So buying a drone for your child seemed like a great idea a month ago, right? Since then, the shiny new toy has become a nuisance requiring constant supervision. I get it. We’ve put together some creative activities to help mom’s make the most of that time by turning the crashing and playing into a truly educational experience. Drones are exciting and fun, but they are also a great tool for STEM education and work in ways that can change perspective and open doors. Here are some of the fun ways parents can introduce a bit of learning into Drone Time. These activities can also be great lesson plan ideas for teachers. Let’s get started!
Antique maps are a cool way to look at the world, because they are full of fantastical creatures and strange coastlines and monsters under the waters. As map-making transitioned into the nineteenth century, explorers started trekking across lands and oceans and rivers and poles, taking land surveys and making maps as they went. Look at maps together. Start with the oldest ones and the ones drawn by explorers, and then investigate the cool new maps that are made possible using drones. Draw a map of a geological formation of interest near you, using the old explorer-methods, and then a drone-map using your drone and a camera.
Reading: The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Reference: Commercial Aerial Surveying and Mapping
How High is High?
It’s fun to watch video of our astronauts in the International Space Station, using the low gravity to tumble and twirl. Great questions and topics to explore with your child could include:
- How high do you have to be to lose the effects of gravity?
- How high is a cloud?
- How high is the tallest tree on earth, and the tallest building?
- How far up is the International Space Station? Commercial airplanes?
- When does the atmosphere become outer space? A long yardstick can be repurposed to show the proportions and how high humans can reach.
Reading: NASA’s Mission Pages for the ISS
Machines speak a different language, and kids pick up new languages at remarkable speed. Machine lingo is called code, and kids across the world are learning coding skills. Most use it for video games, but hey, whatever works! Drones speak code. Learn about the new drone by picking up a few code lessons–it may prove to have a longer lasting benefit than your high school French, mon amour.
Reading & Reference: Code.org
Humans have been fascinated by flight since Icarus strapped on his wax wings and jumped into the sky. How exactly did Orville and Wilbur Wright keep their little plane up? What’s with the shape of the wings? Why do helicopters and airplanes look so different? How does a glider work? The First Flight National Monument is located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, in Kitty Hawk, and tells the story of how man tried and failed many times to fly, before he finally succeeded. The wind and high dunes of the Outer Banks are encouraging people to strap on wings and jump into the sky at this very moment.
Reading & Reference: How We Invented the Airplane
Geometry and Art: Linear Perspective
Western painting developed linear perspective and vanishing points during the Renaissance, and forever connected geometry and art. Most painting since that time has used the rules of linear perspective, either following them or taking a large step away and refusing to use perspective. But linear perspective is assuming a person is standing on the earth and looking toward a horizon line.
- How is art and linear perspective going to change when we are looking with a drone’s-eye view?
- How would you paint a landscape from a drone’s perspective?
Does this famous painting by Jasper Johns show linear perspective? Or geometry?
Reading & Reference: Brunelleschi’s Peepshow
Among the many environmental benefits provided by drones, drones are being discussed as a green alternative to current transportation methods, a system with significant energy and environmental consequences. Carbon footprint is one measure of environmental impact.
- What is carbon footprint?
- How can it be measured?
- Why does it matter?
- Can the carbon footprint of a complex system, such as transportation, be measured?
- What other options exist for transporting goods and people?
Reading & Reference:
The Wonderful World of Science Fiction
Isaac Asimov published I, Robot in 1950, and our fascination with fictional robots has been growing since that time. The science fiction writers have given us robots and planets and technology and time changers and a million other fascinating and creative worlds. Put your budding artist to work writing a short story about the new drone and what fantastical capabilities it could have. Sentence-story games are fun, too. One person gives the first sentence of a story, the next adds the next sentence, etc.
Reading & Reference: Best Children’s Science Fiction Books
Drones have a seemingly magical ability to take to the sky and fly like a bird. You can work with your child to trace the source of the drone’s power back to its constituent parts, and track where it came from and how far the parts had to travel to reach the drone. This can also be a great opportunity to teach your child about renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, and how they work.
- How are drones powered?
- How do batteries work?
- Batteries that contain heavy metals–where does the metal come from?
- How many people had a hand in bringing the power?
- Look at a portable solar photovoltaic cell.
- How does the cell work to convert sunlight into energy?
- How does the power travel and how is it collected?
- Look at a wind farm near you.
- How do turning wind turbines make power?
- How is a turbines energy collected and transported to your house?
Remote Control and Radio Waves
NASA has a Deep Space Network that uses antenna to communicate with satellites and other spacecraft deep in space. How do they work? Remote control means your drone and your controller are talking to each other. How does that work exactly? What language are they using? How do radio waves travel through the air? Can they be measured? Can they be disrupted? Is wireless and radio wave the same thing? Consider a radio building kit if your kid shows an interest in the fascinating world of radio waves and wireless communication.
Balance and Symmetry
Quadcoptors have four rotors. Why four? The balance and symmetry provided by four is found throughout nature. How many things in your house are using four for balance?
The Navajo believe four is a perfect number-as-idea that brings balance and symmetry, and with balance a sense of peace. Their homeland, Dinetah, is formed by the boundaries of four sacred mountains.
- White Shell or Dawn Mountain, also called Blanca Peak, is the eastern mountain. Its Navajo name is Tsisnaasjini.
- Blue Bead Mountain is in the south. Also called Mount Taylor, its name is Tsoodzil and it’s located in present day New Mexico.
- Abalone Shell Mountain is called San Francisco Mountain, and is located in Flagstaff, Arizona. Its name is Doko’oosliid.
- Obsidian Mountain is located in present day Colorado, and is the northern peak. It is called Dibe Nirsaa, or Mount Hesperus.
These four mountains provide the balance to the Navajo people. Though their lands no longer reach as far as their four mountains, they feel the land between is their homeland. Look at a map of the American southwest and see if you can identify the four sacred mountains of the Navajo people. Compare that land to the current Navajo Nation land.
Does nature provide any examples of symmetry and balance using three or two? Has human engineering? Igor Sikorsky called the helicopter a flying horse (an animal with four legs.) Look at helicopter design and count rotors. How do helicopters use the balance of four to stay aloft?
Drones are exciting and fun, but they are also a great tool for STEM education and work in ways that can change perspective and open doors. @dronegenuity
The New Lemonade Stand
Drones can also help prepare teens for future careers. Drone services are utilized by a wide range of industries and at an increasing rate. Older children who are fascinated by drones can gain valuable hands-on experience by taking marketing photos for local commercial or residential real estate agent. Your aspiring drone pilot can learn what businesses and individuals look for when trying to sell a product or service, better understand mapping & modeling, agriculture, film-making, or simply have some fun new imagery to edit in Photoshop. And they’ll probably prefer it to mowing the lawn on Saturday!
Have fun with the new drone!
If you’d like to learn more, please check out some of our other drone tutorials, or simply follow dronegenuity on our social media channels: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates.