The Drone Technology in Education (DTE) Programme


The programme, organised and delivered by Mr Mulholland (T&D department) is in partnership with St.Mary’s and Stranmillis University Colleges, Belfast whereby undergraduate students have volunteered in the delivery of the project. Their role involved becoming a group mentor to a number of students and working closely with them to guide them through the project. The second instalment of follow-up days will take place on the 15th & 16th of December. The STEM based package immerses all pupils into a range of problem solving activities using MiniDrones.

Pupils began the day by organising themselves into groups and getting to know their mentor, who discussed with them the overview of the day. Their first task was to create a mind map of ways that drones could be used to meet a human need in everyday life. The answers produced a wide spectrum of suggestions, from police tracking criminals, to dominos delivering pizza!

The pupils then became a drone and its controller. Working in pairs, a blindfolded ‘drone’ was following the commands of its controller in order to reach its destination, avoiding obstacles along the way. Once completed, pupils then attempted to write a programme on a whiteboard to see could the drone reach the finishing point following every instruction written down.

Pupils then applied this knowledge to learn how to programme and fly. They quickly got their MiniDrones in the air, and began to write flowchart programmes using the Tynker App on iPads, which the drone followed accordingly. They solved a number of problem scenarios by getting their drone to travel to various points marked out within their flight zone, whilst instructed they must not fly outside it. Pupils had to carefully calculate distances, timings and commands in order to enable their drone to complete each task.

Once they had mastered writing programmes, the pupils then followed a pre-set dance routine for their drone. Each group copied the ‘Strictly Come Droning’ programme and brought their drone to the stage, where all 10 drones then performed a synchronised dance to the music.

After lunch the pupils then began to use their drones to simulate a real world setting. Their task was to deliver packages for amazon. Working on scaled maps of Great Britain & Ireland, pupils had to deliver Lego bricks to and from various cities across the map. If they successfully reached their city’s landing zone, they could remove their Lego brick and place it in the collection basket. Pupils also were recording the distance their drone travelled, how long it took and then they were able to calculate how fast their MiniDrone was travelling.

Throughout the day, pupils took turns at recording and documenting each task using iPads. At the end of the programme, each group will create an iMovie to give an overview of the tasks they have completed and what they have learned. The prize for the best 3 iMovie’s is getting them published to the school website, so stay posted at the end of December.

To finish the day off, pupils were given a demonstration by Mr Mulholland of a state of the art aerial drone (courtesy of St.Mary’s University College). The pupils gathered in the pitch to see the drone in action, learn about its capabilities and help create a birds-eye STEM image which was recorded by the drone.

Watch the video created by Mr Mulholland to see everything the girls completed and see the drones in action!

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