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Gladstone’s Drone Races a high-flying success

Published:25 July 2016

Drone racing photo highlights.

Gladstone school students have gained valuable exposure to the potential of coding and robotics thanks to a Drone Races project funded through the QGC Communities Fund.

CQUniversity was able to use the $41,278 grant from QGC to enable 66 students from 22 schools to attend a Drone Races event at its Gladstone Marina campus, during National Science Week.  

The National Science Week theme for 2016 is Drones, Droids and Robots.  

CQUniversity Science Education specialist Dr Linda Pfeiffer says the Drone Races were relevant to students and teachers as part of the Advancing Queensland Agenda and the coding and robotics priority area.    

She says the drones will also be used during a 'Science Education Experience' professional development event for educators, scheduled for Saturday 20 August on Quoin Island.    

For the initial drone racing event, Dr Pfeiffer, Dr Ben Taylor and Ash Chowdhury worked with local science teachers and students.  

“In the future, the drones will be available to all schools in the Gladstone region to borrow,” Dr Pfeiffer said  

“STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is critical since over 75% of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills and over 40% of current jobs will no longer exist in the future.”  

A QGC spokesperson said broadening learning opportunities for local students was a priority for the company as part of its ongoing support for education in science, technology, engineering and math in the Gladstone community.

Engineering academic Dr Ben Taylor says the drone racing event was designed to emulate operation of drones in agriculture. 

"Participants experienced applied science first-hand in the fields of precision agriculture, mechatronics, electrical and mechanical engineering and aviation,” he says.

Dr Taylor says participants raced the drones through an obstacle course emulating local innovative practices with drones.  

“The program included theory sessions on engineering design and physics of flight; the drone race competition; and a guest speaker on local innovative applications of drones,” he says.

Engineering academic Ash Chowdhury says the program centred on practical application and discovery of applied science in a fun and engaging way, supported technically by theory sessions, and supported contextually with a guest speaker on local applications.  

“The community will benefit by increasing the awareness of the use of drones in research,” he says.  

“The school children who participated and their teachers will benefit from this project by increasing their engagement with drones and their practical applications locally.  

“We hope that those who participated will have increased confidence and the outcomes of this project will benefit the wider education sector, particularly in the STEM area.”

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