Game of Drones Offers a Non-traditional Learning Opportunity

Pittsburgh Schiller STEAM Academy of Pittsburgh Public Schools and the Carnegie Science Center have teamed up for Game of Drones – a two-month program that culminates in April, during a three-day obstacle course competition, in which middle school students race remote-controlled drones that they designed and constructed.

Jon Doctorick, mobile Fab Lab Education coordinator at the Carnegie Science Center, is teaching students the basics, with the purpose of providing students with as little direct instruction as possible. The drone kit he brings includes: computer-aided design software, laser cutters, cardboard, corrugated plastic, computer chips, wiring, small motors, propellers, lithium ion batteries, chargers, controllers and other related building materials.

“We’re going to take ideas from their minds and put them on a computer screen through Inkscape, a design software,” says Doctorick. “Once you have the designs in front of you, how do you turn that into an “it” – something you can hold in your hand?”

Nicole Findon, lead STEAM teacher and coordinator at Schiller, says this is a first for most students.

“My main goal with them is to get them ready for real-world experiences,” says Findon. “They have to work through challenges and brainstorm ideas. And if what they create doesn’t work out, I want them to be able to be okay with that and try again.”

The benefits of this program go beyond the lab. Students will be using this drone construct across the educational spectrum – writing narrative pieces about drones; researching how they’re deployed and used across cultures; and debating on the ethics of this technology.

“We knew the traditional methods weren’t meeting the students’ needs,” says Shaun Tomaszewski, K-12 STEAM coordinator at Pittsburgh Public Schools. “It’s amazing to see teachers coming out of their isolated classrooms and planning meaningful learning experiences.”


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