February is Career Tech Education Month

Taking flight

New program at RHS uses drone as teaching tool

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 2/15/17

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Students at Robertsdale High School are getting certified to fly, but there’s a good possibility that they will never have to leave the ground.

The Jr. Naval ROTC …

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February is Career Tech Education Month

Taking flight

New program at RHS uses drone as teaching tool

Posted

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — Students at Robertsdale High School are getting certified to fly, but there’s a good possibility that they will never have to leave the ground.

The Jr. Naval ROTC program at RHS is using a new technology to prepare students for the future by using drones.

“These machines are more technologically advanced than anything I dealt with in more than 20 years in the military,” said Lt. Col. Scott Meehan, a retired Marine helicopter pilot who took over as senior naval science instructor for the RHS Jr. Naval ROTC program in 2015. “It’s a technology that is really taking off and the possibilities for our students are limitless.”

Through the new program, students receive FAA certification and can get a job anywhere in the United States that uses drone technology, Meehan said.

“Amazon just recently delivered its first package using drone technology,” Meehan said. Of course there are several military applications for the drones, along with business application.

“A lot of the pilots I served with are now working for electrical companies, flying helicopters along the lines to look for breaks,” he said. “The students who graduate for this program could very well be working for those same companies in the future, using drones to fly over several lines at once without ever having to leave the ground.”

The school recently purchased one drone, Meehan said, at a cost of about $1,700, and they are looking to purchase more drones in the future.

“The technology is getting less expensive every day,” he said. “To purchase the same equipment we purchased a few months ago, the cost has already come down to about $800 and is continuing to drop.”

Replacement parts are also much cheaper to deal with, he said.

“The helicopters I used to fly, you’re talking millions of dollars to replace, not to mention the fact that you had to have certified mechanics to replace them,” Meehan said. “We were able to have replacement parts shipped to use in two days and were able to make the repairs ourselves at a fraction of the cost.”

Another advantage, Meehan said, was that much of the military training he received was done on simulators. With drone technology, he said, they are able to train with the same equipment students will be using in the field.

“It’s not just about learning a skill,” he said. “It’s about learning to be responsible with the equipment. It makes a difference that they are actually learning real world applications and not just simulations.”

ROTC students and faculty have joined others at RHS and across the nation during the month of February to celebrate national Career and Technical Education Month.

This year’s theme is Celebrate Technology, Own Tomorrow! CTE Month provides CTE programs across the country an opportunity to demonstrate how CTE makes students college- and career-ready and prepares them for high-wage, high-demand career fields.

“We have so many great programs at Robertsdale High School that teach students the skills they will need in the future, and about life in general,” said RHS Principal Joe Roh.

According to a press release from the Association for Career and Technical Education, Career and Technical Education encompasses 94 percent of high school students and 13 million postsecondary students in the United States and includes high schools, career centers, community and technical colleges and four-year universities.

“CTE is a major part of the solution to myriad national economic and workforce problems, such as high school dropout rates, a weakened economy, global competitiveness and massive layoffs,” according to the release. “At a time when opportunity for employment is so critical, CTE programs in every community are ensuring students are equipped with the skills to successfully enter the workforce.”

Robertsdale High School works closely with the South Baldwin Center for Technology to provide a variety of instruction for both students who are going to continue their education and students who are going to join the workforce following high school.

In addition to ROTC, which includes Meehan as senior instructor and Petty Officer Edwar “Theo” Theodoro, the Family and Consumer Science Department is headed by Alicia Benton, who primarily serves as the instructor for the fashion department, while instructor Dawn Hopper heads up the food, wellness and dietetics department, working with SBCT’s Culinary School, which is led by Chef David Navarro. Hopper also heads up the school’s Family Career and Community Leaders of America

Michael McCrady instructs students in the multimedia design/publications department, while Amy Stewart heads up the school’s IT Academy and Jeremy Stanford heads up the business department at the Future Business Leaders of America group at RHS.

Robertsdale High School has also revived its agriscience and Future Farmers of America programs under instructor John Manning.