On Saturday, Feb. 8, a group of 10 high school students visited Lawrence Technological University’s Marburger STEM Center to learn about drones during one of LTU’s Xtreme Science Saturdays programs.
Ty Faulkner, a lecturer in LTU’s Department of Humanities, Social Science and Communication, with the help of students at Detroit’s K-12 STEM teaching center Ecotek Lab, taught the students all about the anatomy of drones, what they can be used for, and how to fly them. The students took turns flying both autonomous drones and ones that were directed by a remote controller.
Faulkner emphasized to the high school students why drone technology is so important and how they can receive training to fly drones. “We showed the students what is out there as far as degree programs, how drone technology is making its way into the academic circles,” Faulkner said. “There are several opportunities here at LTU with our computer science program and robotics programs to learn the programming that make these robots work.”
The autonomous drones contained high-powered infrared sensors in order to prevent them from hitting walls and other objects. Some students passed the autonomous drone back and forth by using their hands to direct infrared sensors.
An obstacle course was set up, which consisted of three stationary hoops for the students to fly the drones through. Things started off a little rocky with the first student getting the drone caught in their shoelace, but the students learned quickly, with one student setting the fastest course time of 45 seconds. Later, some students even raced the remote controlled drones down the hallways of the Marburger STEM Center.
The Ecotek Lab students also described that some drones can be flown remotely via smartphone by connecting to the lab’s internal Wi-Fi system. And they learned the practical uses of drones, including detecting structural failure in the architecture and design field, and underwater drones that are used to help find sunken ships.
Ecotek lab presenter, Brandon Hull really enjoys participating in STEM outreach programming. He stated his favorite part of outreach events like this, “is just talking, because science is my favorite topic and I could talk all day about it.”
When asked how she did flying the drones, home-schooled high school sophomore participant Zoya Johnson said, “Poorly. It is kind of weird because I don’t quite understand all the controls very well, but it was still pretty cool.”