Educating Students to Use Drones Responsibly

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An Interview with Dr. Jim Schmidt, Technology Trainer and Educator

Dr. Jim Schmidt, stem educationJim Schmidt’s professional background in technical education—both at the school district level and in the Idaho Technical Education Department—were instrumental in leading him to pursue a career in STEM education. While Schmidt believes in providing students with a strong foundation in STEM, he also realizes the importance of teaching them how to safely use new technology, particular drones, and the rules and regulations that must be followed in this rapidly developing industry.

Schmidt, the director of professional development at Edventures, has a wide and varied educational background, which includes a bachelor’s degree in education, an M.Ed., in school counseling and career guidance, and a doctorate in counseling—all of which have enabled him to serve as a teacher, career development specialist, guidance counselor and supervisor. Throughout the years, his expertise has allowed him to work with many industry stakeholders, including parents, to improve technical education opportunities for students. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Idaho State University.

Schmidt has been widely recognized for his achievements, and has worked extensively with business leaders and politicians on technical education initiatives. Some of his awards include the Technical Education Lifetime Achievement Award from the Boise School District, the Golden Apple Award also from the Boise Schools, the Governor’s Recognition Award regarding his efforts on workforce development and a Lifetime Idaho Counseling Association Award. He is certified to work as a principal, teacher, and superintendent as well as being a licensed professional counselor, which qualifies him to work with those who are struggling with career and mental health-related issues.

Read our interview with Jim Schmidt as he shares his views on training students in today’s high tech world and legal issues involved in drone technology.

eLearners: Tell us more about your educational and career background. How did your experience lead to your current role at PCS Edventures?

My education started as a secondary education teacher. I worked as a teacher for a number for years and then became interested the areas of school counseling and wanting to assist students with their career decisions. I then received my Masters degree from Idaho State University in the area of school counseling and career guidance.

I found myself being interested in making changes in the way school guidance was being delivered in the schools and decided that students needed more help with career decision making skills. I went to work for the State of Idaho as the Supervisor for technical education as the guidance supervisor. During this time I became aware that training was the key to changes and assisted in developing a state wide training program for the delivery of student services. Many of my training topics related to the technical education aspect of the working world. I developed training for teachers and counselors and administrators, designing training that was appropriate for the skill level of the trainee and the system that it was to be delivered.

I planned and developed training for statewide conferences of 600-700 teachers and administrators in all of the technical areas. The conferences were help at central locations throughout the state. I then was recruited by the school district to revamp the counseling program in the Boise School District and to improve the quality of the technical education programs.  During this time I returned to school to get my Doctorate in Counseling.

I then became the principal and supervisor of the technical education programs in the Boise school district. I worked with many industry stakeholders and parents to improve the technical education program offerings in the region. The technical school was a magnate school that served 15 area high schools with the best technical programs in the northwest. I worked there for 12 years until I retired from the Boise District. During this entire time I have been an adjunct faculty member I ISU for the past 30 years and still teach for them today.

eLearners: Please explain exactly what a drone is, for those who aren’t familiar.

A drone, in a technological context, is an unmanned aircraft. They can range from very simple to very complex UAV craft.

Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Essentially, a drone is a flying robot.The aircraft may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with GPS. UAVs have most often been associated with the military but they are also used for search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring and firefighting, among other things.

More recently, the unmanned aircraft have come into consideration for a number of commercial applications. In late 2013, Amazon announced a plan to use drones for delivery in the not-too-distant future. Personal drones are also becoming increasingly popular, often for drone-based photography.

eLearners: From your experience, what types of subjects or topics need to be addressed in effective drone education curriculums?

Proper use and safety practices need to be stressed in the operation of UAV air craft.

eLearners: What types of issues or challenges do you discuss as part of the Drone Safety Advisor Board with your company?

Community ethics:

Community ethics need to be addressed if we are to have safe operators using the drones for hobby activities as well as commercial use. We need to make sure that students using our materials understand the community responsibility that they have in the operation of the drones. As a company we want to be looked at as a responsible party as it relates to providing good information to drone users. We have a responsibility to provide the best information to keep our communities safe.

Safety practices of operators:

We need to promote safety first to all hobbyist and commercial users.

FAA Regulations:

We are developing all of our information with the expertise of a highly qualified advisory committee who are very knowledgeable of the FAA requirements and the new emphasis brought into focus by the newly formed national committee established by the US government to regulate the use of drones.

Airport flying limitations:

As a committee, we do not see airport limitations as an issue because we are supportive of safe practices and have a great deal of respect for the airspace restrictions for the safely of the community and the passengers on the airlines.

eLearners: How can drones be used to enhance teaching and learning—particularly in higher education?

Drones present a perfect platform for instructional purposes. They can be used to teach electronics, programing, design, and structural engineering. They are rich in the areas of math and technical writing abilities. The most important aspect is the motivational impact they have on the learner. All different age groups see the relevance and understand the importance of STEM eduaction through the use of drones in the curriculum.

eLearners: Where do you see the future of drones heading? What other industries will jump on board?

The use of drones are here to stay. Their use will only be limited by the user. We already have many industries using drones in a productive and ethical fashion. I see drones being used in wildfire safety, national defense, agriculture, education, health care, almost any industry.

eLearners: What advice do you have for students pursuing degrees in STEM or Robotics?  What are the biggest challenges, and how can students prepare themselves?

Students entering a field related to STEM will have an opportunity to acquire the basic skills needed that may enable them to adapt to a changing workforce of the 21st century. The most important thing to remember for our workforce to remember to accept change as an ongoing process and that learning will never stop.

eLearners: Is there anything else you would like to share that you feel would be valuable to students who are interested in drones and drone education?

The most important issue to remind students of is that any and all technology comes with an added responsibility factor. Practice responsibility to yourself and your community and most of all, if you are a hobbyist, have fun!

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