POCATELLO, Idaho — March 16, 2018 — Middle and high school students from across the region will learn to fly unmanned aerial vehicles during field days this month and learn about tech careers in the process.


How drone flying can lead to a career is the subject of three workshops around the state this month, including a two-day program from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 19-20 at Rendezvous Hall on the Idaho State University campus in Pocatello. The workshops are part of the University of Idaho’s new Idaho Drone League (I-Drone) program, which aims to provide immersive learning experiences for statewide youths.


The event, which includes student flying demonstrations at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, at Bartz Field in Pocatello, is geared toward students in seventh through 11th grades who are interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Students will learn how to create their own drone controller by programming commands that enable a cup drone to take off, fly and turn. 


Each participant will also have the opportunity to pilot small drones under the supervision of licensed pilots and engage in flight situations outdoors as weather permits. Regional drone pilots and representatives from area public safety agencies will be on hand to teach about local regulations and test the students on different scenarios.


“People fly drones for recreational and hobby purposes, but not many people know how to fly their drones safely and legally,” said Jae Ryu, associate professor in the U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and an event organizer. “Developing an educational program helps Idaho youth understand federal regulations and safety guidelines and gives students hands-on drone-building experience.”


I-Drone will inform the students about the opportunities for the devices in their future careers and connect them with professionals already using the devices. Throughout the workshop, professionals will share how they use drones in their careers with students.


“Drones have a huge potential to draw kids into STEM fields,” said Kirsten LaPaglia, director of STEM Access Projects with U of I. “They can do so many things: taking pictures or video, getting data with different attached sensors, or transporting things into remote places, which is increasingly important of rescue operations. It has high-tech appeal -- flight, piloting, building, speed, reconnaissance, monitoring and so much more.”


In addition, student participants are creating science fiction-themed posters that show the potential future for drones. Anyone interested in judging the posters or participating at the workshops may contact Ryu at jryu@uidaho.edu or LaPaglia at kirsten@uidaho.edu


Additional I-Drone events are scheduled March 26-27 in Moscow and March 29-30 in Boise. 

The field days are funded through a U of I Vandal Ideas Project grant. Organizers plan to use the experience to hold similar events in the future.