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Kara's Corner

Drones for Future Good: Teaching Kids How to Get Started Today

June 8, 2017

Recently, my daughter’s Montessori school asked me to teach her kindergarten class about drones. Upon starting my presentation, I was surprised to learn that roughly a third of her classmates already had some experience flying one with their parents. Nevertheless, for the uninitiated, I wanted to introduce them to this technology and give them some inspiration to start flying.

Kids and drones

My daughter was so excited for her class to learn about drones, she insisted on carrying mine in herself. (Kara E. Murphy)

Why teach kids about drones?

Drones are changing the world for the better. From making agriculture more efficient, aiding search-and-rescue operations, delivering medicine to remote locales, and helping gather data on global warming, to name a few, they deserve more credit for their positive impact. Their numerous benefits carry over into cognitive development, as well. An ideal tool for helping introduce kids to the fundamentals of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), maneuvering an unmanned aerial vehicle is a fun way to help them develop both problem solving and critical thinking skills.

How to plant the seeds of inspiration

I decided to structure my lesson around an introductory presentation covering the origin of drones (hint: bees are involved), how they differ from traditional airplanes, their various real-life uses, and safety tips. My strategy was to keep it simple, without overwhelming them with too much information, but plant a seed in the mind of what’s possible beyond flying in a park or backyard.

DJI Aerial Photo Academy

The kids let out an audible gasp when I showed them this photo and explained how drones are good tools for observing whales. If you want to learn how to make excellent photos, I recommend checking out her North American tour with DJI’s Aerial Photo Academy. (Stacy Weskerna Garlington)

Next, I brought out my own professional-grade drone. I made sure the lithium battery was completely drained so it wouldn’t accidentally activate. My daughter, who is deeply familiar with them thanks to my influence, helped me install the propellers. She then walked around her classroom and let each kid examine it up close.

Real-life demo

The entire class gathered outside where I activated a much smaller UAV, the Holy Stone HS170. Since the quadcopter, itself, weighs less than half a pound, I knew it would likely not hurt anyone. The class got a first-person demo of it in action. The Holy Stone HS170 has built-in propeller guards, something I highly recommend for beginners since they help prevent any additional injuries in the event of a crash. The kids wanted a turn. Instead, I sent them home with a list of recommendations.

Get flying

While the tiny quadcopter I used worked out, I recommend a much sturdier model. More weight makes it easier to control and less likely to fly off unexpectedly. The Syma X5SW is my top pick since it also comes equipped with a camera. My daughter enjoys taking aerial photos and video, just like her Mom. If you have the budget, and consider assembling Legos a favorite pastime, Flybrix is another terrific option.

Despite descriptions claiming otherwise on some product pages, drones aren’t toys. If you have kids interested in using them, make sure you’re present whenever they’re operated. Given all of the benefits of using drones, there’s no better time to get started than now.

Featured image: Kara E. Murphy

Editor’s note: I removed some mentions of FAA registration since I use a variety of drones for commercial purposes and was thinking in those terms.

Kara is a Bay Area-based certified remote pilot, marketing consultant, and writer working with clients including DroneDeploy, DJI, Flying Robot international Film Festival, and ACE Hardware. Follow her on Instagram for her more artistic aerial imagery, find out how to hire her here.

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