General News

School Drone Program Targets Girls in Science

Surf Life Saving NSW’s Australian UAV Service (AUAVS) in partnership with She Maps has launched a drone program for school students in Years 5-9 in NSW and the ACT, with a focus on getting more girls involved in engineering and technology.

The 2.5-hour program covers the She Maps Classroom Drone Essentials Course that highlights STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) opportunities to school students and shows them how drone technology can be utilised to support problem-solving, digital storytelling and technological development.  Surf Life Saving NSW UAV educators deliver the program on-site during school hours which covers not only the opportunities available to students within Surf Life Saving such as beach surveillance, shark management and event safety but also off the beach uses in mapping, 3D modeling and surveying.

The program gives students real-world experience using state-of-the-art technology. In the session, they become geospatial scientists where they explore applications of drone technology through the safety of microdrones. They explore hands-on applications of drone technology, learn about drone safety and how to use coding to automate missions and have the chance to manually fly drones under the supervision of professional pilots. The program also addresses challenging social issues such as unconscious bias, particularly toward females in STEM. Surf Life Saving Chief Remote Pilot and AUAVS Manager Paul Hardy say the organisation was pleased to join forces with She Maps to introduce the next generation to the power and potential of drone technology.

“It’s great to see the experience of our UAV pilots can be utilized to inspire students. Our instructors have pivoted to become professional educators and take their skills and knowledge into the classroom to encourage greater uptake and diversity in the STEM workforce,” said Paul Hardy. She Maps Co-Founder and Education Director Dr Karen Joyce said she was excited about the impact the program would have in schools with the Surf Life Saving NSW Australian UAV Service partnership.

“To be able to partner with Surf Life Saving to scale our impact into more schools across NSW and the ACT is fantastic,” said Dr Joyce. “The Surf Life Saving brand is synonymous with caring for our community and innovation, so we couldn’t be prouder to be taking this journey with the team,” she said. SLSNSW UAV pilot Yasmin Zaman is studying engineering at University and has taken up the opportunity to become a course presenter and talk to kids about her passion for STEM.

“Working with these kids has been incredible and it’s exciting being part of this program rollout and still being part of on-beach drone work,” she said. “At university, I’m only one of a few women in engineering and that’s why I love the idea of this program and its aim to help drive the numbers up. “When it’s accessible across the country, many more people, especially females will have the opportunity to understand how important drones and technology can be and how they play a part in the workforce and our future.”

Rafi and Jess from Masada College in Sydney’s north were two of the first students to take part in the program. They had never flown a drone before and were interested in taking part in the course to see what it was all about. “It was really fun, and we get to actually interact with each other and the drones,” said Jess.  “It’s a cool program and I never would have thought we could have had this experience at school,” said Rafi.  Masada booked their whole Year 9 group of 40 students into the incursion that was broken up into two sessions. The school is right behind the program with TAS Leadership Coordinator Meg Steele attesting it fully engages the students and reinforces positive STEM pathways for all.

“They have maps in front of them and are performing missions and rescues – it’s fantastic. It encourages them to think, and problem solves and is a really great hands-on learning experience that engages more than just one sense, allowing deeper learning. “For the students to see surf lifesavers deliver the training shows them how much bigger the organization is than what we see and the importance of drones and lifesavers on the beach,” said Meg Steele.

The Surf Life Saving NSW Australian UAV Service is the provider of the largest coastal drone surveillance program in the Southern Hemisphere.

For more information about the Australian UAV Service and the She Maps program, go to the website.