4 Steps to Create an Effective K–12 Drone Curriculum

Before investing in the hardware, K–12 schools should take some basic steps to ensure their drone programs will get off the ground.

An increasing number of K–12 schools are bringing drones into the classroom as new use cases show how useful unmanned vehicles can be to teach science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics skills

While students are excited at the idea of flying robots in class, teachers will need support systems to learn how to incorporate the new technology into their lesson plans.

“It’s easy to attract students and hook them with the coolness of flying drones. The burden is on us to show them the career connection — that a drone is a tool and that many industries use it,” Duane Roberson, Colorado Springs School District 11's director of career and technical education and concurrent enrollment, told EdTech.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how schools are teaching students to build and code their own drones.

4 Key Details to Pilot Drones in a K–12 Class

Before educators can soar with their students on the back of a DJI Phantom 4, there are a few basics steps to take to ensure a successful lesson:

  1. Earn a license as an FAA-certified drone pilot: That way, teachers understand safety and all the regulations, says Dave Kellogg of Oakland High School in Tacoma, Wash.
  2. Buy replacement parts: For entry-level drones, replacement motors cost about $10, while gears and propellers cost about $2 each. Make drone maintenance part of the class and teach students to repair the drones, says Ray Sevits of North Middle School in Colorado Springs, Colo.
  3. Purchase charging stations and extra batteries: The battery for entry-level drones lasts 6 to 8 minutes, and takes about an hour to charge. For back-to-back classes, it’s best to have backup batteries available that are fully charged, Sevits says.
  4. Create an advisory board: When Colorado Springs School District 11 developed its program, it set up an advisory board made up of drone experts at local universities and aerospace defense companies in the region. They provide expertise and can also serve as guest speakers, says Duane Roberson, the districts career and technical education director.

K–12 Schools Have Students Take Pilots' Exams

The Colorado Springs and Tacoma Public School districts plan to expand their drone programs in more schools in the near future. In the meantime, both districts want most of their existing high school drone students to take the FAA exam, and they even plan to pay for the registration fee.

Kellogg reminds his students that they are at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, and that the technology offers a good career opportunity: “They understand that they have an opportunity to not only earn credit to graduate, but also to learn a career skill that comes with an industry-recognized certification. That looks great on a resume and makes them hirable.”

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