How Drones Can Be Used to Teach Kids Tech Skills

It is well known that when learning something is fun, people are more likely to remember it. The same goes for how we receive our education: the more fun it is, the more likely we will remember what we learn. As new technology develops, it will be good for schools to adapt it to help students learn useful skills. Now, it looks like a new technology may be able to encourage kids to learn about technology: drones.

Thanks to their availability in the last few years, the public has taken a shine to drones. From recreational use to professional racing, drones are becoming part of everyday life. That makes them a perfect method to get kids into studying technology. Exactly how, though, can they do this?

Drones vs. Video Games

For better or worse, video games are a part of many kids’ lives. They provide entertainment, social interaction (albeit indirect), and can improve hand-eye coordination. Unfortunately, they can also be crazy addictive and inhibit social skills. The only viable solution, then, is to find something even more fun that will get kids back outside.

Drones may end up being what does this. Flying a vehicle requires constant focus on surroundings, and be able to react to danger. An article from prophotouav.com said this on the matter: 


It is believed that with the near constant response that a pilot will need to provide the drone while it is in flight employs every faction of this critical development in the brain to fire neurons and send signals faster and faster with more experience gained by a pilot.


The article then says that with fewer games using timed events that use focus and hand eye coordination, they are less effective. Drones can provide better coordination practice than games ever could. Not to mention, they can be as fun as any video game.

Drones Encouraging STEM Learning

STEM Education, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This curriculum focuses on the aforementioned four subjects in the hopes of getting kids to pursue careers related to them. Sadly, public education can drop the ball on this and lead to kids failing to gain interest. This is where drones may be able to solve the problem.

Take for example the bane of so many students, math. Some people are good at it, while others only learn it long enough to get through the classes. It is clear that teachers need to find new ways to get people interested.

According to an article from eLearning Industry, it is the lack of use that makes math hard to learn. People are better able to keep knowledge if it has practical use, something that the Thai-Chinese International School chose to put into practice. Using a drone, a group of students had to observe its flight path and then create a graph to illustrate it.

After a flight that lasted a minute, the students were able to create graphs that showed the distance and time of the flight. Putting math to actual work to pique student’s curiosity with drones. Since it is actually fun to watch, students will be more likely to remember what they learned.

This is one example of how drones can fit into STEM education. A science teacher could create giant models of abstract concepts, like cells, and then use a drone to give students a closer look. Alternatively, they could create a model of the Solar System and take kids on an interstellar tour. The only limits would be people’s imaginations.

Drones Can Teach Students about Tech Jobs

In 2014, the Dayton Daily News reported about a local high school offering a new, tech-based course. Greenon was one of the first in the area to offer such a course, in hoping that teenagers will develop an interest in it.

Greenon’s drone course stems from the region’s desire to become a major power in the drone industry. Little surprise given the potential billions of dollars in profit to be had. At the same time, pilots at the Springfield Air National Guard Base fly Predator drones in the air. In the private sector, businesses like SelecTech GeoSpatial had begun exploring commercial drone use in the area.

Using software provided by a technology firm in Pennsylvania, students could create simulations for events where drones may see use. The endgame was to use data provided by a drone to create an app that could guide a school bus around a hypothetical disaster. If they show interest, students could get certification to use the modeling software.

Jim Shaner, one of the teachers for the course, said that not all the students would want to work in the drone industry. The goal of the course, though, was to spark interest in tech careers, and it succeeded. Students were already starting to learn new skills on their own at the time of the report.

Tynker’s Drone Education Plan

Educational software maker Tynker creates software designed to teach kids the art of coding for schools across the country. The software is easy to use, with Srinivas Mandyam, the companies co-founder and CTO, having this to say:


The school curriculum is built for educators, with no previous programming experience needed…Kids ages seven and up can start learning Tynker’s block-based coding language, then move up to Swift, JavaScript and Python. Tynker helps educators automatically assess student skills, create multiple ‘classrooms,’ easily import students and see useful metrics.


In total, 60,000 schools use Tynker to teach programming to students. However, Mandyam noticed that schools were looking at drones as a way of teaching kids robotics. That gave birth to an idea, and from that idea, a partnership with drone maker Parrot.

According to Mandyam, Tynker created a flight simulator course that would let kids program, provided by Parrot, from the comfort of a tablet. They can learn the basics of computer programming while getting a drone to do aerobatics. How cool is that?

Conclusion

Drones are being used for recreation, professional sports, and a myriad of other jobs. Given how mainstream the technology is becoming, it makes sense for it to be used for education. Kids already love drones, so if teachers started using them in classes, then that could be the spark to a lifelong passion for technology. Given how we need this kind of technological interest in our students, this could not have come at a better time.


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