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Drones take flight in area schools

Students in 6 districts to build, race devices

Brookfield will be among at least six Trumbull County schools whose students will be taking part in drone building, flying and racing this school year.

Brookfield High School Principal Kristen Foster told the board of education that this week, staff from six districts will receive training through the Trumbull County Educational Service Center on drone instruction and the drone racing program.

She said the students will spend the winter months learning to assemble drones and how to fly them and then next spring take part in racing competitions at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

Superintendent Toby Gibson said the schools will race against one another as part of a drone racing league. He said as part of the program, students will make presentations just like in robotics.

Foster said plans call for an elective class in the 2022-23 school year to teach drones .

“This could be a highly desired elective. … Students will learn how to take a drone apart and put it back together. They will learn how to make it go faster. Some drones can go very fast. You earn an FAA certification,” Foster said.

She said practice outdoor events and then the competitions are planned in the spring.

Ed Mackiewicz, supervisor of curriculum/ instruction at TCESC, said the center will supply drones to the schools and will cover startup costs.

Mackiewicz said in addition to Brookfield, also interested are McDonald, Lordstown and

others.

“This will be our initial first year. We will see how it goes,” he said, noting they hope to get more schools for the 2022-23 year.

Mackiewicz said he oversees the professional development for teachers and advisers on how to build the drones and learning to fly them.

He said the TCESC has partnered with Drones in School for the program following all drone flying rules and regulations.

He said he wanted to get the program started two years ago, but COVID-19 changed plans.

He said the outdoor practices may be in late February or March and competitions in March or April, weather permitting. He said competitions will involve having drones accomplish tasks and go through obstacles.

“It is like robotics competitions. Students will create portfolios and video presentations of what they did to build their drones and fly them,” Mackiewicz said.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” said Board of Education President Sarah Kurpe.

In other business, board members said they are reviewing community responses and comments from residents on a community learning center in the future.

Kurpe said state and other funding and business partnerships will need to be looked at for a project of this size.

Teacher Mary Arp, who proposed the center idea, said surveys are still being received from the community about the idea.

Resident Valerie Kokor said she was glad the schools are at least getting the ball rolling for a potential center.

Board member Melissa Sydlowski said while the center is something everyone wants to see happen, it has been challenging with the pandemic.

“For our community to have this, it will take time to get it up and running. We have talked about this and eventually we will be moving forward. It is important to find grants and partnerships to make this possible,” Sydlowksi said.

Gibson suggested having a committee look into the center and also review data before any final decision is made.

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