Teachers, administrators learn how to build, operate racing drones – Norwalk Reflector


“I think the hands-on part of it is fun,” said LeCivita, who worked with John Williamsen, who teaches technology for fourth- through eighth-grade students.

“We are trying to figure out whether to use it in the curriculum or club-based. We’d also like to offer it as a club,” LeCivita said.

Imagine using drones for educational purposes or exposing students to robotics as a fun activity

Those were some of the purposes of a training session Tuesday afternoon at EHOVE Career Center. STEM teachers and school administrators from 12 districts attended the workshop and learned to build and operate a racing drone. From the Reflector readership area were educators from Edison, Norwalk, South Central and Willard. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“We are seeing what it’s like,” LeCivita said, referring to creating a handheld drone. “We made some mistakes, but we were able to fix it quickly.”

The EMS dean of students equated putting together a drone with being slightly more difficult than an advanced LEGO set.

Williamsen handled electronics while serving in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. He said troubleshooting — something he did in the Navy — is important for students because they can figure out the reasons something doesn’t work and go through a checklist to verify their work.

Safety Third Racing provided the training for the kick-off of a pilot season of a drone racing academy, targeted start in March. Started in 2015, Safety Third Racing is a volunteer, community racing organization that covers Ohio, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

As hobbyists, drone users are forced to learn technical and mechanical matters, said Safety Third Racing Vice President Will Nickley, and doing the same thing with students allows them to “exercise that muscle.” He also said there’s an opportunity to introduce the concept of robotics to young people who might not be interested otherwise.

“I’m excited about this,” added Nickley, who was an instructor for Tuesday’s workshop.

“They can start to recruit the kids. Hopefully it’s a stepping stone for the kids to continue in that direction,” he said. “If we can get middle schoolers — or even high schoolers at this point — interested, the sky is the limit.”

1st drone-racing league in Ohio

The participants left the workshop with the required knowledge and materials to form a drone racing team at their school. They also have access to supportive programming and materials they may require as the season progresses.

“We’re going to form an after-school club,” said Becci Bihn, Orion City Schools career tech director. “It’s going to be part of the discussion.”

Tuesday’s workshop came about after a discussion between EHOVE Assistant Director Matt Ehrhardt and Jeff Abbes, president of Buckeye Broadband, about how to add more STEM classes to the EHOVE summer-camp program. Ehrhardt said they were looking for “an inexpensive way to start with drone racing” and that evolved into “the first-ever drone-racing league in the state of Ohio.”

“Buckeye Broadband is going to cover it potentially as a (TV) series,” he added.

The possible documentary would include interviews with students, detail their progress and drone races. A camera man was filming Tuesday’s workshop.

Ehrhardt and his son Carson own a DGI Mavic Pro drone.

Carson Ehrhardt, an Edison High School junior, is working on his drone pilot’s license, specifically known as the FAA Part 107 drone license. Norwalk High School health and physical education teacher Jordy Horowitz,who has his license and has performed commercial drone work for the Norwalk Economic Development Corp., is mentoring the teenager.

“I have a friend who is a Realtor and (my son) is going to start doing his properties,” Matt Ehrhardt said.

EHOVE is partnering with Buckeye Broadband and North Point Educational Service Center for the possible racing league. North Point covers Erie, Huron, Ottawa and Sandusky counties. Lonny Rivera, North Point director of innovation, said the plan is to coordinate the drone-racing events in the four counties, so the final event would be a tournament.

“The goal, if it goes well, is to spread this to other states,” he added.

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