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Oren O’Neal of BigHope discusses the value of STEAM education and introducing DroneBlocks to his students

January 20, 2022 — 2 minutes

As a 245 pound fullback Oren O’Neal played NCAA Football at Arkansas State University and was drafted by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders in 2007. Oren enjoyed a fulfilling career until injuries forced an early retirement. As prized as his football career is to Oren (he still beams with Raiders pride) he says football was actually just a pathway for him to achieve his primary goal of becoming an engineer. “I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, but coming from a small town in Arkansas, I didn’t have a lot of options….I went to Arkansas State University and walked on to get a scholarship to get my school paid for.” Now, Orens goal is to educate and inspire children to ensure they have access to meaningful education opportunities he felt he was missing. Through his passion of Engineering and Computer Science, Oren engages students from the Elementary level, up through High School via his non-profit “BigHope” across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Oren exhibits a deep connection and awareness to his students and their needs. He witnesses the many benefits a rounded STEAM education can provide to a child. “Having them sit at a computer, versus watching the drones go up and fly…it’s a whole different energy…It’s not just about giving them the science and technology, but putting the intrinsic interest inside them and something like DroneBlocks, that’ll do it!”

Oren is launching a new Drone Pilot Program with his students using DroneBlocks and is starting with his High School students first, then he’ll have them assist him in teaching the elementary children. Being mostly a self-taught, one man led operation, Oren sees it as a win-win opportunity to develop the high school students into mentors while being able to serve as many children as he can. He also sites the ease of use of DroneBlocks as the reason he can accomplish such an endeavor: “All the information in the world is out there…in an ocean of knowledge, you don’t know where you’re going…but what I like about the curriculum, it’s in a fun package, it’s all laid out, all videos step-by-step is right there….and that is a big help.”

Of all the stats from his football days, what stands out most is Oren’s NFL Rookie Year Nomination for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is to distinguish players who pursue excellence on and off the field through volunteer and charity work. Oren certainly continues to exhibit that trait of character through his work and we are glad he sees DroneBlocks as another opportunity to enrich his students’ lives. “We use STEM and STEAM as a vehicle to nurture these children into prosperous human beings…it just so happens when we’re done, now they have skills that everybody wants…and that’s our big hope.

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