Students Learning Math Through Flying Drones

ELON, N.C. —Some North Carolina middle schoolers are learning science and math skills through some new and emerging technology.

Western Alamance 6th and 7th graders are learning not only how to fly a drone, but how it can help them solve math problems.

"We're using a drone and the pythagorean theorem to test the length from A to B and then from B to C, and then from A to C,” said Brayden King.

Students then use that information to calculate the velocity of the drone.

"We're flying each, seeing the speed, then using the distance and the time to calculate it and then speed and time to get the distance,” said Burke King.

"The formula is S=D/T, so if you divide distance by time, you get the speed,” said Timothy Felten.

Students have also talked about the issues of ethics behind drones in the class.

"This drone has a camera,” said their teacher, Melaine Rickard. “How close should we fly it to other people? Is it invasive? What are the rules that we should use? We had a debate in our Language Arts class about if the drone should be used for military purposes, so we've really started to think about what's right and what's wrong."

While they're only in the 6th and 7th grades, the exercise is getting students excited about pursuing STEM-related career fields as they get older.

"I like the whole flight aspect of it,” King said. “And I love the math. The math is really, really fun."

But the best part, they say, is being able to learn real-world math skills without ever having to open a textbook.

“We do a lot of fun stuff incorporating math into it,” said Amelia Berntson. “Flying the drone is really fun, and you don't even realize you're doing math."

The school received a grant from the North Carolina Electric Cooperative’s bright ideas program to pay for the drone.