Drones take Parkersburg High School robotics program to new heights

Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook, right, watches the drone program demonstration by Parkersburg High School students Michael Kunze, left, and Chris Edmonds, middle, at Stadium Field on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Tyler Bennett)

PARKERSBURG — The Parkersburg High School robotics program took flight with a drone flying demonstration by students at Stadium Field on Wednesday morning.

A relatively new program to the high school, it’s been nearly three years since the program was offered to students.

PHS was able to get a grant to teach drones thanks to the state and Wood County Technical Center, according to PHS robotics program teacher Steven Reiner.

“The students absolutely love it, they love flying drones. They want to exceed the limits of the drones, which is a little scary. So they’re experiencing it for the first time and they’re pretty good about following the rules and regulations.” Reiner said. “We’re going to hopefully work with some other departments in the school to use the drones and hopefully get into the community side of it.”

Upon being approved for the grant and after meetings with Wood County Career Technical Education Director Pier Bocchini and the state’s Career Technical Education supervisor, Reiner had to create the curriculum and purchase the materials needed for the program.

From left, Parkersburg High School students Noah Carpenter, Hayden Barrows and Brady Howerton participated in the school’s drone program demonstration at Stadium Field on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Tyler Bennett)

The two-year drone program is offered to sophomores and juniors. Students start with robotics classes to learn basic programming skills needed to fly drones. After passing the course and if they want to continue with the program, they can apply for the drone class.

The class is relatively small, only 15-20 students, and not all 15 drones can fly at the same time. Students have designated flight times and have to fill flight data sheets and follow safety procedures to correctly fly.

Part of the technical education program of study, students will get to experience working in simulated environments, flying drones and the rules and regulations of flying drones and procedures.

Students also will work with Tony Brown and his company Brown Out Imaging of Ohio. Working with Brown will allow students another way to gain first-hand experience and see how a business operates in the drone industry, according to Reiner.

School Superintendent Will Hosaflook was in attendance at Wednesday’s demonstration and is proud the school is offering more ways of learning for the students.

Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook, left, listens to Parkersburg High School teacher Steven Reiner about the drones used in the demonstration by PHS students at Stadium Field on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Tyler Bennett)

“We are just excited for the students in Wood County in terms of being creative in coding, engineering and it kind of brings together all the STEAM elements — science, technology, engineering, arts and math.”

The program offers two types of drones. At the beginning of the school year, students will use Tello drones.

The smaller drone between the two, its purpose is for the students to have better stick control, an understanding of how a drone operates, while mostly flying indoors. Then the students will move on to the DJI Mavic Pro. Primarily being flown outside, the Pros have a lot more sensors, capabilities, and better features than the Tellos, according to Reiner.

The robotics program also offers a general construction class called “construction systems” and a new class called “building maintenance and operation” was just offered this year. Underclassmen have the opportunity to learn hands-on skills that will translate into a factory or work setting, according to Reiner.

Entering his second year in the program and potentially wanting a career with drones, senior Chris Edmons is thankful for the opportunity PHS is offering students.

“I’m just glad the school got to offer it. The tools that we need and everything are expensive. I’m just excited to be able to fly, I’m excited to help Mr. Reiner. I’m just really interested in it,” Edmons said.

Contact Tyler Bennett at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com


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