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Ohio high school uses drone simulations for course

By Associated Press

Saturday, March 5, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) – Drone simulations are being used to spark students’ interest in technology careers through a new course at a southwestern Ohio high school.

Students in the course at Greenon High School in Springfield simulate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to learn technology skills that can be used in a variety of industries, the Dayton Daily News ( ) reported.

Students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics course have spent time simulating how an unmanned aircraft could monitor situations such as a natural disaster and a military crisis on the west coast.

The STEM course students use software provided by Analytical Graphics Inc., a Pennsylvania firm that develops software for the space, defense and intelligence industries.

“Most kids don’t see this until they’re working on their second or third year of college,” said Sandi Preiss, coordinator for the Dayton Regional STEM Center.

Not all of the students will be interested in working in the unmanned aerial vehicles industry after college, according to Jim Shaner, one of the course’s teachers. But he says the goal is to spark an interest in high-tech careers and expose students to new technology.

Students will eventually create a mobile app that uses data provided by a drone to plot a safe course for a school bus around a disaster. By the end of the program, interested students also can acquire certification to use the modeling software.

Shaner said that along with simulating UAVs in flight, students have learned to make the simulated drones take off and turn.

Students also are asked to study current events to learn about the moral and privacy issues associated with the emerging unmanned aerial vehicle industry.

Kevin Vincent, a sophomore simulating a response to a wildfire in Colorado, tried to program the UAV to drop water on the fire, close a rear hatch and fly away.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to use a computer to help people,” Vincent said.

A license for the software used at Greenon typically costs about $200,000, said Stephanie Eftimiades, educational program specialist at Analytical Graphics. But the company makes its licenses available for nonprofit academic work to help students become accustomed to using the programs.

“We really want them to have the experience so by the time they enter the workforce they’ve already used it,” Eftimiades said.

Creating simulations of a drone flying over Afghanistan or fighting a wildfire allows students to take concepts like physics and engineering and see how they work in the real world, Shaner said.

The Dayton STEM Center is working with a few other districts, including Northmont City Schools and Brookville Local Schools, to offer similar programs, Preiss said.


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