First Annual Drone Institute Creates Unique Opportunity for Area Youth

By Trina Runner on November 13, 2017 via

With the whole world at our fingertips, it’s no secret that the future of education lies in STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.  The Harrison County Board of Education recently partnered with Salem International University to start an initiative that has proven to put STEAM into action.
Salem International University hosted the First Annual Drone Institute on November 1-3, inviting Freshmen from all Harrison County high schools to participate.  The three-day intensive allowed students to explore the use of drones in field from medical technology to engineering to business and more. 
“There are over 2.5 million jobs in private security alone right now and drone use is still in it’s infancy when it comes to its applications across the job market,” said Dr. Javaid Syed, Director of the Drone Institute.   “By using the university students to mentor area high school students, the institute challenges young minds to examine a new way of thinking and encourages them to come up with innovations that make daily life more efficient, convenient and affordable.”
Dr. Mark Machin, Superintendent of Harrison County Schools, embraced the idea with open arms as part of a long-term commitment to partnering with the university and area industries.
“We want to give Harrison County students every opportunity to succeed,” said Manchin.  “Hands-on workshops like the Drone Institute are ideal for introducing students to the ever-changing job market and encouraging them to find innovative solutions to problems that affect everyone.”
West Virginia’s educational goals include integrating public school education with that of post-secondary educational institutions and industry. 
“Right now, there are gaps between each level,” said Sayed.  “We plan to help students close those gaps by being active participants in projects that seamlessly blend science, math, arts, and technology making fully qualified future employees for area businesses.”
Bridgeport High School Freshmen who participated in the Drone Institute included Dakota Swiger, Mollly Runner, Andrew Liu, Marcel Rodriguez and Ammar Haq.  Upon arriving at Salem International University, they were treated to a tour of the campus and then immediately had the opportunity to fly drones.
Each participant was given a drone to construct, program and fly during the institute and they were allowed to keep them at the end.  Employees of Thrasher Engineering were on hand to help with instruction and show the relevance of how drones are used in their industry.
“It was really cool to see how drones are used to map out and survey areas for oil and gas industries and more,” said Swiger.  “The speakers worked with us one on one to make adjustments to our drones and to update programming.”
Students learned that the maximum height for drones is 400 feet so they do not interfere with aircraft and they were encouraged to try out the different types of drones used in industry.  Some drones glided and others were controlled by a cell phone and still others had their own controller, each one used for different tasks.
“The drones fly over areas and map out the entire site which makes it safer and more efficient than using men on the ground,” said Thrasher’s Dan Wheeler.  “Being able to work with these young people on projects we never dreamed possible when I was their age has been an amazing experience and I look forward to see what they create.”
Grant Spencer, Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for Harrison County Schools, coordinated the efforts between the high school students, the industry representatives and the university. 
“This is the first of many initiatives Harrison County Schools has implemented to showcase the talents of our students in STEAM.  We have opened a new STEAM Center and plan to have demonstrations from the student’s drone experiences and continue to develop ways to make our students successful and marketable.”
The Tiger Techies, students in the Computer Science Club, mentored the high school students during the event, which also had several guest speakers and hands-on applications.  Dr. Syed highlighted the use of drones in transportation, medical developments, environmental applications, search and rescue, population studies and business. 
“There is no limit to where this technology will take us,” said Syed. “We are in awe as we watch it unfold and see the practical uses it may have in the future of virtually everything.”
That’s where the fun part begins.  Upon leaving the Drone Institute, students were given a challenge.  Over the next four months, they are to identify a problem and develop the solution using drone technology, documenting the results and presenting it at a follow-up in March.
Each attendee is encouraged to partner with one student who did not attend the institute and create a pitch for their drone use idea.  Winning ideas will then be developed by the students, with full support from Salem International University.  Winners will also receive a monetary prize.
“Over the next four months, these students will take what they have learned here and apply it to real-life problems, using their creativity and curiosity to develop solutions using technology,” said Syed.  “I cannot wait to see what they come up with. We may very well have future inventors, scientists and programmers among us at this event.”

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