Drones taking students on flights of STEM fancy

Rice camp introduces students to careers related to these devices

Drones are making headlines more and more often in the news these days, and about a dozen HISD students have been learning about these high-tech devices — and the careers they’re used in — during a camp held at Rice University.

The sixth- to ninth-grade students, who attend DeBakey High School, HSPVA, Lanier Middle School, Revere Middle School, the T.H. Rogers School, and Valley West Elementary School, spent three days learning how to design, engineer, and pilot drones in mid-August.

“Our kids aren’t just learning how to operate or fly drones, they’re also learning about the engineering, the science, and the math behind building drones,” said Cesare Wright, a Rice Center for Engineering Leadership lecturer and organizer of the camp. “One of the things we have stressed is not only the technology, but also the fact that the technology is inherently social. They’re not just making cool things, but cool things that people will use in the real world.”

 The campers explored various career possibilities and heard from experts with Microsoft, BP, 3DRobotics, the U.S. Air Force, and more.

 “In particular, we emphasized the convergence of technical fields – computer science, mathematics, robotics, mechanical engineering, and civil and environmental engineering, as well as the ever-increasing importance of developing a deep and well-rounded background in STEM at the middle- and high-school levels in order to be competitive in the college and professional world,” Wright said.

 Rice worked with HISD teachers to align the camp’s curriculum with state education standards to be certain that it reinforced what the students were being taught at their schools.

 “A key element of our STEM strategy is to support curriculum-based programs that excite students in STEM pathways,” Wright said. “Drones offer an ideal vehicle for sparking student interest and encouraging them to develop invaluable math and science skills.”