At EAA Airventure this year, the AMA Education Department released their new UAS4STEM program. This program is designed to encourage students to learn about the sUAS (drone) phenomenon, teamwork, competition, and success through STEM. Education through Aviation! This program was started in 2014 as a NAVAIR Education Outreach program that the AMA sponsored. After a successful first year, the program was turned over to the AMA to take nationally. Some lessons were learned and adjustments made, and now we have created an everything in one box solution.
The concept is not new. Many robotics programs have existed for years in high schools across the country. We simply took the same concept and adapted it for flying. Each team will receive a carbon fiber multi rotor kit, autopilot system, RC system, video system, batteries, charger, as well as a full online curriculum and an online video series designed to get the teams flying successfully without having an experience mentor available. All students will also become AMA members if not already.
A small group of hikers has gone missing in a remote area. Although rescuers have determined a search area, they are unsure of the exact location and conditions of the hikers. Your team has been called upon to provide rapid response using a small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) that can support the search-and-rescue mission.
All teams must complete the online curriculum before kits will ship. This ensures all students will have learned the safety aspect before they can attempt to fly. Students must then build their aircraft and flight test it. The online video series helps ensure success while reducing risk. They will remain much more engaged if they are able to fly more and rebuild less.
Competitions will be held at AMA fields in the spring of 2016. On the day of competition, teams must orally brief their build and flight testing program. After the briefing, teams will have a 30 minute flight window in which they must complete the challenges. With the search and rescue theme this year, teams must fly over a designated location and identify targets within. Teams can expect to see items that might be something a lost hiker may have with them, such as a tent, sleeping bag, chairs, and more. Teams must note the type, color, and GPS location of the items and present them to the judging team within a designated time after landing.
While many in the hobby are skeptical of the new technologies. They are here to stay and we can either embrace them or run them off to go form their own groups that would possibly compete with the AMA. Programs like this will allow us to education students at a young age, as well as grow membership. Most importantly though, it encourages students to get involved in new technologies and an industry to will continue to grow exponentially over the next few years.