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High Flyers Chart Career Pathways

Matthew Estill, Brenkwitz High School, 2016-2017 Project

Project Description: My primary goals of introducing my students to the career pathway of commercial drone piloting, familiarizing students with the FAA regulations for small unmanned aircraft, and integrating math and science curriculum as we increased motivation/attendance through the joy of flying.


Expected Results: We achieved our expected results through working together as a team. All of the members of my drone flying club are students with disabilities who were having difficulty finding the motivation to attend school on a regular basis. One student, in particular, stands out, he mastered flying the two drone types that we acquired with the funds and was eager to teach me and the others the many capabilities of our drones. This passion for drones and the discovery of his natural talent for learning to fly them, as well as an innate desire to pass his knowledge on to others has caused him to consider making a career of drone piloting/teaching. Other students enjoyed the challenge of drone piloting as we explored ways of having flight challenges reinforce academic concepts such as calculating speed or memorizing mathematical formulas through memory games which required the accurate flight and landing sequences. In short, the drones improved the quality of HUSD education, thanks to your generosity.

Important Outcomes: The most important outcomes came in the form of generating enthusiasm for being at school in students who typically did not want to be here. Their attendance increased and they often showed up and immediately said, “Are we going to be flying drones today?” Along with generating fun in student’s days, the drones introduced them to FAA regulations, approaching learning in a unique way, and many of the growing applications of drones in the economy ranging from drones used for military purposes, to filming applications as diverse as sporting events to wildlife, as well as applications in careers such as farming, policing, fire-fighting, and so much more, they saw that drone piloting a career pathway that is emerging and ever growing.

Student skills and knowledge: The knowledge gained through this project was primarily in math, drone flying skills, and a general understanding of the FAA regulations for drones and career pathways that utilize them. We learned that drones can be used to give firefighters real-time footage of difficult to access areas potentially saving the lives of firefighters and the public. We learned the basic parameters of safe and legal drone piloting from FAA rules such as VLOS (visual line of sight), that is, the operator of a small unmanned aircraft must keep it in their visual line of sight at all times during flight, or that you many not operate small aircraft over any persons not participating in the operation. The many other rules and our curriculum based challenges such as calculating speed, racing to correct formulas, and teaching each other skills added to fun and learning. Yet, secondarily, the enthusiasm generated by the anticipation of flying, or by flying, led students to have greater focus and energy in completing other coursework that was not even related to flying the drones. Although Independent Studies has posed challenges of generating great numbers of student participation due to the fact that we serve many of the districts vulnerable students who choose to attend by appointments at various times throughout the week, they managed to bring something special into the education of small groups throughout the second half of this year, and will continue to do so into the future. Again, all to the wonderful generosity of the Hayward Education Foundation (HEF).

Project Award: $473.00

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