Drone Engineering Course Helps Students Reach New Heights

This fall, it’s not unusual to see drones buzzing down the hallway of the Center for Innovation & Design or overhead on the softball field. MBS introduced a new Drone Engineering course this semester, and the science elective is literally helping Upper School students soar!

In this project-based course, which is open to juniors and seniors, students have been busy designing, building, and testing drones. Working both individually and in teams, students combine science theory with hands-on engineering practice, gaining an introduction to the engineering design process, the rudiments of programming, and operational piloting skills in the air.

The course is being taught by Dr. Dennis Evangelista, who comes to MBS from the U.S. Naval Academy and brings a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the classroom.

“Engineers want to build and see their creations go, whether it’s a drone, an autonomous sailboat, a robot, or a miniature airplane,” he said. “Though I can get drones in the air, I’m not actually a very good quadrotor pilot, so when a student takes over the controls and learns how to rip through some crazy maneuvers, I’m as dazzled as everyone else. I really love to see the smiles when they get their stuff in the air.”

He added that the Drone Engineering course is a fun and engaging way to learn some advanced academic concepts. 

“Students who are interested in STEM fields (especially engineering) often encounter courses that are very difficult in college. Courses like statics, dynamics, structures, fluid mechanics,

differential equations, electronics, and programming are challenging and sometimes make people not want to be engineers. A course like Drone Engineering is a gentle introduction to these, built around shared experiences and memories that often help young engineers remember why they want to be engineers—the thrill of flying something made with their own hands; the creative excitement of the design process; the camaraderie of working with a team,” he said. “I want the experiences MBS students have in Drone Engineering to propel them to future success by giving them something to hang on to when the engineering gets tough.”

This semester, the Drone Engineering class is focusing on quadrotors (or multirotors in general) — platforms that have a number of rotors and can hover and do vertical takeoffs and landings. In the spring, Dr. Evangelista said that the course will cover fixed wing aircraft, which are generally faster and have longer endurance and payload capacity.

“The skills and engineering principles covered are similar for both semesters, the main difference is which platforms we build and fly,” he said.


 

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