By: Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties
A few months ago an email came across my computer asking if I would be interested in partnering with the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School. Curious, I asked for more information. The computer science class conducts problem based learning. The problem they were trying to solve was delivering disaster relief to people in hard-to-reach areas, a real world issue that they had seen on TV due to the 2017 hurricanes. They were starting to work with drones in the class and the teaching staff wanted a real world scenario so learners could relate the problem/solution process to something in real life.
At first I was unsure if this was something we could do, but I was inspired by a photo of our Regional COO, Jorge Martinez, hiking up the side of a mud covered hill in Puerto Rico to get water to a family following Hurricane Maria.
A task just perfect for a drone! I agreed, and was scheduled to talk to the class about Disaster Cycle Services, what we do, and how we deliver service.
On a cold January day, I presented the “problem” to the learners. I showed photos of Emergency Response Vehicles, clients walking through knee deep water to get to supplies, and Red Cross volunteers on one side of a river while the clients were on the other with no easy way to get supplies to them. The learners were interested in the services we provide and asked good questions. The coach (their term for the teacher) and I expressed the need and how this can save lives. The problem demonstrated that drones could be used for more than having fun with friends, and could actually make a difference.
Their task was to create a flight plan, write code for the drone and write an essay about the experience.
On January 31, the class presented their projects. The learners were ready to fly their drones and demonstrate how they could deliver supplies to multiple locations. The gymnasium was set with three “landing depots”, the closer to center the better and the more points received. The points represented the numbers of lives saved at each landing depot. (They also received “style points” if they performed a flip between depots.) Each team had the opportunity for 2 “flights”.
That morning I was excited as I witnessed amazing young adults using math, geometry and trigonometry to program their flights, and loving what they were doing!
As I sat on the sidelines watching and encouraging the learners, I overheard one say to his teammate, who was upset by their results, “well we did not get the center, but we still saved lives.”
I thought he was being sarcastic, so I looked over at him. But no, it showed on their faces that they truly understood why they were doing this.
While some teams were more successful than others with their flights, every single team tried their hardest and learned that technology can save lives.
This partnership is something that was a first for both of us, and I look forward to solving other “problems” with them in the future.
To view a short video of a flight, visit https://twitter.com/NIHFHS/status/958742381557420032.