Mini quad copters - baby drones - buzzed through the obstacle course as 20 high school students competed for fastest and most accurate RC simulator in the University of Nevada, Reno's first ever unmanned autonomous systems summer camp.
As they watched their flying robots bounce and swerve off course, the students found that the engineering principles might just be easier to learn than learning to pilot the nimble machines around the course, which was set up at Rancho San Rafael Park, just up the street from the University.
"They didn't get a whole lot of practice before coming out here," Elyse Bozsik, outreach coordinator for the College of Engineering said. "They've been working on principles of aerodynamics and propulsion and learning how computer science and mechanical engineering come together in unmanned autonomous systems. Flying the RC quad copters is a whole other challenge, but they're having fun."
The inaugural camp is designed to expand student's knowledge and awareness of the aviation and aerospace industry, including unmanned autonomous systems such as the flying robots. In the summer camp, students encountered scientific principles such as lift, thrust, drag, and propulsion. The use of UAS simulators exposed them to new technologies and the use of other technological devices that will prepare them for advancing technologies in the general workforce.
Throughout the week, the local high school students launched bottle rockets, learned about robotics, visited the University's Planetarium and visited the Nevada Air National Guard base. They also learned about the University's minor degree in autonomous systems and collaborations with industry.
The College of Engineering began a new minor degree program in Unmanned Autonomous Systems in January. Courses in computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering were combined into the new UAS program that will help to prepare students to enter the Nevada workforce in the UAS industry.
"We want to show them a clear path through the University to getting great engineering jobs," Bozsik said. "Working with the statewide Jumpstart to UAS program to develop this program has been wonderful."
The Jumpstart program is developed through the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, which promotes autonomous systems economic development in Nevada. The main objective of their program is for students to expand their knowledge and awareness of the aviation and aerospace industry, and on a larger scale, to provide amplification on the State of Nevada's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives related to Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Aerospace Education.
"Helping get this first Jumpstart summer camp going has been gratifying," Warren Rapp, Director of the NAIS office in northern Nevada, said as he watched the students maneuvering their baby drones across the lawn. "It's great to see them out here applying the principles of flight they've learned in the camp and have seen on their field trips."
The K-12 outreach is an example of the efforts of the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center begun by the College of Engineering to build economic development in the autonomous systems industry. NAASIC is a collaboration led by higher education that involves EDAWN, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the manufacturing industry and K-12 education and higher education programs to enhance Nevada's workforce.
"This is all part of an autonomous systems innovation eco-system we are creating in our region," Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of engineering, said. "The summer camp and K-12 outreach is one end of the spectrum. We are helping to build the workforce and build the industry through research, education and innovation. NAASIC will contribute to economic development and efforts to pursue tech-based solutions for the region, the city and the state."