Drone Light Show

Educator Spotlight, Leroy Friesenhan at Saint Michael’s Catholic Academy

April 9, 2024 — 3 minutes

Students Take the Lead in Pioneering Drone Light Show 

The DroneBlocks Light Show Kit has been one of the many exciting new releases from DroneBlocks this past year by inspiring students to get creative with their code. For one Robotics Club in Austin, Texas – the light show kit has really taken off!

In this Educator Spotlight Segment, we visit Leroy Friesenhan at Saint Michael’s Catholic Academy and more specifically, the students in his robotics program elective. Mr. Frisenhan chose to let the students handle our interview questions, and their bright-hearted astuteness is a reflection of his success in the classroom.

The High School Robotics Program Elective at Saint Michaels is brand new, and mainly focused on building drones and coding them to fly. As a new elective, students shared some of their reasons for signing up. “I joined the club because I really like engineering, so I wanted to do some robotics. The drones are a completely new program and it’s great. I don’t code that much but I love the physical engineering process,” explained one of the Sophomore students in the club. A Freshman student’s gateway was through their interest in computer science: “I’m really big on coding; in middle school, I was always programming my calculator and messing around – coding Drones is much better.” One student explained, “We learn how to apply things we learned in math or science in this course, but it’s more hands-on here.”

This year, students competed for the first time at the annual National Bell AVR Competition during their first semester and are now focused on DroneBlocks and the DroneBlocks light show during their second semester. “Our teacher introduced it as the next step to the Bell AVR competition. The drone show was easy to understand and learn, and it was so cool seeing the final product – going from the design module to real life,” explained one of the young engineers. “I was surprised how accurately you could program the drones to move. With only 10 drones, there were so many combinations of moves and LED lights that make it seem like it’s all these crazy shapes…I can’t imagine what you could do with 100 drones.”

The students were able to pinpoint the challenges of Drone Coding and Piloting that were present in their Bell AVR Competition as well as in the Drone Light Show. “The measurements, trial and error, calibration, pre-flight testing…it’s all especially important for piloting drones.” That being said – the Light Show presented some new skills to be honed through coding and designing a 3D-modeled flight path in front of you. “We learned a lot about how they interact with each other mid-air – accommodating for downdrafts and collisions – it taught us to be meticulous..it’s very complex.” One student added, “We had to persevere as a team and come up with a separation of roles.”

The big test came when the robotics club performed a demo show for the school’s administration in the gym. “We had one person lead the coding of the show design, but we all worked together to troubleshoot and prepare for the show.” The show was broken into 3 sets and choreographed to the classic rock tunes Thunderstruck, Eye of the Tiger, and Fortunate Son. The students flew their drone swarms in the shape of a lightning bolt, an eye, and even an outline of Texas. Each student had a role, either designing the show, generating the report, suggesting creative ideas and assisting in setup.

The show was a success, and the administrators were impressed, asking about their process, both technically and creatively. “It went off perfectly. The administration said the patterns were cool and well coordinated.”

Many of the students expressed their wish to continue down either an educational or career path in computer science, engineering, math or science. They all guaranteed their involvement in the Robotics Club next year. As for the Drone Light Show, they feel lucky to get to experiment with it. As a student explained, “It’s newer tech – it’s not really been used a ton in education yet, and it’s been fun to pioneer that.”

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