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PHD Researcher Charts Success of Drones in the Classroom

March 20, 2024 — 4 minutes

Educator Spotlight: Professor Tryfon Sivenas

How do we measure the effectiveness of DroneBlocks? Well, the spread of our programs across the United States and around the world has been a key indicator – and the excitement we witness time and time again from students keeps us going…but where’s the data? We’ve always believed that Drones in the classroom are THE most effective, engaging, and energizing learning tools in STEM Education – but who’s counting? Lucky for us, someone decided to start keeping score.

This year, the DroneBlocks team was contacted by Professor Tryfon Sivenas – an expert in education with a passion for curiosity and Drones. Tryfon holds two Master’s Degrees, One in Telematics and Telecommunications and the other in Special Education. He also holds a PhD, which he earned investigating the use of Drones in the context of STEM education. Tryfon is now a professor of a Masters course called “STEM and Educational Robotics.” Tryfon is based in Athens, Greece and also works simultaneously in the blockchain division of a major private sector company. Little did we know, Tryfon had been using DroneBlocks as a significant lynchpin of his studies for several years and was delighted to share his findings with us. In short, the data was in: Drones are a powerful educational tool in the classroom – especially when DroneBlocks is a variable.

Why Drones in Education?

Tryfon’s focus on Drones began around 2017, “I felt technology in education was overlooked, and the existing research was very limited… My Professors initially told me, No, choose something else because all of the studies regarding Drone education were theoretical or hypothetical.” In fact, because Tryfon was a pioneer in the field, he had to first establish the scientific meaning of the term “Drone” as a flying unmanned aircraft. Next, he spent 18 months investigating every type of unmanned aerial system to sort and organize each hardware into categories. One thing Tryfon gathered from existing research was the stone-cold fact that teacher attitudes toward technology directly impacted its use in the classroom. “My goal was to chart the journey of drones into the classroom, and I learned it had a lot to do with Teachers adopting positive attitudes towards Drone use.” Tryfon knew this would be an uphill battle – whereas in Greece, Public Educators were widely known for their reluctance to adopt tech in their classrooms.

This is where DroneBlocks came to earn Tryfon’s favor. Tryfon conducted several research studies with large samples of educators varying in age, experience, and comfort with technology. His experiment tested a handful of commercial Drone models paired with their respective software. His research had taught him that for Drones to make it in front of the students, he first had to win over the teachers. He observed that the teachers’ response to DroneBlocks made it a clear stand out. “DroneBlocks helped onboard teachers with no experience and was reliable. Anytime they used Drones that didn’t work with DroneBlocks, they ran into issues adapting. DroneBlocks could be used with several drones in the air with rarely any issues – which is important because it causes a misrepresentation of drones as difficult and causes frustration.” In addition to its reliability, DroneBlocks was also a stellar introduction to piloting and block coding to those unfamiliar. In Tryfon’s first trials, 181 Teachers had 45 minutes to get acquainted with DroneBlocks via the simulator before flying real drones for 1 hour. “Teachers especially loved the simulator, going from Step 1, to them creating loops and functions quickly – it was amazing.” Tryfon observed that the more experienced teachers were able to have even more fun creating spirals and shapes in the simulator.

Out of the 181 teachers, 179 of them chose DroneBlocks.”

Professor Tryfon Sivenas

Research Outcomes

86% of the teachers identified that the use of DroneBlocks would help computational thinking and interest in STEM

Professor Tryfon Sivenas

He was also inundated with emails from the test subjects on how they could get access to DroneBlocks or borrow Drone hardware. “Everyone identified and was enthusiastic about the direct benefits of the simulator. It’s a great stepping stone to familiarize themselves with drones and block coding. This is a unique feature, and the mobile version is quite brilliant!”

In the concise and limited research trial, teachers were not introduced to the full breadth of DroneBlocks’ Curriculum program and had to think up classroom applications independently. They came up with game ideas and treasure hunt missions with the Drones. “It helped them think outside the box and create their own scenarios…they got to build the lesson around a real-world problem,” explained Tryfon. As any good researcher, Tryfon then pursued further questioning…what did the trials leave teachers wanting more of? “What we found was the teachers’ concerns were how to include and incorporate Drones into their everyday lessons.” He tipped his hat to DroneBlocks for being “the complete package for teachers” and oftentimes referred to DroneBlocks’ full curriculum offering through the Enterprise license – which does just that by offering dozens of STEM courses in coding, math and piloting.

To be clear, Tryfon was not sponsored or incentivized by DroneBlocks to use our software…in fact, Tryfon completed years of studies using the freely available DroneBlocks App, and we are thrilled to hear how it rose to the top of his list. Tryfon often spreads the word about drone education’s benefits and says, “I always comment on how you introduce drones, which is important, the rationale on selecting the drone, and I always say why we used DroneBlocks.”

Moving forward, Tryfon has purchased Crazyflie Drones in the all-new Autonomous Drones Level II Kit, and we’ll be eager to see his future research. We want to thank Professor Tryfon Sivenas for his hard work and contributions to the state-of-the-art we call Drones in STEM!

To learn more about Tryfon’s research, you can view his Published Papers linked below:

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