From June 27-30, six female students in grades 6 through 10 had the opportunity to build and fly their own drones. Each student participated thanks to a Girls in Technology, Build a Drone experience scholarship, sponsored through a collaboration between Kashmir World Foundation’s DaVinci Challenge and consultant company Eagle Ray.
Over the first three days hosted at Eagle Ray’s Chantilly office, participants learned the basics of designing, constructing, and customizing a quadcopter drone, each girl working on a team with an Eagle Ray employee. On the fourth and final day, girls, parents, and friends from Eagle Ray traveled to the Foxcroft School in Middleburg to watch their creations take flight!
Coming into the workshop, most of the participants had absolutely no experience with drones. By the end of the workshop, the girls had “learned how drones work and how people use them, about teamwork, the importance of keeping a detailed build log, and how flying creatures relate to aircraft,” as explained by ninth grader Mia, 14. They learned where to attach the seemingly endless wires, how to connect the motor, and how to use the GPS and compass, a part that 8th grader Deekshita, 12, particularly enjoyed.
Over the course of the four days, each girl faced a unique set of challenges that she successfully overcame through hard work and troubleshooting. Mia first encountered problems when she discovered she had the wrong motor for her drone. She and her Eagle Ray partner, intern Alex, worked hard to keep up with the construction and not get behind schedule as they worked around this problem. Other girls faced challenges sorting the many wires and making sure that every part was in its precise location, which is imperative to the success of the drones. Despite the trials encountered, the girls remained engaged and thoughtful throughout the week, consistently challenging themselves and impressing everyone from Kashmir World Foundation and Eagle Ray.
Flight day brought excitement but also new challenges when not everything went exactly as planned. On her first flight, the drone of 10th grader Christiana crashed to the ground and had to be repaired. Repairing the actual drone luckily was a quick and easy fix; the bigger challenge for this young drone pilot was moving on, learning from the experience and not losing confidence. Ultimately, Christiana had a fantastic time, saying of the workshop, “I thought it was a really great experience. I think everyone should do this, whether or not they are interested in science. This is the future.”
Upon completing the workshop, Mia said, “I believe this experience helped prepare me for the Loudoun County Academy of Engineering and Technology IT program of study I’m beginning this fall because I now have a better understanding of drone designs and operations. I know that I will apply much of what I learned in this workshop to work in school and life. This workshop was such an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to share what I learned with other people.”
Eagle Ray CEO Babs Doherty was truly impressed by the participants selected for the scholarship. “The six girls that we had were really amazing. I think what happens when our children get into middle school is, we think they’re still children. What this program can show even their parents is that they’re extremely intelligent, very able to learn, and that this is the time of their lives we need to be helping them to grow as adults and to keep them in a technology field that will help the world in the future.” Doherty has long supported getting girls involved in STEM fields from a young age, and was thrilled with the success of the workshop. She even had the chance to build and fly her own drone along the way! During the awards ceremony on flight day, Doherty announced that Eagle Ray will host the event again next year.
This experience was sponsored by Eagle Ray and run through KwF’s DaVinci Challenge, a project of Kashmir Robotics, KwF’s technology division, created as a means of educating people on building and customizing drones in an interactive setting. Eagle Ray is a rapidly growing woman-owned business specializing in strategic transformation services. KwF is a nonprofit organization solving real-world problems by harnessing the power of innovation, science and art to promote education and environmental stewardship and improve the lives of people and wildlife worldwide.
Kashmir World Foundation would like to extend its sincere gratitude to Eagle Ray and the Foxcroft School for making this event possible!