General McLane launches drone program for high school students

General McLane School District  |  Posted on

Drone technology is steering its way into General McLane High School, offering students new opportunities to pursue pathways in computer science.

“It’s easy to attract students to flying drones. But, we want to prepare General McLane students to use the tool for careers beyond our doors,” said General McLane High School principal Daniel Mennow. “This is a multi-billion dollar industry, and now, General McLane students can gain familiarity with the drone industry right within our doors.”

Starting this fall, General McLane High School students now have access to new coding classes and opportunities to utilize 30 new drones purchased through Apple’s PA Smart Targeted Grant.

“The idea is to elevate our computer science programming to the next level while preparing students for non-traditional pathways utilizing drone technology,” said General McLane technology director and consultant on the project Jeremy Dylewski. “If we want General McLane students to be able to leverage their skills in a high-tech world beyond high school, we need to provide them with the tools and training to work in some of these emerging fields.”

This new curriculum also includes partnerships with both Edinboro University and North Coast Flight School. Starting in the spring, General McLane High School students will be able to take Edinboro University’s “An Introduction to Unmanned Vehicles” through a dual-enrollment program. This course, which will be co-taught by Bryan Loomis at North Coast Flight School, will provide students with an introduction to drones, FAA regulations, operations, weather, safety and airspace. By the end of the course, students will be able to earn a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 Commercial Drone Pilot’s License.

“At the completion of this program, students will leave with a background in computer science and programming that can be utilized right away for immediate work or higher education,” Dylewski said. “There are a wide range of applications for programming and coding, so this new program will uniquely position our students to have a significant advantage beyond high school – not only for jobs that exist now, but for those that will exist in the future.”

Planning for the new program began in the 2018-2019 School Year as part of a district-wide initiative to create a cross-curricular STEAM project using coding or drone technology.
The drones will currently be utilized among students enrolled in Coding II, but there is also the opportunity to use the drones across curriculums within any of the current high school offerings, including Robotics, Astrophysics, Engineering Design, Graphic Design, Photography, Intro to Business, Computer Animation, Digital Literacy and Icehouse. Coding I is also offered to eighth graders at James W. Parker Middle School.

As the program advances, Mennow and Dylewski are hopeful that General McLane will form partnerships with local organizations and companies to further identify real-world application of drones in careers such as insurance, utility, construction, real estate, engineering and police and security.

With the partnerships, General McLane High School is also currently working on expanding its offerings for future school years to include courses in Geography, Cartography /GPS, Drone I, Drone II and Edgenuity Course Work: Financial Math, Introduction to Entrepreneurship.

The drones will also add to student clubs and activities. General McLane High School currently offers Robobots, where students design, build and battle with remote-controlled robots. Now, the school will add a Drone Racing club, introducing students to the world of FPV quadcopter racing.

General McLane School District offers a variety of programs and classes to empower students with 21st century skills for today. The Academy of Medical Arts and Engineering and Manufacturing Academy are individualized program tailored to meet student needs and joins the school’s many STEM-focus programming. General McLane’s robust offerings, including entrepreneurship offerings, provide students opportunities to utilize their STEM Lab, which includes 3-D printers, CNC machines and CAD software.