Drones are soaring in popularity.
And now the ever-innovative Mansfield school district is taking advantage of the trend by offering a drone class.
Edu-Drone specializes in teaching students skills to become a commercial drone pilot, also opening a variety of career opportunities.
The inaugural class, which began in January, has approximately 50 students. School officials say the plan is to offer a class (or more) for high school students each semester at the Ben Barber Innovation Academy.
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“I plan to be an electrical engineer, so I would absolutely love to figure out how these things tick,” junior Zachary Richards said. “I think being in this drone class is pretty cool because we get to see another point of view of the world, and we get to see how these machine parts work together to fly so perfectly.”
The drone class is the brainchild of MISD Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas. Christie Alfred, chief innovative officer, researched how it could be implemented in the Mansfield ISD.
“We have drone clubs at some elementary schools. Also, at our STEM Academy, they’re very involved in the drone program and will soon have competitions,” Alfred said. “Those types of activities promote the pipeline for students to engage in the Edu-Drone class in the future.“
After successfully completing the course, students will have the opportunity to take the Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 exam to become a certified drone pilot. To take the course, students must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license.
Beverly Van Steeg, instructor of the class, said students from all career paths can benefit from the program.
“As much as the drone industry is growing, there is a need for this skill in various fields, from military services and engineering to photography,” she said.
“I actually fly drones at home and kind of play with them. It’s a hobby. When we knew we were getting a class, I was like ‘Yeah!’ and sort of pushed to teach the class.”
Sophomore Mason Everhart said his fascination with drones is that each one has its own little internal machine that works in conjunction with each other. He plans to make use of his learning in a military career.
“I hope to get my certification and use this skill in the military so that I can manage surveillance and help those who are on the front lines,” he said. “It’ll be a way to give back to my country.”