Drones and Other Cool Classroom STEM Products from Ward Science
This drone is just one of thousands of cool classroom products from Ward Science
Ward Science reached out to WeAreTeachers recently, looking for bloggers like myself who would check out their products and write about them. I’ve partnered with WeAreTeachers before and was happy to work with them on this. I found a cool drone from Ward to check out!
Ward Science offers thousands of products for the science classroom, covering many different areas of science. They also provide curricula aligning with numerous different standards including NGSS, TEKS, and AP Science.
Drones as a Educational Aid
There are many different ways the different types of drones can play a role in teaching and learning. The drone I acquired from Ward Science is the Makeblock Airblock Drone (which sells for $110). It seems to me that the potential for use of a drone like this in the classroom falls into a few different levels, from simple to complex.
It’s Elementary my Dear Drone
On the simple end, the Airblock is super easy to assemble and fly. The ease of use as a straightforward drone or hovercraft makes it compatible with young students. This is a fun and engaging gadget that doesn’t seem like there is much potential for dangerous uses. With the magnetic block assembly, even when it comes apart, it goes right back together.
In drone mode or hovercraft mode, the device is flown/driven using an iOS or Android app. This is a fun way to introduce some science ideas and open the door to discussion while actively engaging young students. Flying drones can certainly help children develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but they can also be used to explore specific topics in a new way. For example, this video shows young students observing a drone and graph its movement on a distance time graph.
Next Level: Deeper Exploration of the Math and Science
At the next level up in terms of teaching and learning with the drone as an aid, there are opportunities to explore the science behind how the drone works. For example, can students determine how much thrust do the rotors need to produce in order to lift a device of this weight? In this paper, we learn how two students at Utah State University developed developed a comprehensive piloting, coding, and data collecting curriculum for upper elementary and middle school aged students.
Advanced Droning: Coding Your Own Controls
The most sophisticated use of the drone is when you use the code block tools to create your own controllers and actions. The Makeblock drone and software is designed to enable users to reassemble the device to make and use new and different configurations. This could be useful in a number of ways in high school and college level courses exploring coding and science.
I have to be honest here, this was challenging and we had trouble finding supporting resources. My eldest son works as an engineer and works with code regularly but was particularly challenged to use these block to create functionality he envisioned. It seems to me that the biggest road block here is the lack of resources that explain how the code blocks are intended to work, and provide examples.
All in all our experimentation with the Airblock drone was fun and it was interesting to consider how these types of devices can play a role in the educational process.