Everywhere I turn; I’m reading about more drone competitions. This time it’s not a race. Instead, picture a clear day, crisp air, the smell of grass surrounds you while STEM academy students perform preflight checks on their quadcopters. After two months of labor, the students are competing in the 2015 STEM4UAS competition. The competition requires students to solve a simulated rescue mission. Using their quadcopters, they must devise a plan to attach and control a payload delivery device capable of carrying a six-ounce water bottle.
The 2015 STEM4UAS competition is the first UAS robotics competition in the southern Maryland area. Twelve teams of between six to ten students must build, program, and fly simulated rescue missions using their quadcopters. A number of high schools competing include Great Mills, Northern High School of Owings and Maryland. The competition isn’t limited to public schools, a home-schooled team named TORCH will also participate. According to Stephanie Browning, an anti-tamper engineer at NAVAIR and lead for the STEM4UAS program, after their mission, students “will experience what an actual [Department of Defense] systems engineering event is like by having to provide a brief for a flight readiness review.”
Terri Chase, a coordinator in the NAWCAD Educational Outreach office said “The hope is to continue to develop the UAS educational program into something polished and worthy of going national.”
The students, most of them from Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, spent the past two months building and programming their quadcopter unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as part of the 2015 STEM4UAS competition. The preflight checks at Greenwell State Park April 25, 2015 were for the first operational testing and included rotating the quadcopter clockwise and counterclockwise to calibrate its GPS and to balance its rotors for optimal flight performance.
For the competition, the students had to figure out how to attach and control a payload delivery device to their quadcopter, so it could deliver a six-ounce water bottle for a simulated rescue mission.
“This device needs to be attached to the quadcopter, so the students are in the design phase of figuring out the proper weight, the type of mechanism that they want to use and the type of actions they would like to execute as a group,” said Steve Hudziak, a research and engineering industrial specialist at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD).