Apple Valley High School sophomores Devin Martin and Quinlan Rowland put together a micro drone.

A new class at Apple Valley High School has students showing up well before the first bell rings and staying after the school day has ended. The Drone Construction, Modification and Flight course is the first of its kind in District 196 and students are eager to put their engineering skills to the test.

The class was introduced this spring after more than two years of research and planning by instructor Chris Lee, and both sections are full. As the coordinator of the school’s fabrication lab, Lee said a drone course would give students another opportunity for hands-on learning.

“I really pushed for this class because I see it as a natural fit with the science, technology, engineering and math components, and the fabrication lab,” he said. “That has really turned out to be true, as we are using almost every machine in the lab as part of the course.”

For sophomores Devin Martin and Quinlan Rowland, the class provides a learning space to explore their passion for technology. The two friends have built computers and other small electronics before, but said this is the first time they’ve built a drone.

“I have always been interested in remote controlled stuff and flying drones,” Devin said. “It’s cool that we get to work on this for a class. And it’s just so different from any other class I’ve taken.”

As part of the course, students work in teams of two to build a pint-sized drone called a Tiny Whoop. Much of the drone comes pre-assembled. But Devin and Quinlan took it a step further and outfitted it with a camera and new chasse, which was built on the Fab Lab’s 3-D printer.

“I like the engineering aspect of this class,” Quinlan said. “And we’re learning how to keep detailed notes and a design record. Usually I just build things and then forget how I designed or built it. This class is making me a better engineer.”

The introductory drone class is just the beginning, Lee said. He plans to propose an advanced drone-building course this fall and spend the year researching and planning the curriculum. He hopes to have the course ready for the 2020-21 school year.

“The future for this class looks pretty bright,” he said. “I would like to get more girls involved. As far as how drones will be used in the future, we have just begun with that technology. It is so wide open for the future. The students taking these classes will certainly be writing their own future in the drone profession. They are truly leading the way nationally.”

Upcoming event

Join the Apple Valley Eagles as they face off against the St. Louis Park Orioles in the first-ever high school drone racing tournament Saturday, May 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Apple Valley High School, 14450 Hayes Rd, Apple Valley. The event is free and open to the public.

St. Louis Park High School, which also has an introductory drone-building course, partnered with Apple Valley to host the inaugural event. Teams from both schools will compete against one another on an indoor course and put to the test their engineering, navigating and landing skills.

Sponsoring the event is Minneapolis-based drone racing company Hydra FPV, which hosts drone flight schools, racing competitions and informational events around the state.

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