Summer camp teaches high school students how to fly, build drones

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – High school students participating in a summer program at Tennessee State University are not only learning how to fly a drone, but build one.

Drone pilot and program instructor Wendy Jackson-Dowe, a TSU alum, gives some final direction to student McKenna Harris before flight. (photo by Lucas Johnson, TSU Media Relations)

The initiative is part of a one-week pre-college program at TSU that seeks to encourage high school students to consider STEM careers. Last year, students learned how to design and build an app.

“This year, we decided to do something very innovative,” says College of Engineering Dean Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, who’s been recognized nationally for his contributions as a STEM educator. “And so we have a curriculum whereby students learn to fly a drone, as well as build one.”

About 20 students are enrolled in the summer camp, which runs from July 9-13. A person can become a licensed drone pilot as young as 16.

“It’s estimated there’ll be between 10,000 to 20,000 job opportunities for certified drone pilots over the next several years,” adds Hargrove, “and getting kids excited about this at this early age is an opportunity for them to consider.”

Drone built by students. (photo by Lucas Johnson, TSU Media Relations)

The summer drone program was developed by Wendy Jackson-Dowe, a TSU mechanical engineering graduate. She says in just the last five years, drones have become a $127 billion industry.

“Drones are going to be so important to the future,” says Jackson-Dowe. “So I thought it would be great to introduce young people to this burgeoning industry by way of a hands-on camp.”

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Jackson-Dowe says the top three verticals right now in a global environment are infrastructure, agriculture and logistics, all of which drones play a part.

Student participants and instructors in drone summer camp. (photo by Lucas Johnson, TSU Media Relations)

“All of those areas touch all of us every day,” she says.

McKenna Harris, a freshman at Sycamore High School in Pleasant View, Tennessee, says the camp has her considering a career in the drone industry.

“I was planning to be like a vet or zoologist, but drones are really cool,” says Harris. “They’re changing the world.”

To learn more about TSU’s College of Engineering, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/engineering/

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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.