Over 250 6th grade students at South Valley Middle School in Liberty, Missouri gained hands-on experience flying drones and learning about the many applications drones are used for today.
Skydio’s social outreach program, Skydio For All, facilitated the Youth Fly Day and was joined by the Kansas City Police Department who uses Skydio drones for accident reconstruction and search and rescue. Drones are an ever growing part of our world. It's vital to build strong community relationships between organizations that use emerging technologies and people who live in those communities to foster a better understanding of how technology is being used and the impact to the community.
Nurturing the Workforce of Tomorrow
Engagement with future generations is increasingly important to continue developing the workforce of tomorrow and expose kids to the myriad of career opportunities available to them in the drone industry, from designing, programming, and building drones to using them as a tool for inspections, cinematography, or emergency response.
Exploring the World of Drones
The day started off with a presentation from Skydio where students learned what exactly a drone is, different types of aerial drones, the technology behind the drone and how drones can be used as a tool for public safety agencies. Discussing responsible use is crucial as during the early morning discussion there were multiple students who believed drones should be used for human surveillance which is not what Skydio believes in.
All Kids Fly Drones?
When asked how many students had flown a drone before, an overwhelming majority, if not every single student raised their hand in response—something every adult in the room was surprised by. Students shared their experiences one story at a time about their first drone flight and to no surprise, every story involved a crash, whether it was flown into a tree or more surprisingly “it ended up in my sister’s hair.” Many students asked if Skydio drones would crash and to their surprise we told them no. Thanks to Skydio Autonomy the students would be able to fly with confidence. This also enabled us to place the controller in the hands of all students, regardless of any limiting abilities, allowing for all to participate and feel included.
Hands-on Flying and Exploring with KCPD
During each student’s science class, they were brought outside to the track field to fly. Students received a safety overview before they were divided into four groups and partnered with an officer from KCPD and a Skydio employee where they then had the chance to fly Skydio 2+ and Skydio X2 manually and conduct a hand take off. Many students were quick to pick up the controls and comfortably fly the drone, stating “it’s just like a video game.” Students asked a range of questions from “how high can it go?” and then promptly trying to “send it to the moon” to “why are there two propellers on the top and bottom?” and “how much air the propellers push off them?”
Attempting to Crash the Drones
During the late afternoon, due to brief rain, students were moved to the cafeteria and covered awnings to fly. Students of course tried to crash the drone into the school walls and much to their surprise and thanks to Skydio’s obstacle avoidance, they couldn’t. They also tried crashing the drones into the school’s football field goals with no success.
One of the most rewarding parts of engaging with students on this level is the reminder of how amazing this technology is. The way a kid gains confidence when they realize they can fly the drone is priceless. Their childlike enthusiasm and joy is contagious. As Officer Jamie Lamb put it, “I don’t get many happy days at work, but yesterday was honestly one of the happiest days that I have had in my 22 year career.”
Can You Outsmart the Drone?
To conclude the students' flying experience for the day, they played a game called “Can you outsmart the Drone?” where students tried to strategically outrun Skydio’s Motion Tracking. Students tried a variety of strategies from solely running as fast as they could, zig-zagging as fast and sharply as possible, and even hiding behind the football goal post. Out of the six 6th grade classes, the class with the most students who successfully lost the drone would receive a pizza and ice cream party from Skydio.
As soon as we said “pizza and ice cream” the competition became high stakes with students passionately encouraging their classmates. Much to our amusement, many students wore Crocs which made for an entertaining game as the students ran around on a wet football field thanks to the light rain that day.
Out of the 250+ students, only two 6th graders successfully lost the drone, earning a two-way tie between two classes. Needless to say this game is fun for both kids and adults alike and provided the faculty and students with some fantastic memories.
Incorporating Emerging Technologies
Educators in America are overwhelmed and underpaid. Between large class sizes, lack of resources, and often needing to teach towards a test there is little room for incorporating education about emerging technologies. Let alone time for teachers to learn about emerging fields and the multitude of careers related to them.
In a report called Drawing the Future by Education and Employers that surveyed over 20,000 students aged 7-11, they found that “less than 1% [of students] get to meet role models from the world of work visiting their school” and “there [was] a significant mismatch between the career aspirations of children and labor market demands.” This is where organizations and professionals have the opportunity to step in and bridge the knowledge gap between educators and emerging industries by making ourselves accessible to future generations.
We don’t need to be educators, we need to be experts in our work. For organizations that don’t know where to start, reach out to a local school or after school program in your community and start talking to build a relationship. The Youth Fly Day at South Valley Middle School started out just as an idea, a conversation, but in reaching out to the school we were able to develop a relationship between KCPD and South Valley Middle School and provide students with hands-on experiences and insight to a multitude of career paths.
Skydio For All
Skydio For All is an industry-first initiative that utilizes Skydio’s autonomous flight technology to create lasting, positive impact for future generations. The program leverages the full range of Skydio’s resources—from product donations to training and support—to partner with local and global communities. Projects involving STEM education for underserved communities are at the heart of the program, but it also supports other activities, including providing opportunities for veterans, preserving cultural and heritage sites, supporting wildlife conservation, and support of global humanitarian crises such as the war in Ukraine. To learn more about our work, view the recently published 2022 Annual Report.