SHERIDAN — The students at the Wyoming Girls School had a recent lesson on technology literally take off last week, as a newly launched WGS Drone Pilot Team honed their flight skills.
Students, teachers and staff spent the week pitching, rolling and yawing their flying drones through three-dimensional obstacle courses, speeding to unique perspectives to create drone film featurettes, computer block coding their drones to fly challenging autonomous flight missions and speeding through 3D virtual reality racing courses.
The program proved to be both education and fun for Girls School students.
“I want to be a part-time photographer, and I can see myself using this for a small photography business,” said one student.
“It was so frustrating at times, but so fun,” said another. “We learned a lot.”
The program at WGS was a collaboration sponsored by the Wyoming Department of Education CTE division, the University of Wyoming Trustees Education Initiative and the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowment for Science Education.
“Learning to precisely and safely fly, repair and computer code drones is rapidly becoming one of the most valuable new technical career skills of the decade,” said UW professor Tim Slater, who served as the lead drone flight instructor. “It isn’t just that racing is incredibly fun. It is the highly transferable skills of remote command and control of electronic and robotic systems that this kind of competitive drone flying fosters.”
Girls School Education Director Dixie Fox enthusiastically agreed.
“Our students here greatly benefit from seeing a positive vision of future careers that they can meaningfully look forward to being a part of,” Fox added. “These include being an effective drone pilot who supervises crops, pastures and livestock as well as those who safely can remotely access construction sites, railroad lines and mineshafts.”
The collaborative drone education program is designed to provide pilot training and is set to include competitive events around the region for Wyoming’s rapidly growing drone pilot population, while also addressing education content and performance standards.
According to officials, events are scheduled in Gillette, Douglas, Laramie and Powell in the upcoming months. A current schedule is posted online at drone-challenges.org and is open to K-12 and college-level students and educators.
“This collaboration with the Girls School is a fantastic addition to the rapidly growing array of student educational experiences, educator training and community and workforce development partnerships generated by Dr. Slater’s drone programming,” said Curtis Biggs, UW TEI E-4 director. “We are excited about the energy surrounding this drone project and the multitude of Wyoming industries it can serve.
“We are immensely grateful to WDE CTE for their support, through Perkins funding.”