Submitted by Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County

Members from Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County are becoming pilots. Every school week this year, teens from across Skagit County lift off and maneuver in the air, improving their 3-dimensional sense of the sky over their Clubs. This opportunity once would be restricted to those with access to airplanes. For the members of the Clubs, they become pilots through the newly introduced Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County Drone Program.

The Drone Program was funded through a grant given by the Best Buy Foundation to encourage youth to embrace new technology. The drones offer youth the opportunity to have fun using a technology that is increasingly becoming more important. “Drones are often referenced in military or recreational uses, but have far more potential,” explains Nathan Allen, Director of STEM Initiatives for Boys & Girls Clubs who developed the program, “Drones can be used for search and rescue, photography, and conservation—and can spark interests in robotics, coding, or aviation.” Exploring these careers is an essential part of the Drone Program in addition to the fun youth will have while becoming adept drone pilots.

Each drone has four helicopter like propellers and can be easily palmed. Students control the drones using iPads that communicate with each individual drone’s specialized Wi-fi network. Using an equipped camera, each drone can record footage, take pictures, or aid the students with piloting their drone around obstacles, sending live images back to the iPads. Further, the drones are programmable using Scratch™, a block-coding software that teaches introductory coding skills.

For the remainder of the school year, middle and high school students will participate in the drone program as part of the career-based STEM curriculum run at the Clubs. This summer, the drones will visit each elementary school Club, where youth will learn how to code. At all grade levels, youth will navigate an incredible new technology and hopefully find a passion in STEM.

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