We keep hearing that automated aerial delivery is just around the corner, but who will build and operate these machines? A group of educators recently began to answer that question after completing a four-day workshop at Sonoma State University to teach their students how to build and fly drones and rockets.
Four community college instructors received hands-on training last week on how to build and fly drones and rockets as part of a new NASA-funded Sonoma State program called Rising Data. The program is aimed at developing a one-semester course for 10 Hispanic-serving community colleges in California.
The SSU project is organized by SSU Physics and Astronomy Chair Lynn Cominsky, with professors Erin Quealy (Napa Valley College), Lauren Novatne (Reedley College), Alex Wong (San Mateo), and Jayesh Bhakta (Los Angeles) as the inaugural cohort.
Rising Data was inspired by Cominsky's NASA-funded S4 program, which developed rocket payloads for use by secondary school students. Similar hardware is also used by the University's Learning by Making project in Mendocino County. "The hardware platforms developed through these earlier programs, and for SSU's first CubeSat (T-LogoQube), were adapted for this new program," says Cominsky.
Professor Greg Kriehn, a drone expert from Fresno State, gave flying lessons with the help of two of his students. By the end of his lesson, the four teachers were able to successfully pilot an F450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV is the technical term for drones) around SSU's Commencement Lawn.
The rocket launches were overseen by local rocketry expert Tony Alcocer. All launches were successful, but due to the small size of the lawn, which is ringed by lakes and tall trees, only three of the four rockets were retrieved.