UAV "Challenge Series" Curriculum

The curriculum began initially as a series of tasks that a student or a group of students would achieve in order to move on to the next level.

In the beginning, this seemed like a very plausible way to motivate students to progress through the program. This method is similar to those employed by video game designers in which a participant “levels up” to unlock the next challenges. 

This design worked well in the initial training phases. However, students quickly mastered the fundamental levels eclipsing the instructor's demonstrable knowledge. Transformation of events determined that the approach works well when there are one or two ways to learn a skill, and resources available for a student to practice and challenge as they make their way towards that end goal.

During the School Year

The curriculum continued on into the school year of 2014-2015. Here are a few examples of what happened in the MBT classes of Bethel and Chefornak.

(as reported by Bethel MBT Coordinator Megan Shaw)

Our team first started working on with UAVs in December 2014. We did our first big build at that meeting. The excitement of the kids present caused more students to join for our subsequent meetings. After our winter break, we started meeting every other Wednesday. Within a few weeks, we had our base team and several sub-groups that worked well together. Our first big challenge was in January, when we couldn’t seem to get our UAV to fly properly. We troubleshot on our own but hadn’t been able to get the UAV to fly without “spinning out” by the end of the meeting. At the next meeting, some students watched Hoverlabs troubleshooting videos while others compared the UAV we were having issues with to the other two that were built. The videos yielded some success but we were still struggling. I arranged a Skype with Brett from Hoverlabs and with his guidance, we solved our issue. 

The rest of the year we spend working on the guided challenges from Kevin and John. Much time was devoted to cutting weight to get the camera in the air and building light weight frames has become a bit of an obsession for the kids. 

As our school year is wrapping up, we still have not completed all the challenges from Kevin and John. We also need to have several more pilots who are fully comfortable with the UAVs.  However, we are excited to continue working on our shortcomings and looking forward to completing the challenges.

What was the highlight...

When the kids got the UAV off the ground the first time. It was only for a few seconds, in my classroom (so not high at all!) but they were so excited, since we’d had so many issues with it and had been trying to get it to fly correctly for over a month. They all started cheering.

Social Emotional Learning focus...

Teamwork. The kids work great together and are always willing to pair off or welcome someone new in.

(as reported by Chefornak MBT Coordinator Jared Mixon)

Students learned the fundamentals of balance and center of mass through building and designing a UAV. Students became aware of the purpose of props for lift. Students collaborated to find ways to improve their design. 

Some of our students learned how to use the Mobius camera to take images. Not all students practiced flying the drones, a few still feel unsure about taking the controls. We haven't had a chance to demonstrate the UAV for the community. Our video and image collection was minimal. Students decided to spend most of their time experimenting with types of building materials and design ideas, rather than record video. 

Many of the students who took part in the MBT Project were also in our Robotics Course, so they had the experience and a high level of comfort with designing and testing prototypes. As spring time came, the combination of basketball and hunting really diminished participation. We had some good ideas for ways to build a balance UAV, and the students researched some models that could be printed on a 3D printer.



UAV Flight School

As a result of lessons learned in 2015 summer instruction, the “Challenge Series” grew into a comprehensive UAV curriculum.

A Paradigm Shift

UAV Flight School Curriculum, 
Four Segments

  1. Ground School
  2. Student Pilot License
  3. Pilot License
  4. Advanced Pilot License

We had learned that flying UAVs is an intrinsically motivating end goal, and students were willing to work to earn the freedom to use it for a variety of purposes. Allowing a student to progress too quickly sometimes resulted in costly crashes that set the program back both financially and emotionally. Students feel bad about crashing and are often reluctant to fly again.

Called “UAV Flight School,” the curriculum is modeled after the process and certifications needed to earn a fixed-wing private pilot’s license. In this model, students became skilled in the use of UAVs in a similar method to the way a 16-year old student earns a license to drive a vehicle. 

UAVs are exciting devices that have a lot of intrinsic motivation for students. Like driving a car, it enables the user to go and see the world from a different perspective (image: from the UAV). They can either garner admiration from their peers for awesome flight skill, a fantastic video or image, or they can answer a question that they have about the environment around them. Either way, the license opens doors for a student to explore and share. 

We created four separate parts of the UAV flight school program, integrating the written and performance evaluations into each component, which students must pass in order to be issued a license. Our flight school model was set up in such a way where students could work independently on particular areas of training and be held accountable for their progress. Ultimately a licensed student would be able to “check out” a UAV for use on an approved project.