With the increasing popularity of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), New Mexico State University (NMSU) recently capitalized on the opportunity to educate students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and hosted its first-ever UAS-STEM camp.
NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory and STEM Outreach Center in the College of Education collaborated to offer morning and afternoon sessions for two weeks in both June and July. Participants experienced flight simulations, presentations, 3D printing, coding and flying, and obstacle courses and missions.
The drone summer camp was free for students in fourth through eighth grades through funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as part of its STEM Outreach events. Several FAA representatives also visited the camp for a few days in July.
In 2015, NMSU became a core member-university on the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), which operates the FAA’s Center of Excellence (COE) for UAS. In addition to the summer camp, the FAA also sponsored NMSU’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadshows in fall 2016.
According to Henry Cathey, the Physical Science Laboratory’s deputy director, camp organizers expected high demand, and the July session was added to accommodate requests. Originally, NMSU committed to host a camp with 25 participants but ended up serving nearly 120 campers.
“I was thrilled by how the camps went,” he says in a press release from NMSU. “These young men and women had lots of fun, got a taste of the excitement offered by UAS and hopefully got a vision of themselves in the future working in these types of technical careers.”
Cathey hopes to offer the camp again next summer: “It would be great to offer this same camp next year to a new group of students,” he says. “It would be wonderful to further challenge the students who took the camp this year with the next steps in UAS education including possibly building their own vehicle to understand the mechanics and controls of the flight vehicle and flying actual measurement missions where data is collected and processed to understand how real-world UAS missions work.”