitute teacher supposed to do if he doesn’t know how to fly drones? Giles recommended running YouTube drone videos, especially the ones showing crashes and accidents. “It’s not that hard to entertain students for a day,” he noted.
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