(TNS) — FORT WALTON BEACH — Laurana Ingram sticks out her tongue as she focuses on landing a drone onto a stool in front of her classmates.
It's a narrow target, but she carefully lands the small drone. Her classmates cheer.
For the past few weeks Cindy Manley's second-grade class at Elliott Point Elementary School has been working with drone technology thanks to a partnership with the HSU Foundation and Choctawhatchee High School aerospace teacher Sean McSheehy. The program is aimed to get students more engaged with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Students took turns Wednesday afternoon flying the drone from their teacher's smartphone and worked with McSheehy to learn more about flying drones using coding.
"You can see that every STEM principle is applied with drones," McSheehy said. "We want this to be a succession where eventually kids will learn coding."
McSheehy created the curriculum to expose kids to drone concepts using the Drone Team Challenge competition platform. Thanks to a $232,000 grant from the Air Force Research Lab, the HSU Foundation is working to bring a multifaceted STEM program using drone technology into classrooms such as Manley's.
Brian Mitchell, STEM outreach coordinator for the Air Force Research Lab, wrote the grant. He said the Drone Team Challenge is an effort to find new ways to bring STEM to a larger group of students.
"We've seen increases in robotics, and now there's a shift toward drones," he said. "They can help kids understand STEM concepts and problem solving."
Paul Hsu, engineer, entrepreneur and founder of the HSU Foundation, said he believes that 90 percent to 95 percent of jobs in the near future will require one or all of the STEM components. Seeing young kids not only learning but having fun is "a wonderful thing."
As a teacher, Manley said she felt lucky that her classroom was chosen to implement drone technology. And the students have shown a lot of enthusiasm.
"To them, it's like a video game," she said. "They don't even know they're learning. We're very fortunate to have met Sean (McSheehy) and have this resource. We can't wait to do more."
©2018 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.