Drones Designed by Texas Students Soar
Quinton Gonzalez was a sophomore last school year at Roosevelt High School’s Design and Technology Academy, where an Advanced Placement Computer Science teacher told his class about a drone-building summer camp.
Gonzalez, 16, didn’t need further persuasion to sign up.
“Being able to fly stuff and crash them into things just sounds like fun,” Gonzalez told the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/2bddx5q). “It’s the dream.”
Gonzalez’s dream became reality last month when classrooms at Roosevelt High School filled with flying – and crashing – drones.
He and 19 other students from North East Independent School District middle and high schools finished the two-week drone camp by steering their creations through an obstacle course.
Resembling quadrupeds with propeller feet and narrow, glowing eyes, the drones were supposed to hum their way under and over PVC pipes propped on chairs and through two hula hoops before landing on a trash can.
Youth Code Jam, an organization that promotes computer programming to students, sponsored the camp. The students built the drones and remote controls themselves, said Debi Pfitzenmaier, the organization’s founding executive director. They also used the Java computer language to program the remote controls. The students worked together, but they each got individual drones.
This was Youth Code Jam’s first-ever drone camp, but Pfitzenmaier hopes it will become an annual summer program. The camp was designed to boost students’ interest and confidence in science, technology, engineering and math and show them related career pathways, Pfitzenmaier said.
“The San Antonio tech ecosystem begins here, with these kids,” she said.
Some already had experience coding, but few had used computer code to program something they could touch, Pfitzenmaier said.
“They begin to see what the code really can accomplish,” she said.
Many of the students came from Ed White Middle School and Roosevelt High’s DATA program. The full cost of the camp was $550, but Pfitzenmaier said about 60 percent of the students received partial or full scholarships provided by Conceptual MindWorks, Rackspace and Accenture.
Jenny Jett, 16, was the only girl in her AP Computer Science class last school year, as a sophomore at Roosevelt High. She said the drone camp’s director recruited her to join because Youth Code Jam wanted to enroll more girls.
“I’m the girl,” she said. “I can’t mess up. I have to show I can do it.”
Some drones still needed work before their operators attempted the final challenge.
“Why is it doing that?” asked an anguished Ramiro Rocha, 13, as his drone drifted to the ground.
In an upstairs computer lab, Mahagani Lasciers, 12, was repeatedly trying to upload her code to the drone. She will be a seventh-grader next month at Bush Middle School. She said she wanted to use her newfound skills to program other things, like remote-controlled cars.