When it comes to drone and robotics education, New Richmond High School is a leader.
Last school year two new robotics and drones courses were introduced, Robotics and Drones 1 and Robotics and Drones 2. Robotics and Drones 1 is a one-semester introductory course, Robotics and Drones 2 is a one-credit, full immersion course.
What makes the programs unique is that they are offered during the regular school day for high school credit. Many area school districts have drone and robotics programs, explained teacher Alan Lindner. Most are club activities though.
“We’re a frontrunner in this,” Lindner said. “We’re trying to do something a little bit different and give kids an opportunity during the school day that most schools don’t have.”
With the completion of Robotics and Drones 1, students should be familiar with how to safely fly a drone, know the rules and regulations for operating a drone, and be experienced at producing a movie from their drone camera footage. They should also be familiar with basic aspects of building and operating robots.
A great example of work achieved by Lindner's students is a video created by New Richmond High School senior Zoe Fisher.
Drones and Robotics 2 takes a deeper dive into technology and engineering, especially in robotics. Students actually have the opportunity to build a competition level robot and get to compete with it. Students keep an engineering notebook and keep track of what they are building, Lindner said. They spend time with coding and building lifts.
Lindner is not just the teacher of the two courses, he is also the creator. He visited programs in other districts ahead of developing the curriculum for New Richmond.
The focus is on engaging students in learning that provides a basic understanding of engineering skills, and a basic understanding of robotics and drones, he said. An added benefit, the skills students learn from the classes could also lead to a future career.
Students explore the pathway to obtain a remote pilot certificate through the FAA, according to Director John Frye. It is anticipated that more than 300,000 new pilots will be needed to meet future job demands.
The global drone service market is growing, according to an article published by Research and Markets. Pay, according to ZipRecruiter, can range between $41,000 to $56,000 annually. Market Watch reports that earnings for some people can soar into the six-figure range.
The potential of a future career is a nice perk, Lindner said.
The career potential isn’t necessarily what’s attracting students to the program.
Freshman Jack Thompson said he remembers his uncle doing engineering things. “It’s always interested me,” he said. “The class is fun and cool.”
Others said they took the class for what they thought would be an easy A.
Students in the class have a lot of flexibility and freedom, Lindner said. Some students aren’t used to that. There are also high expectations.
While earning an A is possible, it’s not a given, he said. For students who follow the guidelines and complete their classwork, an A is realistic.
By the end of the courses, Lindner said he hopes the students have a basic understanding of drones and robots and that they can embrace the technology.
“And we’re hitting on engineering and technology standards in a way that’s new for the district,” he said. “Students can learn something they wouldn’t have been able to learn before and take it to the next level.”