Kurnai College

At the end of July, the Flying Robot School (FRS) visited Kurnai College in Morwell, Victoria. We were there to spend the day with twelve Year 9 and 10 students that had shown a keen interest in technology. We wanted to expose the students to flying drones and get them excited about pursuing further study and a future career in STEM.

We had three 3DR Solo drones available for use on the day. Two of the drones had been kindly sponsored by EquipSuper in conjunction with the Baw Baw Latrobe Local Learning and Employment Network (BBLLLEN). Each drone had a GoPro mounted on a 3-axis gimbal to enable aerial photography and a hand-held controller fitted with an Android tablet.

In preparation for a session of pilot training, we presented the major risks and safety hazards associated with drone flying. Emphasising the importance of safety is an essential component of the training, as students need to be aware and considerate of others when flying.

After forming their own teams, each student was given a turn at flying a drone on the school oval, while the others in their team completed a worksheet covering relevant scientific concepts such as longitude, latitude, quadcopter dynamics and positioning systems. All the students approached the flying task with enthusiasm, their faces beamed when they saw the drones take off - they were genuinely surprised with their abilities. It was also great to see the students researching answers for their worksheets online and working proactively in their teams.

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A highlight of the day involved the students solving a real-world challenge. The challenge was linked to an initiative called ‘WithOneSeed’. An aim of this initiative is to encourage East Timorese farmers to plant and maintain trees, thereby earning themselves carbon credits. The farmers can then make an income from selling these credits to companies wishing to offset their carbon emissions. Official auditing of a farmers compliance involves measuring the size of the trees they grow. We asked the students to use their problem solving skills and devise a way to measure the circumference of a tree using a drone and photogrammetry techniques.

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The students approached the task with a great work ethic, continuing to re-work their measurement method until they improved the accuracy of their answers. They collated their findings and presented these to the entire group. After a great day of flying, each student was awarded a certificate for their participation in the program.

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The two drones donated by EquipSuper will remain at Kurnai College for a few months, before being rotated through other schools in the Baw Baw Latrobe region. The students have been encouraged to start their own flying robot club at their school and involve other students interested in technology and a career in STEM. The FRS is looking forward to visiting Lowanna Secondary College, Yallourn, in October.