Middle school drones deployed

#PocomokeScholars graduate to flying the larger drone outside during our after school program.

When opportunity knocks, it’s important to jump on it and I saw a similar opportunity this year that I didn’t want my students to miss. The local television station was promoting its newly trained drone operators. People were being paid to fly these “toy” drones.

Yes, yes they were. 

How could this be a job? Simple, it’s a change in our college and career standards, and #PocomokeScholars needed to be prepared for it.

Drone Program Brainstorming

At the time, I had never have flown a drone before, but I knew it was trendy and would hook even the most resistant students. I began researching, reading Twitter, and reaching out to other EduDrone folks to gain insight on implementing a program. 

Next, I bought my own drone.

I spent my first weekend flying around my home office as my four year old chased the mini-drone down and my dog howled. In time, I built some capacity and learned through trial and error. I left some scuff marks on the wall, but I figured out some necessities to fly a drone.

The Talk

Our initial purchase was Furbee Mini Quadcopter drones. They are affordable and durable.

I sat down with my after school administrator and pleaded my case on the value of drones. I showed the costs, many online projects related to math and STEM standards, and flew the drone into her office to get her curious.

It was an instant sensation!

We decided to place it in the last session of after school program; it ended up being the most requested academic related activity, but only budgeted for 8 students in a pilot version (my mistake).

To build some discussion around school, I flew the drone in the lunch room and kept it our visually in my classroom so others could see it. It sparked many questions and many wanted to fly a drone during my class. I continued to tell students, sign up for my after school program and they did.

Purchasing Drones

There are a lot of drones on the market to buy, but which ones are best for students. I reached out to Adam Hinnenkamp, who has much more experience with drones, and learned things to know about drones. I encourage anyone wanting to know more about drones or ed tech in general to follow Adam on Twitter. 

Here are a few tips he gave me:

  • durability is key; students break things
  • cost is important
  • creativity — allow students to create courses
  • have fun

Six Week Breakdown

  1. What are drones? Explored the physical components of drones and aeronautics.
  2. Experiential Flying Courses.We flew drones and had fun with the drones.
  3. Explore CoursesLooked at drone challenge courses and watched parts of Drone Racing League. 
  4. Design Courses. Group designed their own courses via graph paper and PVC piping.
  5. Design Courses and Practice Flying. Continued designing and building courses. 
  6. Flying Student CoursesCreated a challenge to fly through each student’s course, keeping time


  • I did not give myself a big enough space to fly; I used my classroom. A lunchroom or

    #PocomokeScholars design their challenge obstacle course that will be used to fly their drones through at the conclusion of the program.

    major hallway would better meet the needs of flying and building the obstacle courses.

  • Don’t try to guide students too much. Allow room for failure in building; it is what it takes for them to learn.
  • Batteries do not last long enough for a middle school student; I needed a charging station and backup batteries to be more successful.
  • PVC piping was out primary tools for the challenge courses. Common items around us could have been used.
  • I did not make a plaque or award (outside of pure student enjoyment) for the final challenge #TeacherFail.

Future Goals

  • Build a two-tiered program for 4th and 5th graders and a more advanced version for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
  • Collect junk parts to make obstacle courses more challenging.
  • Skype with one of the professionals from the Drone Racing League.
  • Invest some time in grant writing to upgrade drones and additional items to make classes smoother.
  • Add a coding piece into the program. Maybe Parrot Edu kits for middle school (still researching).

–Brian Cook, Ed.D.–



About briancookeducator

Husband, Daddy, teacher, #Mountaineer, coach, and aspiring school leader | Thoughts are my own.
This entry was posted in Instruction, Secondary Education, Students, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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