by Foxcroft School
The Da Vinci Challenge, created by the KWF's tech arm, Kashmir-Robotics, is a four-session workshop during which students build their own drones, learning about the fundamental components and electronics of remotely-operated aerial vehicles (UAVs) along the way. Gaby, Patia, Jasmine, and Saylor traveled to Tysons Corner weekly, with Dr. Eagen and/or volunteer tech-consultant Lew Burridge to build their drone. Each week there was work to do at home and Sunday they worked for several hours before the rest of the Da Vinci Challenge participants arrived on campus. All the work paid off. The Foxcroft copter was the first ready for take-off and, with an enthusiastic audience of parents, faculty, students, and guests looking on, it took an impressive test run. A few more adjustments and it was ready for the girls to fly it with just a little guidance from one of the Da Vinci Challenge mentors.
Alas, the wind kicked up and the entire event had to move indoors. No problem: the spacious Mary Louise Leipheimer Gymnasium, the size of two full-sized basketball courts with a second level and room to spare, provided a perfect, wind-free environment. Each of the Foxcroft girls took turns controlling the copter and other Challenge participants tried theirs out, some successfully, some not. After a pizza break, the program moved to Currier Library when Foxcroft Head of School Cathy McGehee, KWF CEO Aliyah Pandolfi, TACP Network Director Ron Pandolfi, and John Hampton of BirdsEyeView Aerobotics spoke. More on that later. The DaVinci Challenge grew out of a larger initiative, the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge, launched in 2013, which invited scientists, artists, and engineers around the world to develop UAVs optimized for protecting endangered species from poachers. KWF founder Aliyah Pandolfi found that the student base of engineers, scientists, and designers in other countries was ahead of American students and decided to do something about it.