UAF, Green Star Partner for School Drone Program

Jun 29, 2022 | Education, News, Science, Transportation

Green Star Partnership

From left, the UAF Geophysical Institute’s Marine Vanlandeghem Gillespie, Kalee Meurlott, and Mariah McNamara hold recycled electronics along with (at right) Green Star of Interior Alaska’s Cherissa Dukelow, Art Gelvin, and Kensley Defler.

Daniel Walker

A partnership between the UAF Geophysical Institute and Green Star of Interior Alaska is sending refurbished electronics to three small Alaska schools to use in a new drone aircraft program.

And the Children Shall Control Them

Schools in Nulato, Nenana, and Valdez are receiving electronics through the Drone Research and Opportunities for Native Elementary Students program, or DRONES, a project of the Geophysical Institute Education Outreach Office and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The devices can control small quad-copter drones, which are also being provided to the three schools through the NSF-funded program.

“The overarching goal of the drone project is to increase Alaska Native students’ enthusiasm, engagement, and success in STEM, which is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” says Geophysical Institute education and outreach coordinator Marine Vanlandeghem Gillespie.

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“Green Star’s core values of environmental stewardship, education, and innovation align with our Education Outreach department’s values,” she adds.

Through Green Star, teachers at the three schools each receive a variety of refurbished phones and tablets to test which ones work best for use by students in controlling the drones.

“These different devices will be used by our pilot test teachers so that they can tell us if it is easier to work with one of the devices compared to the other, which one is more manipulable for the children, or if the children have a preference in terms of size in relation to their hand,” Vanlandeghem Gillespie says.

Green Star of Interior Alaska, a Fairbanks-based nonprofit whose mission is to reduce waste and support recycling, already had access to second hand electronics.

“Some of these are communities that we already serve as the Interior hub for electronics recycling through our partnership with Backhaul Alaska,” says Cherissa Dukelow, programs and outreach manager for Green Star of Interior Alaska. “We are warmed to see that our donation of electronic devices that had been discarded as waste will get to see a new life while contributing to empowering educational endeavors in Interior Alaska villages.”

Dukelow adds, “This circular use of materials in conjunction with investing in community education aligns with our organization’s vision.”

The UAF Geophysical Institute is one of a handful of national hubs for drone aviation development, as the host of the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration.

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