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Mike Coddington

Drones for Education

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Hello:

I am a robotics teacher and want to introduce drones to my 12th grade advance robotics students.  

 I am going to spend 10K on drones for a drone classroom at my school this January.  I have narrowed down the list to PCS, Parallax and UAS 4 Stem Quadzilla.  I am just reaching out to people who might have had experience with these drones and programs.  I am looking for guidance on which might be the best for a high school curriculum.
 
Got drones in the classroom?  I would like to hear from you and any suggestions you might have
Thanks in advance.
 
Mike

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19 hours ago, Mike Coddington said:

I would like to hear from you and any suggestions you might have

I am not an educator or involved with any STEM program but as an UAV builder I was interested in what sort of hardware and software that those programs provide in their kits. I noticed that the PCS and Parallax kits don't include a GPS module so it kind of rules out any sort of autonomous flying which I believe would be more relevant to an advanced robotics class. In my opinion the AMA made the best choice of hardware and software by using the Pixhawk flight controller and Ardupilot open source software. Now I maybe somewhat biased as I've used those in my DIY builds but I believe they provide a very flexible and advanced platform. Apart from being able to program flight missions from a ground control station like Mission Planner or  QgroundControl more advanced customization can be achieved by adding a companion computer like the Raspberry Pi and run, for example, ROS. It looks like you would get more drones with the PCS program but these seem to be more like toy FPV drones and although the AMA suggests one Quadzilla UAV for up to 10 students it forces them to work on building the drone and planning flight missions as as a team. 

Edited by Spitfire76

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Depends on what your trying to teach relative to STEM.  

In the early days of UAVs there was more value in teaching how to build and tune multirotors, today there’s probably more emphasis on the application of the UAV.  A lot of experimentation with a variety of payloads to gather actionable data.

Trouble with high school age kids is finding the right balance between building, flying and applications or they’ll get bored quickly.  

In the AMA video about the UAV4STEM it was all Ardupilot siftware, I’m not sure where the hardware came from.  I agree with @Spitfire76 you need GPS to be able to effectively teach about autonomy and applications otherwise your just teaching about RC.  

Ardupilot also lends itself well to using Q-Ground Control, simplified DJI type of interface or MissionPlanner where you can totally customize your firmware and plan missions depending on the interest level of your students.

 

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21 hours ago, Spitfire76 said:

 

I am not an educator or involved with any STEM program but as an UAV builder I was interested in what sort of hardware and software that those programs provide in their kits. I noticed that the PCS and Parallax kits don't include a GPS module so it kind of rules out any sort of autonomous flying which I believe would be more relevant to an advanced robotics class. In my opinion the AMA made the best choice of hardware and software by using the Pixhawk flight controller and Ardupilot open source software. Now I maybe somewhat biased as I've used those in my DIY builds but I believe they provide a very flexible and advanced platform. Apart from being able to program flight missions from a ground control station like Mission Planner or  QgroundControl more advanced customization can be achieved by adding a companion computer like the Raspberry Pi and run, for example, ROS. It looks like you would get more drones with the PCS program but these seem to be more like toy FPV drones and although the AMA suggests one Quadzilla UAV for up to 10 students it forces them to work on building the drone and planning flight missions as as a team. 

 

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Hello Spitfire76.  Thank you for your email.  We have coded Parrot Mambo's and it was child's play for my students.  The information in you email opened a huge door for me.  I really need to do more research for the best alternatives. And, I beleive you are right about the PCS drones.  Just FPV toys without a lot of building of BMS, telemetry, ECS, and etc.  I will look more closely at other packages that are out there.  I have not worked with ArduPilot.  This looks like something I need to work into the curriculum.  Thank you.

 
Mike

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Hello @Mike Coddington I don't if this is part of AMA's UAS 4 Stem  program but one nice feature of Ardupilot is the ability to create a development and test environment without any drone hardware. This is achieved by using  Ardupilot's SITL (Software In The Loop) simulator.

http://ardupilot.org/dev/docs/sitl-simulator-software-in-the-loop.html

Instead of the flight controller software running on the Pixhawk hardware its downloaded from Ardupilot's github repository onto a PC, complied and run with the SITL. Even a ground control station (GCS) like Mission Planner can be connected so its a great way to became familiar with the Ardupilot environment at no cost (apart from the PC of course).

I also agree with @Av8Chuck comment's that its not just about building a drone these days but more about their applications. As I mentioned in a previous post Ardupilot is able to  interface to a  companion computer  which is where applications like computer vision can be developed. 

I admire you for introducing drones to you students. I recall my high school maths teacher creating a computer club but this was in the late 60s and so the school didn't actually have a computer, instead we wrote our programs on paper forms and sent them to a nearby college main frame and one week later received a printout. For me this lead to a 40 year career in the computer industry. 

I am an AMA member and  build and fly both drones and fixed wing aircraft but until you posted this I was unaware that they ran a program like UAS 4 Stem. I will try to get some more information from them and see if its something I can help them out with in my area. 

Richard

Edited by Spitfire76

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13 hours ago, Av8Chuck said:

Depends on what your trying to teach relative to STEM.  

In the early days of UAVs there was more value in teaching how to build and tune multirotors, today there’s probably more emphasis on the application of the UAV.  A lot of experimentation with a variety of payloads to gather actionable data.

Trouble with high school age kids is finding the right balance between building, flying and applications or they’ll get bored quickly.  

In the AMA video about the UAV4STEM it was all Ardupilot siftware, I’m not sure where the hardware came from.  I agree with @Spitfire76 you need GPS to be able to effectively teach about autonomy and applications otherwise your just teaching about RC.  

Ardupilot also lends itself well to using Q-Ground Control, simplified DJI type of interface or MissionPlanner where you can totally customize your firmware and plan missions depending on the interest level of your students.

 

 

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Thank you for your comments.  I have a highly intelligent group who have already mastered Calculus here at a sophomore high school level.  So, I am leaning more towards building a platform that contains,  GPS, BMS, flight control, ESC,  and the rest.  I agree that a GPS platform would be great.  And, some of the STEM packages I am looking at have GPS as an add on.   I eventually want to have mission planning and coding as part of the curriculum.  Yet, alone the opportunity for those who are interested, to go for their sUAS 107 ticket.

Again, thanks for taking to time to respond.

Mike

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