STEM e Droni - STEM & drones
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STEM Education with drones is an educational reality. STEM is the English acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and indicates the scientific-technological disciplines and related courses of study. Drones, then, advanced technological objects, are one of the greatest tools for STEM education and learning.

DJI, Parrot and other companies offer STEM solutions, with training courses aimed at promoting learning by drones.

STEM and drones

The basic principle of STEM is to spread and develop knowledge of science and technology through training courses characterized by practical implications. A drone that is the practical result of principles and technological solutions based on mechanics, physics, electronics, information technology, robotics, is therefore a perfect tool for STEM education.

The foundations of STEM education with drones are translated into concrete projects capable of developing knowledge and skills.

STEM, drones, knowledge and skills are therefore part of a binomial equation:

STEM + Drones = Knowledge + Skills

This equation is fundamental for the development of technology-related skills and professionalism for the future.

The market proposals

The market proposals for STEM education with drones come from both drone manufacturers and companies specialized in STEM training.

The STEM solutions offered by the manufacturers can be defined as drone-centric, as they are based on the drone as a basic element on which to build mainly the App, whose purpose is to control the drone. The solutions offered by companies specialized in STEM training, on the other hand, are based on the use and development of the concepts and principles of the STEM disciplines, for the realization of projects in which the drone performs certain activities.

Let’s see in greater detail the contents of the proposals of drone manufacturers and training companies for STEM education with drones:

  • DJI,
  • Parrot,
  • DroneBlocks,
  • BonaDrone.

DJI

DJI Educational is DJI’s educational program. It cannot be defined as a STEM education path, since it consists of a series of courses aimed at understanding the use of the drone as a tool for the realization of projects. Hence the birth of ad hoc courses on the use of their drones (Mavic, Phantom, etc.), and courses on the use of software tools aimed at post-processing photos/videos made with DJI drones.

However, in order to contrast some competitors with a more marked sense towards STEM education with drones, DJI has called its drone Tello (made in partnership with Ryze Tech and Intel), as a STEM drone. DJI, in fact, with this drone programmable via Scratch, aims to make a low-cost tool available for learning and developing code whose purpose is to control the drone.

Drone DJI Tello
Drone DJI Tello – Source DJI store

DJI has also made available the related SDK (Software Development Kit) for Tello, to allow the development of code and applications for scientific purposes.

Scratch development enviroment - ambiente sviluppo Scratch
Code development environment with App Scratch – Source SDK sample

Parrot

The Parrot Education program acts as the gateway to the App for coding, and Bundles for the realization of STEM projects, focused on its drones.

The Apps section, in fact, introduces the suitable coding environments to develop code to make the drone fly. Among them: Swift Playground (by Apple), Tynker, Workbench, Simulink, Python and Javascript. In addition, Parrot also provides access to its SDK platform, for scientific projects.

Parrot drone code development environment with Tynker App
Parrot drone code development environment with Tynker App – Source Parrot

The Bundles section, on the other hand, gives access to an area for the discounted purchase of drones on which to implement the code developed with the previous Apps and to carry out in practice STEM education projects with drones.

The Parrot SDK data sheet is available at the following link.

DroneBlocks

It is presented as a STEM App (for iOS and Android), drag and drop type for the development of code for drones. The block code that can be generated on the tablet or via browser, is able to manage different types of DJI drones: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Mavic Pro, Mavic Air, Spark, and Tello.

Based on the DJI SDK, the App allows you to develop missions with the drone where different physical parameters and principles (physical, mechanical) must be appropriately considered, to create a quality STEM App.

Ambiente sviluppo codice per drone DJI con App DroneBlocks
DJI drone code development environment with DroneBlocks App – Source DroneBlocks

The learning, also guided through the DroneBlocks Curriculum sections, educates the student to a reasoned use of the drone also through sophisticated tools such as GPS.

DroneBlocks is a STEM education environment with drones that allows you to develop projects of a more or less complex level on consumer type drones.

Detailed information sheets on the DroneBlocks App are available at the following link for Android and this one for iOS.

BonaDrone

The BonaDrone proposal stands as the most complete and educational STEM education tool with drones, which also looks at robotics. BonaDrone uses the drone as a tool for development and experimentation. In practice, the BonaDrone offer consists of a mini drone, the Mosquito available in the Mosquito 150 versions and in the Mosquito 90 version. Printed with 3D technology, the drones have a software environment on which to develop the code for flight control or other functions. The code can be developed through Blocky, or Python or Arduino (depends on the Mosquito model chosen).

Mosquito 90
Source BonaDrone website
Mosquito 150
Source BonaDrone website
Environment development code for Mosquito drone with Blocky
Environment development code for Mosquito drone with Blocky – Source Blocky

The experience and learning are complete as in addition to mounting the drone from scratch, it is also possible to make changes to it, by requesting a customized 3D printable version.

Conclusions

STEM education with drones is therefore a reality destined to evolve. Although the commitment to the forefront of some drone manufacturers is still in its early stages, companies specialized in STEM training and dissemination can make a difference.

Their effective support for schools, institutions and organizations that wish to use drones as a tool for cognitive and interdisciplinary growth is a reality in Anglo-Saxon countries, Spain and other European countries. It is hoped that sooner or later this training approach will also affect Italy.

Finally, in the panorama of STEM education training solutions, it is worth mentioning the consolidated Sphero, a leading company in this sector.

Through its products, Sphero Bolt or the brand new Rvr-rover (available on Kickstarter), which are not UAVs but robots in the literal sense of the word, is in fact able to offer innovative and stimulating solutions suitable for a very large audience. 

Sphero Bolt in action – Video (link) tratto from YouTube channel of Sphero

Rvr Sphero
RVR Sphero – The new generation of Sphero programmable robots – Source Sphero website

Note regarding the images: The images showed in the article are taken from websites. However, each image mentions the site-company which is its legitimate owner. The use of the images is exclusively for the purpose of a better understanding of the contents of the article. The featured image was purchased on vectorstock.com with a standard license.

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Last Updated on/Ultimo aggiornamento – 28/07/2020

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