The Virginia Space Grant Consortium’s GeoTEd-UAS program teamed up with the Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC [formerly Thomas Nelson CC]) in partnership with Virginia’s Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to conduct two drone camps focused on special needs students from area high schools in Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg/James City County. The camps explored career preparation and applications in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS [aka drones]). Students were taught important safety and regulatory practices for drone operators, as well as the basics of flying drones. Students even earned their FAA TRUST certificates for recreational flyers and received their own drone. During each camp, students flew small drones inside through an obstacle course, and larger drones outside on VPCC’s campus, and during a trip to Anderson Park in Newport News arranged by John Lesko (GIS/UAS Specialist, Newport News, VA). On the last day of each camp, students took a field trip to Nauticus (Norfolk, VA) to see the museum’s current drone exhibit, fly drones in their ‘Drone Zone,’ and crawl over the decks of the USS Wisconsin.
“This was a great experience for our students,” said Sherry Hildebrandt, HCS transition specialist. “Both camps helped students gain self-confidence while learning additional life and vocational skills.” VPCC Professor Julie Young said, “One of the students said ‘it was the best week of his life,’ and that was priceless!”