In 2014 I started Canada's first K-12 Dronorgraphy Program. I was watching a local tragedy unfold when a drone pilot took it upon himself to show up and help RCMP using his drone. At that moment I realized that the career and social good potential for drones demanded that our students begin to learn and apply them in their studies. Brilliant Labs supported us with our first DJI Phantom drone and our modest attempt at drones in school evolved and became Canada's first official K-12 Dronography program. CTV News was there to cover the story months later and ironically the same pilot who helped the RCMP on the day the idea was born had become our industry partner.
We were clear from the start. Safety and learning were to always trump fun. We were the first program which means if we messed it up others would also have a tougher time launching their programs. Immediately after this news story launched we had calls from Alberta, Ontario, California, Atlanta, Nova Scotia and several other states asking how our tiny rural New Brunswick school had succeeded launching such a program. The answer is I took a risk and was supported by my administration and school district. Every great idea deserves a risk being taken and great partners willing to support it. Our industry partner Marc was instrumental in the training of our students. Brilliant Labs was instrumental in getting us our first drone. Our administrators were instrumental in allowing me to teach relevant courses in which we could apply drone technology. The system supported us and that is how our program launched successfully. Over the years our students would not disappoint as they used the drones in some innovative ways. First, and to practice flight we focussed on creating a videography project called "Autumn in Albert" which is the name of our New Brunswick county. Here is the result of their flight training and videography application of drones.
We then practiced industry applications such as structural inspection and promotional videography.
As pilot crews became more familiar with the drones and I was more comfortable with their capabilities we stepped up our game. We surveyed local flood damage for victims when our mighty river overflowed its banks. We started practicing disaster first aid delivery via drones and search and rescue techniques. We followed Amazon's lead and tried our hand at package delivery by drone. Drones became a tool that students had at their disposal to solve real world problems.
New years bring new batches of pilots and each follow the in-class and flight training that the previous pilots experienced. This year on the first day of flight training Department of Education officials showed up unannounced and the students flew perfectly. Check it out!
The group of pilots that started in 2016-2017 were more attracted to the drone racing industry and applications of drones and their studies tended to go in that direction. This lean towards drone racing happened to amplify when they came in one day after the IRIS+ drone had taken a hard landing and needed extensive repairs. Repairs of course are also the pilots' responsibility as the school pays for parts and students repair the drones. Here is some footage from Drone Racing training in the Fall of 2016.
I am confident that the risks I took to launch this program have benefitted our students and school community greatly. I am appreciative of the support I received as a classroom teacher when I wanted this wild idea to become reality. This type of program is possible everywhere in our great country and all schools need to do is adopt the slogan "How can this work?" Our future looks bright if we can sustain our drone fleet and continue to expand on the applications. As a tiny rural school funding is an issue but we believe that if we keep working hard the funding will sory itself out at the right time. One real benefit is our school is in one of the most beautiful locations in our province and every day the footage is reviewed we are shocked at how amazing our place on Earth is.
I'm an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, Apple Distinguished Educator, TeachSDGs Ambassador and grade 6-12 technology teacher. @BBTNB