By Chris Marchand
A new program among high schools in the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board is giving new meaning to ‘teachers who drone on and on’.
Members of the Dryden High School Robotics Club got together with their like-minded cohorts from Ignace and Sioux Lookout’s Queen Elizabeth High School last week for a test flight of student-built racing drones.
The carbon-fiber quadcopter aircraft are assembled component by component from kits. Virtual reality goggles tap into a broadcast from a camera on the aircraft, giving pilot a first-person view. Different programming helps pilots with flight controls.
“They’re not something you just take out of the box and are just plug and play — these guys have had a lot of challenges along the way,” said DHS teacher Kurt Schmidt. “It’s an awesome learning opportunity to figure out all the problems you run into. Everybody builds them a little differently. They come up with some unique ideas, some work and some don’t.”
While the eventual goal is to have an interschool drone racing league, this first meeting was a valuable opportunity to compare notes and dial the machines in to the point where they can be precisely controlled. Pelican Falls School has also expressed an interest in getting into the action.
Student Josh Chymy says his passion for drone-racing extends well beyond the school program.
“To the everyday person it looks like a bunch of engineered parts,” said Chymy. “When you break it down it’s really quite simple. Four motors connected to a brain, that brain is connected to something that talks to the controller, the controller tells the brain how to move it. Once you buckle down and understand how it all works together, it’s very exciting to build and ultra-rewarding to see in the air.”