Camp seeks to spark youth interest in multibillion-dollar drone industry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The use of drones is a growing multibillion-dollar industry, and Tennessee State University is preparing youth to be part of it.

The university hosted a camp July 22-26 to teach youth about drones, such as how they’re impacting the world, and how to fly them.

Camp participant Christopher Jones enjoying drone flight. (Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

“We want them to see how drones are becoming the future of aviation,” said Dr. Melissa Riley, a commercial flight instructor and professor in the Aerospace Engineering Technology Department at TSU. “And how they can have a career in that.”

Reports show the commercial drone industry is continuing to grow, and that the market is forecast to be worth $127 billion by 2020.

“And it’s just going to keep expanding,” said Rashad Bailey, coordinator of the drone camp. “This is the ground floor, and I hope these kids will get engaged now.”

Thirteen-year-old Glennwood Walker said he’s considering becoming a physical therapist, but he’s also interested in being a drone pilot, and he enjoyed the camp.

“This program is a fun environment for kids who want to learn about drones, or coding,” Walker said. “Drones is definitely something I’m considering.”

During the camp, participants learned how to program drones, as well as some basic rules of air space. They also got a chance to spend some time in TSU’s flight simulator at John C. Tune Airport.

“We wanted to kind of give them an overall experience,” Riley said.

The camp is one of several initiatives TSU has started to expose youth, and individuals of all ages, to new technology – particularly coding.

The week of the camp, TSU launched the first community “Everyone Can Code and Create” initiative for youth on its downtown Avon William Campus.

Camp participant Cindy Nguyen flies her drone. (Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media Relations)

The initiative is part of the newly established National Center for Smart Technology Innovations, created through the “HBCU C2 Presidential Academy” to bring coding and creativity opportunities to students across HBCU campuses, as well as Nashville students. The Academy, which is supported by tech giant Apple, was launched the week before.

Leaders of 14 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) – including Tennessee State – from across the country attended the Academy and came away with knowledge and skills in coding and app development from Apple’s comprehensive coding curriculum.

As part of the initiative, TSU is also working with Metro Nashville Public Schools, Motlow State Community College and the Metropolitan Nashville Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. to expand coding opportunities to other students in the community.

To learn more about HBCU C2, visit

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Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at