November 10, 2022 — 3 minutes
Since DroneBlocks’ inception, we have been lucky to cultivate some amazing relationships along the way that not only expand the reach of our STEM education mission but also enhance and inspire our methods. DroneBlocks is proud to shout out long-time collaborator and all-around inspiring educator – Joe Paneitz, and his organization Iconic Drone Education. A teacher for 20 years, Joe has taken the lead in Drone Education after he experienced a few key “Aha!” moments that moved him to explore opportunities for his students. One instance, as Joe describes, was when a young female student – who was working a minimum wage job after school to help pay for a family member’s healthcare – inquired about a career in Drone Piloting. Drones were new on the scene and information was scarce, but that didn’t stop Joe and his student from diving in. Joe’s student passed her FAA exam, and at 16 years old received a Full-Time job offer from a surveying company that was unaware she was still in High School. Fast forward to the present day, and Joe seeks that very same goal for all his students, or as he puts it “Completing the circle 100%. Introduce Drones in 4th grade, grow the curriculum with them through High School and then connect kids with jobs.” The difference now is that Joe has the tools, resources, momentum to reach a broad spectrum of students, young, and old and even multiply opportunities by reaching other educators.
Joe credits DroneBlocks as being a great supplement to his program, where he prepares students to earn their FAA Certification and to be career-ready pilots. Pairing DroneBlocks with his curriculum in a hybrid approach opens the door to the world of coding and programming through Drone piloting. It also helps to reach the kids where they are. “DroneBlocks’ resources are palatable for kids and very attainable – I’ve seen my students react and respond to the courses and kids love it. That’s my indicator when they ask Hey what are we doing tomorrow, can we upgrade to Python?” Reaching kids is what it’s all about for Joe, in fact he recently had a 14-year-old student pass the FAA test. He also knows the value of training other educators in order to spread the skills. Funnily enough, he finds that to be more of a challenge than teaching the kids – who are anything but tepid with a remote control in their hands.
Another exciting dimension of Joe’s work is his involvement in Robotics Competitions. Joe and his team at Aha are the inventors of Texas’ annual “EcoBot Challenge” which is an engineering competition that engages Grades 4 through 8 in robotic challenges based on real-life environmental issues. The EcoBot Challenge has been running for 12 years strong and is one of Joe and his team’s proudest creations, involving over 160,000 kids every year. Early in Joe’s career, it was at a neighboring robotics competition that Joe had another pivotal Aha! Moment. One of Joe’s students, who was on the autism spectrum and had faced challenges in other subjects, particularly excelled in the competition. In fact, he shined, winning 3rd place out of 100 competing schools…many of which were from affluent communities around Texas. Joe knew he had to pursue these competitions further, and ensure every kid got their chance to discover a passion in robotics.
As Joe continues to reach students across Texas, he also found himself the go-to guy for creating the coolest Drone Obstacle Courses. What started off as a couple of buckets in a row, is now a colorful web of PVC, hoops, and mesh tunnels…and still a few buckets mounted in there.
DroneBlocks is most excited to announce our partnering with Joe on the Aha Drone Festival/Competition in which All Drone Blocks teams are welcome! This competition is open to any school or community-based team and is for grades 5 – 12 using both small Tello Droneblocks programmed drones and larger commercial drones. Teams will enjoy a world of drone workshops, demos, STEM vendors, music, great food, competition, key speeches, and much more! It takes place on March 25 at the Humble Civic Center and registration opens mid-November at www.PLHDroneFestival.com.
DroneBlocks would like to thank Joe for his valuable partnership to our organization, and for the amazing work he’s done to push the state of the art forward. If you are interested in connecting to the Iconic Plus Program and earning badges or are interested in purchasing Drone obstacle courses, be sure to check out www.MyAhaMoments.org to find out more.
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