AHCCS’s Drone Queen Ms. Veronica Farr never saw herself working with drones until she was approached this school year with the task of developing a drone education curriculum. Through this experience and attending the Commercial UAV Expo & Conference in October 2018, she learned that the future of drones is in so many different industries. Whether it’s agriculture, law enforcement, search and rescue, inspections for airplanes, bridges or gas leaks, commercial professionals and businesses are using drones to change our futures. CEOs from around the world discussed with Ms. Farr at the conference what skillsets they are looking for from students so she could use their language to connect career and tech education.
I was just blown away by all the new technologies and techniques that drones are already aiding in, but I was more blown away when I found out I was the only teacher attending the conference,” Ms. Farr says. “I am creating a curriculum that can work for any student so whether they are students with disabilities or advanced, all of them have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve. I hope that one day this curriculum can be used in other schools, an accomplishment that isn’t just a personal goal of mine but school wide.
Quarter 3 was Ms. Farr’s first quarter teaching Part 1 of her introductory drone course, which is based on a search and rescue mission involving two hikers who are bitten by baby rattle snakes in the Guadeloupe mountains. The students take on different roles as part of the search and rescue team to save these individuals, which forces them to address limitations and learn new things in order to solve problems. Ms. Farr chose this approach after realizing there were not many other courses out there that focused on the humanities side of drones and how they can save lives. She has discovered that this aspect of drone innovation has captured her students in a different way.
My whole purpose is for them to open up and discover things within themselves without being confined or pushed into a box,” Ms. Farr says. “Having a game framework to this course is allowing them to actually become their character role and have a specific reason to dig for answers. Getting them immersed in a mission first and allowing them to eventually branch out to different areas of drones is really starting to plant seeds of interest among them.
Ms. Farr just recently received her remote pilot's license to fly drones commercially by taking the FAA Part 107 exam, the written portion of the aviation exam that pilots take. This allowed her to get an understanding of drone laws and start building courses that will prepare her students for this test if they want to become licensed as well. Even though she is still growing the curriculum, she is considering what courses she could offer her students in years to come that will allow them to focus on the area of drone technology they are most interested in.
Whether you’re into robotics, photography and videography, getting your remote pilot's license, or even building drones, I want to have courses for every student interest,” Ms. Farr says. “I have about 12 courses mapped out that focus on the career fields that use drones so students can discover what aspects excite them. I’m eager to expose students to different futures they wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
Ms. Farr’s goal for the 2019-2020 school year is to get her curriculum mobile. She has received a grant from the SPIE International Society for Optics and Photonics that will allow her to build a mobile STEM/Drone Lab. This will include a transportable drone cage and drone attachments so students can use sensors using optics to see things that can’t been seen with the naked eye.
With a traveling drone lab, I can pop up a tent at schools, libraries, community centers, and other locations all over the state to show students how to fly drones safely,” Ms. Farr says. “This is a big priority for me because since people are apprehensive about drones, the drone cage will eliminate the risk of it flying off in all directions. This funding will allow me to travel to my students so they can get the hands-on piece they need.
Ask your guidance counselor today how to enroll in one or both of the introductory drone courses being offered in September! Congratulations on 15+ years of working in cyber education and being a life long learner, Ms. Farr, we are all so proud of you!