Are drones the key to unlocking STEM comprehension in today’s education system?

Around the world, Drone Legends is a trailblazing new STEM curriculum in schools, education camps, and afterschool programs for young students. On April 18, 2022, PBS and NPR Philadelphia station WHYY broadcasted the company’s compelling story in a segment following Scott Buell, founder of Drone Legends. 

Scott Buell described his hobbyist introduction to drones in 2014, and his not-long-after realization: every time he flew a drone in his neighborhood, kids would flock to observe with amazement. With a longstanding background in tech and medical marketing, he noted the potential for these innovative new “toys” to ignite kids’ interest in learning complex subjects. 

“It was a phenomenon I was really intrigued by,” said Scott. “I started to see drone applications in schools… Most people were focusing on the tech, but I wanted to focus [drone technology] on the kids.”. Thus he spent over a full year set out to build a notable learning framework for drones in STEM. Leading a team of experts in education, drone technology and STEM learning, a new (and fun) curriculum was created for elementary and middle schoolers. 

The Drone Legends STEM Fundamentals presents kids with interactive, imaginative drone missions in the classroom. In only a few years of being launched, the curriculum is now used in hundreds of schools in the U.S. and continues to be introduced to eager education programs in Australia and New Zealand. 

Why do Drones Matter in Schools? 

Already, leading industries are adopting advanced drone applications to improve their business operations. Looking ahead, commercial industries are only going to increase their adaptability for drone tech. As Scott explained: “It’s changing every industry as we know it, from delivering medicines to helping farmers with data to agriculture, mining, search and rescue, real estate marketing, Hollywood… You name it, there’s a good chance a drone is disrupting [that industry] in a good way.”

The future presents society with rapid changes, and there’s no slowing down. The job market is predicted to rely more heavily on technology— with 9 out of 10 jobs requiring digital skills— by 2030. For the sake of future professionals in developed countries, kids must upskill their abilities now if they are to keep up with hiring demands into adulthood. With the development of robotics, drone and STEM learning address a growing fear that artificial intelligence will inevitably replace people in the workforce.

Preparing kids for STEM careers is an essential undertaking. The Drone Legends team knows this and encourages students to activate their curiosities with hands-on UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) missions. Paired into teams, students learn to collaboratively operate Gimbal, an artificial intelligence drone. The goal is to encourage students to learn through fun, failure and iteration, presenting them with real problem-solving scenarios. 

One STEM curriculum supervisor at Grice Middle School shared her approval of the Drone Legends STEM Fundamentals: “The rules in the program are really cool. The kids are either the driver of the drone or the observer taking notes; both working collaboratively as a team. Each person in the team is equally as important in the flight of the drone.” 

Educators ask open-ended questions such as, “what can we use drones for in the classroom? in the world?” and “what happened with this crash landing?” Utilizing the heart of this curriculum, the Student Mission Guide, the drone piloting program gets students involved in ways where they must take ownership of STEM learning— and improve upon mistakes as they arise. This is cleverly designed to get kids naturally thinking toward higher-level STEM courses, or real world science, tech, engineering and math careers. 

More Than a STEM Education Program

It may seem that anyone could come up with a STEM education lesson that involves drones. But what’s unique about Drone Legends is their mission to reach kids’ lives beyond the immersive experience in the classroom. Consider their core value and mission statement: “Inside Every Child Lives a Legend”. The motto instills a mindset in youth that’s missing from other curriculum models. Everyday tutelage might not approach STEM in such a social-emotional way, but the program generated by Scott and his team strives to fill this gap. 

Drones and similar STEM technologies equip students to learn how to live life and make choices instead of simply reacting and feeling stuck in a world that’s constantly changing. Another example of Legendary opportunity in action can be found in an incident where a local dog was lost in a wetland preserve. Using a drone with a hotdog attached to a long string, a group of elementary-aged students was able to efficiently “bait” and locate the dog safely. Without drone knowledge, this mission would have failed.

Getting to the heart of real-world problems is another goal of rising drone programs in schools. The company Zipline Drones uses fixed-wing drones (as opposed to traditional quadcopter drones) to deliver life-saving supplies to remote areas in Africa and other countries. With these UAV missions, relief organizations can serve difficult places where man-operated flight vehicles are often limited. 

Drone education contributes to making life better for both youth and the world. But educators of all levels can also benefit. Educator lesson planning and professional development seminars deliver tech-first coaching to teachers wanting to sharpen their STEM skills. If there’s anything students look up to, it’s a teacher who’s heroically passionate about hands-on learning with the class. 

Scott Buell has set a new standard for drone education across the globe with Drone Legends. Believing in the drone education program is one thing, but truly believing in the children as legends is what works. As he puts it: “The jobs of tomorrow don’t exist today. I want kids to be equipped not just to deal with that future, but to excel in it.”

To inquire about this news or to get in touch with Scott and the Drone Legends team, contact: