Students at Pleasant Valley High School in Brodheadsville,
Drone technology has given rise to a multitude of new career opportunities, and educators are eager to get involved. In order to offer young pilots more avenues of entry into drone-related careers, colleges and high schools have begun to add unmanned aerial systems (UAS) courses to their curriculum.
Full-fledged UAS degree programs are cropping up at prestigious universities across the United States, including Purdue University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and the University of Maryland. Naturally, this interest in drones has permeated high schools as well in the form of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) initiatives, scholarship programs, and after-school extracurriculars.
Drone Pilot Ground School Scholarship Enables High School Students to Pursue Drone-Related Careers
Since the age requirement to receive a commercial drone pilot certificate is just 16 years old, it makes sense to start introducing drone technology to students as early as the high school years. In 2017, we rolled out a scholarship at Drone Pilot Ground School to support high school students interested in passing the FAA’s Part 107 exam and becoming certified commercial drone pilots.
The Drone Pilot Ground School scholarship provides free access to our online Part 107 test prep course ($299 value) to U.S. high school students looking to get their FAA drone pilot certificate. There is an unlimited number of scholarships available, and students are accepted on a rolling, case-by-case basis.
One high school, in particular, has fostered a lively interest in drones among its students. Pleasant Valley High School (PVHS) has partnered with Drone Pilot Ground School to create a drone program, which has already sent 13 students through the DPGS high school scholarship application. To get a closer look at the PVHS drone program, we met with teacher and drone enthusiast, Geroge Boudman.
Pleasant Valley High School Launches ‘PV Drone Team’
Mr. Boudman is the Art Department Chair at PVHS. He teaches multiple advanced and AP level courses within the school’s art department and serves as the advisor of the PV Drone Team.
The PV Drone Team meets after school as an extension of the Animation & Virtual Reality Club. The robust activities include learning about flight safety, practicing their flight skills, and even building their own drones. The faculty and students worked diligently with the school board, administration, and other invested organizations to establish regulations and drone zones on school property.
In our interview, Boudman shares how he started the PV Drone Team and walks us through the process he took to get permission to fly drones on school grounds. He and his students put together a slide deck presentation summarizing the basic steps they took to launch the program. Take a look at the slides and read on for more details about this successful high school drone program.
Fusing Technology with the
Throughout a career of artistic exploration, Boudman eventually became intrigued by digital art mediums. Prior to becoming a teacher, he worked as a graphic designer, helping many companies transition to digital workflows.
“I realized that the art world was going in a digital direction,” said Boudman. “I went through a transition, from manually processing film and negatives to working digitally. So, I transitioned a couple of companies into that digital workflow too,” he added.
As he helped companies learn and adopt new technologies, Boudman realized the importance of education. So, he left behind his role as a graphic designer and went back to school, obtaining a Master of Science in Art Education.
The decision to switch careers proved to be a wise choice for Boudman. Now a high school teacher of 13 years, he has elevated the PVHS art program to a new level, introducing digital photography, animation, 3D modeling, computer science, and virtual reality classes into the curriculum.
Boudman has a true passion for melding technology and art and sees them as naturally complementing components of creating. He’s even willing to take on challenging course topics that other departments shy away from.
“In Pennsylvania, computer science can be taught as
Boudman works with students in his AP computer science principles class on creative projects such as building apps, websites, and even using drones to advance digital photography.
Gaining School Board Approval for the PV Drone Team
In addition to teaching, Boudman also serves as the advisor for the after-school drone program, the PV Drone Team.
“Five or six years ago, we started an animation club, and it was after school in the computer lab. That has grown into animation, virtual reality, and now the drone team,” said Boudman.
The evolution of the after-school drone program involved securing new equipment, obtaining a drone insurance policy, and receiving approval from the school board.
At first, Boudman felt that his idea to start a drone program was met with “a big stop sign.” The students were allowed to meet after school, but they couldn’t fly their drones on school grounds. The primary concern came from the school’s business
“The concern was we wanted it done safely and we didn’t want a student or a person injured and then the school to be liable for it,” said Boudman.
Until they obtained a drone insurance policy, there would be no drones flying on school grounds. Still, Boudman wanted to start the program, and he found other creative ways to help students pursue their interest in drones.
“So in the meantime, we were grounded. But we worked on a preflight checklist, we worked through some of the Drone Pilot Ground School material, and we inspected the drones themselves. We did a lot to get familiar with everything, so when the time to fly actually came, we were ready,” said Boudman.
Boudman and his students worked diligently to obtain a drone insurance policy to cover the school in case of flight mishaps, property damage, or other issues that could arise.
Once they had the insurance squared away, it was time to re-present the idea to the school board. Last month, Boudman and members of the club attended a school board meeting to present their progress.
“In January when I presented all of this to the school board, I had students with me. They talked about what projects they were working on. We demonstrated what we’re doing internally to make the drone program safe and educational,” said Boudman.
They’d checked all the school board’s boxes: obtained
Establishing Drone Zones on School Grounds
Now, the PV Drone Team is developing safe areas to fly so they can document athletic events and graduations.
“I’m working with the athletic director to create what we’re calling a drone zone. It’s kind of a vertical tube, you could say, that we can fly inside of beside the football stadium, or beside the baseball diamond, or somewhere along the cross country track, and somewhere along the baseball field,” explained Boudman.
Boudman hopes that his students will take the technology skills they learn and infuse them back into the community.
“We’re a fairly rural community, and we have a big brain drain. Our top kids graduate and then leave to New York or New Jersey. We want some of these kids to stay here in Pennsylvania and put their skills back into the community or return to the community once they’ve finished college,” said Boudman.
With the education Boudman and the staff at PVHS are providing, students can discover the many opportunities drones offer any community, rural or urban. From agricultural site mapping to building site surveys and much more.
If you’re a high school educator who’s passionate about STEM education and inspiring your students to get more involved in drones, visit our DPGS scholarship page.