By Danielle Nadler
Drones have been flying around one of Loudoun County’s most historic school campuses this month, as teachers learned how to incorporate cutting-edge technology into classroom lessons.
Foxcroft School, in partnership with Kashmir World Foundation, put on the Teachers Take Flight workshop. The course invites teachers to become the students for a week and learn how to design, build, program and fly unmanned aerial vehicles.
Paul Adam, one of nine teachers in last week’s workshop, appreciated being the student for a change. He signed up to learn more about how to build and program drones. It’s one thing to fly a drone, and it’s another to create it and program it, he said. “I really wanted instruction on how to control drones—how to program them,” he said.
He plans to start a quadcopter drone program with students in his STEM class at Woodson High School in Fairfax this fall, and he wants to leave a lot of the work of designing, building and programming the drones up to the students. “That’s the best way to learn. If they work on them from scratch, it helps them understand why it does what it does.”
The workshop drew teachers from around the region and as far away as Florida.
Aliyah Pandolfi, executive director of the Kashmir World Foundation, encouraged the teachers to connect a lesson on drones with a clear purpose for students. For example, much of her work at the foundation has focused on using drones to combat poaching. It held a competition for people to design drones that can detect and pinpoint poachers in national parks.
Giving the students a mission they can tackle with their work with drones helps engage young people, especially girls, who wouldn’t necessarily be interested in just the technical aspect of it. Her story is a perfect example, she said.
“My background is not in technology. I would not have done anything with drones if it wasn’t tied to something important to me, like countering poaching of endangered species,” Pandolfi said. “That’s why it’s important to connect it to something students care about.”
Plus, she added, “Drones are not only the next big thing, but they’re also the new big thing.”
This was the second summer Kashmir World Foundation brought its drone workshop to Foxcroft, and Pandolfi hopes to expand the program to reach more teachers next summer. Learn more about the foundation at kashmirworldfoundation.org.