Teachers, librarians and staff members from 20 schools throughout Idaho are improving their drone flying skills at a weekend workshop in Nampa.
The Idaho STEM Action Center, a state agency, is hosting a two-day advanced drone flight school along with trainers from PCS Edventures. The workshop started Friday with flight practice and classroom training and continues through today at the College of Western Idaho Micron Center in Nampa.
The participants, some from Nampa, Caldwell and Boise schools, are part of a cohort that acquired drones and underwent training last year using $147,000 in grants from Idaho STEM Action Center, according to the press release. That same group is attending the advanced drone flight school this weekend.
Drones are a great way to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math, according to STEM Action Center Executive Director Angela Hemingway
“Kids are naturally curious, and although many have heard about drones, they may not have had an opportunity to interact with one, so drones are an easy way to get kids interested in STEM,” she said in a prepared statement. “Plus, drones are very hands-on. … We’re hoping our drones inspire students who may not have considered a career in a STEM field.”
Engaging students in STEM is of increasing importance, Hemingway said, as Idaho experiences a growing gap in STEM employment.
According to Idaho Department of Labor projections, Idaho missed out on $355 million in lost personal wages due to having 6,000 STEM jobs unfilled in 2017. That number sharply rose from 3,800 in 2016.
“Idaho’s tech sector is the second fastest-growing in the nation at 6.3 percent, and 80 percent of all jobs will require technology skills within the next 20 years,” Hemingway stated. “There will be a significant increase in jobs that require proficiency in piloting and programming drones.”
In the age of tech, drones are here to stay. The Federal Aviation Administration predicted last year that drone pilots will grow to 281,300 by 2021, a 13-fold increase. The FAA also estimated the 1.1 million hobbyist-owned drones present in 2016 will more than triple by 2021, hitting 3.6 million. Meanwhile, the agency also suggests business usage will increase more than 10 times over, from 42,000 to 442,000 in that same time period.
Local participants at this weekend’s drone workshop are from Ridgevue High School in Nampa, Syringa and Vallivue middle schools in Caldwell, Centennial High and East Junior High schools from Boise, The Treasure Valley Math and Science Center, and the New Plymouth School District.
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