Park Ridge State High recently held their inaugural Tournament of the Drones, where 20 Junior pilots tested out their flying skills and learned how to use drones to solve the problems of tomorrow.
The drone tournament, held Wednesday, December 8, marked the beginning of a new digital technology unit commencing next year for Year 7’s, which is focused on using technology to solve social issues.
Head of the Schools IT department, Matt Jenkins, says that the competition was a way to promote and familiarise the students with the concepts they will learn next year.
“It was a competition open to all students at the school in Year 7, 8, 9 which invited them to put their skills to the tests and learn about drones in society,” Mr Jenkins said.
“Working with drones in the classroom is cutting edge, and we wanted to make sure that we had some opportunities to play around ahead of delivering the class in 2022.”
Mr Jenkins says the competition was to complete four challenges over the day, including an obstacle course.
“One challenge students needed to complete was a scenario where they delivered emergency supplies to a ship that was in distress along the Queensland coast,” he said.
“They also had a coding challenge where they needed to use code to program a search and rescue operation, where they weren’t able to see the terrain except through the drone’s vision, after it returned to the launchpad.
“So they had to plan out their course in advance using code, thinking about the route they would need to take and how high to fly –too high and you won’t see the landmarks below, too low and the field of vision…and all while the clock is ticking!
“Finally, students had to produce a video about ways drones might be used in our future society – a great reminder of why it’s important to teach these technologies today.”
To win, students had to earn the most points they could gain by achieving specific tasks in the challenges.
“They earned points for whether they found the items in the search and rescue mission, or how quickly they completed the obstacle course.”
At the end of the day students, Kaitlyn and Mehraj won, with the highest score, while many others received participation and highly commendable awards.
Mr Jenkins says he was proud to see the students engage heavily with the learning process.
“It was really fantastic to see such a high level of engagement within the kids,” Mr Jenkins said.
“It was really great to challenge their thinking about drones and how we might use them in the future.”
Mr Jenkins says drones are an essential study as they are being used to tackle present and future global issues.
“Drones are not just a toy,” he said.
“Drones are going to become a part of so many areas of our lives, and they are going to do things that will genuinely help society and people,” he said.
“So it was really great to expand their thinking about why we are teaching them drones and going down this path in a digital technology sense.”
Mr Jenkins says he would like to thank their sponsor, the Queensland STEM education organisation She Maps, for providing the equipment and tools to deliver the competition to the students.
“She Maps are really dedicated to getting drones into the classroom and looking at how we can use them in society. They are also great advocates of encouraging more girls to try coding and choosing STEM careers,” he said.
“We bought our new drone fleet through them, but they also produce a range of STEM learning resources that support students to learn knowledge and skills they can use in the real world. They supplied the materials to run this event for free.
“That included the teacher manuals, run sheet, scoring sheet, all certificates, posters and more, which made it so easy for us to pick it up and run with it.”
The new Digital Technologies drone unit for Year 7’s is only the beginning of new education initiatives at Park Ridge State High School, hoping to open up a new world of augmented and virtual reality in 2022.