Greene County Career Center holds drone competition

Competition fuels interest in drone technology as potential career path for students.

The Greene County Career Center on Saturday hosted an aerial drone competition, the first of its kind for the Miami Valley, bringing together 12 schools and 27 teams with middle school and high school students.

“Here at the Greene County Career Center, we started a UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) and Drone program last year to get students into that career field,” said Brett Doudican, a curriculum specialist at the Greene County Career Center. “We wanted to be leader in that area for the region, so this is the first one in Ohio that’s through the REC Foundation.”

The REC Foundation, which stands for Robotics Education and Competition, provides educators with competition, education, and workforce readiness programs. On Saturday, the Greene County Career Center hosted one of the REC Foundation’s drone competitions, called Mission 2023: Blackout, which included piloted team matches and autonomous flight skills. The team matches tested piloting skills and teamwork, and the autonomous flight skills tests utilized pro-coded drone commands with no pilots.

“Our drone technology students get to compete with other drone technology students to test their skills and see how they’re learning, so that makes these really powerful events for them.” said Dave Deskins, superintendent of the Greene County Career Center. Deskins said they began offering technology courses involving drones and programming during 2020 as a result of a market analysis they did on the types of careers found within and sought after in the region, particularly with the region’s connection to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“Many of those aerospace-related careers involve things like cybersecurity, drone technologies, robotics, engineering, and as a result of that study, we began exploring the possible opportunity to give kids those chances here at the career center,” Deskins said. “We really made this decision because we studied the market of job needs in the region and tried to identify the things that here in Greene County make a difference.”

In addition to aerospace, drone technology has been used in agriculture, with local fire and police departments, and in transportation.

“The Ohio Department of Transportation just did a traffic study here using drone technology, so there are real jobs in this part of the country and certainly are supported well here around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” Deskins said.

Local students, like Mason Dameron, of Xenia, were among those competing during the team matches, using drones to complete tasks and score points.

“It’s really cool to see the science and engineering take off,” said David Dameron, Mason’s father and team coach.

Some students also came from out of state, like from Cabell Midland High School, located in Ona, West Virginia. Their team included Liberty Mannon, a sophomore, along with Ty Sovine and Chase Myers, both juniors. Drone technology began as a hobby for their Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program before Mannon and her teammates from last year decided to participate in competitions.

“We had the appropriate drones, so we figured, why not?” Mannon said. “We ended up qualifying for nationals. We went to Dallas, Texas. My code had made it sixth worldwide.”

Myers is now the head coder for their team. Myers’ code is currently placing first in the world, Mannon said, through their competition circuit. Myers said participating in the drone competitions have also made him reconsider his future career path, and he’s now also considering pursing coding and programming as a potential career option.

“It’s made me more confident in myself and the things that I’ve done,” Myers said.

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