Insitu Gearing Up for Summer Programs, Its Seventh Annual Roboflight Academy

Students that participated in last summer’s Roboflight Academy got to take a filed trip out to Arlington, Ore., to watch a launch-and-catch of an Insitu ScanEagle. It was a special treat after all their hard work in the program during the week. (Submitted photo)

It’s that time of year again where Insitu is gearing up for its list of fun summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs for kids.

Insitu will be holding its seventh annual Roboflight Academy program this summer from July 16-20.

Students eligible for the program are incoming high school freshmen to recent high school graduates. They can apply for the free program by filling out and submitting applications to the website. Applications are due May 31 and only 20-25 students will be accepted.

The focuses of the program over the last six years have ranged from the students learning the basics of flight to participating in drone races. This year, the focus will be on propulsion and differential thrust.

Propulsion, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is the force that moves an object forward, like the wind to a sailboat. Differential Thrust is commonly used in twin-engine airplanes to give it more rotation.

A highlight for this year will be a visit from Hilda Pereyo, a representative of the Oregon and National Air and Space Association (NASA) Grant Consortium and Space Science Education Program.

“The students that apply don’t have to be STEM students already; they do have to be excited to learn and show enthusiasm in being part of the program,” said Insitu’s Community Relations Coordinator Tammy Kauffman.

The concept of the Roboflight Academy began in 2012 with a partnership between Insitu and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AVUSI) Educational Foundation.

“The whole effort is to engage and encourage kids to participate in STEM-based programs and demystify engineering through hands-on fun activities which may encourage them to pursue careers in STEM,” says Dr. Dave Lanning a founder of the academy and Principal Engineer and Solutions Architect at Insitu.

When the program began the concept of drone flight was still based in the military. Now for the low price of $1,000, the average joe can buy a drone online or if they are savvy enough, build their own.

“The program has changed a lot over the years. It’s become more accessible due to changes in technology, cost, and overall capability. Also, we have become more experienced. Each year we learn what we can improve on, what kinds of exercises really got the kids engaged and how they can be evolved,” said Lanning.

Roboflight Academy follows a simple schedule with each day being dedicated to a central theme.

On day one, students will learn the basic theories behind the program’s main theme — in this year’s case propulsion and airspace safety. On day two, students will begin to design and build their own projects based on the theories they have learned. On day three, they test their projects and make improvements where needed. Finally, on day four, students present and demonstrate their projects to the public and their families.

Throughout the week, Insitu invites guest speakers to come and talk and do exercises with the students. The speakers range from Insitu employees to others in the aerospace industry, government representatives, university professors and even former participants in the Roboflight Academy.

“We encourage kids who have already participated in a Roboflight program to come back and be mentors for the kids that are new to it. While working on their own independent projects they can be the lead or point persons on teams to help and guide the other kids,” said Lanning.

Over the last six years, the program has seen an impressive turnout from kids who have participated in previous years, some of whom have gone on to work or intern at aerospace companies or who are currently studying engineering.

“My focus when developing this program was to give kids who are motivated the opportunities to go to colleges and look at careers in STEM and not see it as impossible,” said Lanning.

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