NPC tech center presents new DIY Drones course – Hot Springs Sentinel



The new National Park College Innovative Technologies Center will offer a new class this month on how to assemble and fly racing drones.

The ITC has offered two previous courses to educate participants on unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. The DIY Drones course this month will allow participants to build, fly and keep their own drone.

The class will meet five times from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays between March 7-28 at the ITC, which is located at 2233 Albert Pike. No classes will be held March 21 and March 23 during the college’s spring break.

The cost is $299. Registration is available on the NPC Continuing Education Department webpage at www.np.edu/ce.

The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen

“The first night is going to be a lot of introduction to the concept of how these things are controlled and how they go together, what are the major components, what are you actually assembling and why do they have to go together the way they do,” said ITC Director William Polk, who will teach the class. “Then we will start loosely assembling things.”

Polk estimated the building process could last through four of the five classes. Participants will be able to learn and implement skills such as soldering and wiring.

“Once you get that plus the mechanical things put together, you have to wake up that flight controller and have it start recognizing what it is connected to,” Polk said.

“No experience with electronics is required, just a willingness to learn and a willingness to fail.”

Assembling the drone will involve concepts and skills pertaining to construction, soldering, wiring, aerodynamics and programming. Participants will be able to keep their complete products.

A completed version of the drone offered in the course can cost at least $250. Batteries, remote controls, cameras, transmitters, receivers and any first-person viewing equipment can cost extra.

The constructed drone will include only the basic body and electrical components, but Polk said he plans to include a battery for each UAV.

“If you can get these things stable and fly them around the room or outside, we are doing good,” Polk said. “I am hoping everybody will be so excited about them then that we can truly get some kind of racing club or something started.”

Polk said goggles, transmitters and other FPV equipment is needed to race drones over long distances. Users will need to keep their UAVs within sight for safe flight.

Five participants signed up for the first class in the fall. It was offered as an introductory course into the technology and applications of drones.

“We’re talking here, with this one, about drone racing, because it is something entertaining and fun, but there are vast numbers of commercial applications,” Polk said.

Participants’ ages have ranged from 35 to 70.

“One of the most excited people I had in that class was somebody who called herself ‘gadget girl,'” Polk said. “I think she was a retired pilot. She was all excited about flying things.”

The trend continued through a second class this spring with another seven students. Polk said he believed a racing drone course would appeal to younger students in the area, but those who have registered continue to be ages 30 and older.

“When I did Kids’ College and when I did Young Manufacturers Academy, the kids loved it,” Polk said. “We did all of that stuff, but even in my drone basics class this last time, I think the youngest guy was in his mid-30s.”

The college received a Regional Workforce Implementation Grant for $894,181 last year from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for the ITC. NPC previously received a planning grant for $95,000.

The center is intended to align workforce development and academic programs with regional economic development strategies to meet the needs of local and regional employers. Its offerings align with the Continuing Ed department’s catalog of non-credit courses, which include seminars for personal enrichment, instruction in specialized technical areas, hobby instruction, professional continuing education and adult training programs.

Continuing Ed courses are open to anyone. The non-credit courses are not designed to meet college degree requirements, but can provide continuing education units for professionals.

Local on 03/01/2017

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