June 21, 2017
Drone program teaches technology, stewardship
Eighth-grade students across northeastern North Carolina will get a chance to learn about drones and how they’re used in science thanks to a new outreach program developed by educators at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.
Made possible by a $5,000 Environmental Stewardship grant from Dominion Energy North Carolina, the lessons will begin during the 2017-18 school year. The outreach is comprised of three separate visits to each participating classroom, according to Educator Meredith Fish who’s leads the innovative program.
“During the first session, students will learn about drones, how they are used in environmental sciences and some basics on coding,” she said. On the second day, we’ll divide into groups, one student will be ‘the drone,’ the rest will be ‘programmers.’
“They will write a code telling the drone exactly what to do,” Fish said, “such as fly over a neighborhood and capture video footage.”
A First Flight High School and UNC - Chapel Hill graduate, Fish said the final phase entails integrating a device such as an i-Pod programmed with an app such as DroneBlocks to the drone’s controller.
“Then, the students will write a code to use to fly an actual drone,” she explained. “The end result will be to see what their code can do.”
“An example would be using it to see how much trash is on the school yard,” she added. Practical real world uses include gathering information after hurricanes to see what roads are damaged or photographing flooded areas.
“They can also be used to access areas that can’t normally be reached to check on endangered species,” Fish said. In addition, the program opens the door to computer programming, a valuable tool in today’s workplace.”
“Coding, in general, has become increasingly important for science professionals,” she added.
Dominion’s spokesperson, Pekrun, said the Jennette’s Pier grant was awarded because the education department’s goal of the project works to improve natural spaces or encourage environmental stewardship, which echoes the main thrust of Dominion’s philanthropic arm, the Dominion Foundation who’s on track to award $1.2 million in grants to 107 organizations this year.
“This hands-on learning experience will be engaging and fun for kids,” she said. “They will become more curious about UAV’s (unmanned, aircraft or aerial, vehicle) and other technologies that can be used to help our environment.” Pekrun said drones can be used to check remote sections of powerlines after storms too.
Dominion Foundation and its President, Hunter A. Applewhite, said improving the world we all live in is his main goal. Additional grants that support education and stewardship projects that preserve, enhance or make nature more accessible were awarded. The full list can be viewed at www.dom.com/envirogrants.
Jennette’s Pier Director, Mike Remige, thanks Dominion Energy North Carolina for the contribution from the Dominion Foundation and he said the money for the drone program helps give students an edge in an ever-changing world.
“It’s fantastic that the Dominion Foundation recognizes the high-quality STEM (science, technology, education, mathematics) curriculum being developed by the Pier’s Education Department and supports our efforts to make it available to school children in the region,” he said.
“With technology expanding into every aspect of society it’s more important than ever to prepare our children for a future where innovation and critical thinking are a top priority,” Remige said.
“This program was developed to spark interest in science and math through fun, interesting, hands-on activities that utilize a technology we are all familiar with, in this case drones,” he said.
The educators plan to buy several drones or quad copters as they’re also known. Check out additional things happening at the Pier by logging on to www.jennettespier.net.