Drones and STEM -Manawatu

Youth across the Manawatu, Dannevirke, Wellington and Hawkesbay region benefitted from PTC’s drone and STEM enrichment workshop. Drones have now become a widely used technological tool of hobbyists and industry alike, however the opportunity to empower our youth with coding the drone was the area of focus in our workshops.


Working in partnership with Noel Leeming Tech support specialists, intermediate and high school youths learnt a range of capabilities not just of smooth flight, but understanding functionalities such as GPS, camera and video usage and applying these to mapping their river catchment. 

Key outcomes

NASA defines ‘aerodynamics as the way air moves around things. The rules of aerodynamics explain how an airplane is able to fly. Anything that moves through air reacts to aerodynamics’. During the workshop, youth learnt to appreciate the unique aerodynamics of flights. They became aware of the four forces of flight such as lift, weight, thrust and drag and how these forces make an object move up and down, and faster or slower. They observed how propellers’ spin changes the direction of the drone; how the size of force changes the way the object moves through the air and became more spatially aware of things around them.

Cognitive Development and Critical Thinking
Another key skill students benefited from is cognitive development and critical thinking.  As students utilised the drones they began to craft their own experiences that drew upon trial and error in flight. Reacting to changes in flight patterns or environmental winds developed student’s cognitive reasoning skill. We saw kids rely on intuitive knowledge  and imagination as they drafted their own flight path for their drone to land on the river bed. Students had to consider what the drones needed to find; where to go and how to take the best angle of shot. Skills being developed through play mirrored aerial mapping that our scientists and technologists were using to solve real and complex problems facing our managers and iwi.


Coding and Electronics

Technology is the future and coding is the basic literacy that undergirds our innovation. Our youth enjoyed the opportunity to code their drone as they learnt and practiced how to program their drone to perform amazing feats. Through experimentation, we saw their creativity explode. Even as they made mistakes, they were learning and becoming better and better at programming their drone.

One of the key highlights was the way coding and electronics enabled the youth to grasp abstract concepts like turning 180 degree or reversing at 90 degree angle. They were challenged to think, to organise, to plan decisions step by step , whilst having fun. As each group learnt to code and give direction it opened up to the class the endless possibilities that are before us. Whether drones are used to shoot rubbish on the beach, clean ups or flow of the river the ways to perform this were endless. Our youth grew in confidence and competence over the duration of the workshop.