Teacher Professional Development and Student Outreach in sUAS and Geospatial Technology


To increase and diversify the geospatial technology and UAS workforce, it is critical to develop student interest early in their academic career. A key  component of the GeoTEd-UAS project is student recruitment of future community college students through outreach and exposure to role models in the field.


The project team has developed student outreach materials and offered programs for students in middle-school through college including hands on flying time with competitions, building a UAS, experience with a variety of vehicles and sensors, and exposure to professionals working the field.


The team has leveraged the GEOTREK-12 program created and sponsored by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium to develop outreach materials and coordinate and offer many outreach events for students and teachers. The GeoTEd-UAS team will continue to coordinate and offer these outreach events and look for opportunities to expand the program. 


Former GeoTEd-UAS cohort participant, Veronica Spradlin is a high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher in Montgomery County, Virginia. She developed and offered the first ever pilot UAS course for the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). VDOE is now working with Veronica to further develop the course and make it available to all teachers in the Commonwealth.  GeoTEd-UAS PI Chris Carter will serve on the curriculum review committee and ensure the course is informed by the work of the GeoTEd-UAS team. 


Below is a summary of outreach events that have been offered through the project:

  • Since 2015, Thomas Nelson Community College has hosted a STEM Saturday event through the VSGC Technology Exploration Saturday series. This events provides hands-on flying and a UAS competition for 90 middle school students each year.
  • The GeoTEd-UAS team led a UAS Track during the annual Materials in STEM (M-STEM) Conference hosted by Thomas Nelson Community College and coordinated by MatEdu, the NSF-ATE funded National Resource Center for Materials. More than 20 teachers gained hands-on sUAS flying experience and materials to integrate into the classroom.
  • John Tyler Community College hosted a STEM day where 12 students participated in a drone competition and also gained hands-on experience flying a commercial sUAS.
  • Thomas Nelson Community College hosted a Technology Summer Camp where 12 students participated in hands-on activities with UAS.
  • As part of VSGC’s Virginia Space Coast Scholars summer academy for 10th graders hosted by NASA Wallops Flight Facility, 80 Students participated in hands-on UAS flying and competitions during two separate week-long events.
  • A total of 40 underrepresented minority and underserved students from Gar-Field High School participated in hands-on sUAS flying and competitions with support from a 21st Century grant awarded to the school.
  • Mountain Empire Community College provided a one-day sUAS experience for 24 high school students from local area schools. The event provided the students with both in class and hands-on training. The College also provided a sUAS strand in the summer Governor’s School that attracted 16 rising high school seniors. These students completed both the a Part 107 (UMS 107) course and an Introduction to UAS (UMS-111) course in a full-time two-week session.
  • Mountain Empire Community College provided 22 high local school instructors a two hour class with a hands-on introduction to sUAS and to the sUAS associates degree program offered at the college.


The video below is from a UAS outreach activity as part of a Technology Exploration Saturday at Thomas Nelson Community College. VSGC coordinates these Saturdays for middle-school students and their parents. This program included hands-on demos and sUAS flying competitions with instruction led by the GeoTEd-UAS team.