Great Mills High School sophomores with team “Air Hornets” work together to quickly trouble shoot their quadcopter’s GPS navigation system in the midst of the 2015 STEM4UAS competition on May 30.(U.S. Navy Photo)

Editor’s note: This story is the last in a three part series tracking the Great Mills High School students’ 2015 STEM Academy progress and involvement with 2015 STEM4UAS competition.

Patuxent River, MD — The morning was abuzz with 10th grade science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) Academy students from Great Mills High School and across the tri-county area competing in the 2015 STEM4UAS competition at Greenwell State Park in Hollywood, Maryland.

The 2015 STEM4UAS high school competition was the first UAS robotics competition in the tri-county area. On May 30, 2015, each team, made up of six to ten students, flew a comprehensive mock rescue mission using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) quadcopters they built, programmed, and flew over the course of the semester.

“Real Men of Genius” from the home school chapter TORCH was named the first place winner in this year’s competition. In a close second and third place, were teams “Inside Joke” and “Quad Squad,” both of Great Mills High School.

The teams were successful at meeting the competition’s five search and rescue mission objectives. These included surveying six specific terrain waypoints; locating, classifying and photographing five specific items of interest; delivering a water bottle to a remote marked location and demonstrating an autonomous landing on the first attempt.

The students, most of them from Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, Maryland, spent three months building and programming their quadcopter for the competition.

“Everything is going well,” said Allen Skinner, STEM 10 physics and engineering science teacher at GMHS, in the midst of the competition. “They are thinking like engineers and the most important part to me is that they are learning to work as team.”

The competition allowed the students to experience and overcome real engineering setbacks in executing their flight mission plans. During the process of planning and building the UAS, the students figured out how to attach and control a payload delivery device to their quadcopter.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the accomplishments of this initial effort, and excited about future opportunities that we are currently developing,” Holly Kellogg, director of STEM & NAWCAD Educational Outreach said.

“The NAWCAD Educational Outreach Office supported this effort by furnishing the equipment and is encouraging the next generation to learn to build, program, test, and especially to fly responsibly,” she added.

Kellogg explained the Department of Defense, and Navy in particular, are right at the forefront in using unmanned aerial systems.

“There is a tremendous future need here, and we are enabling our youth to begin to develop their skills safely, and under the supervision of professionals [at Naval Air Station Patuxent River] and the [Academy of Model Aeronautics],” she said.

The UAS robotics curriculum and rescue mission scenario was a collective effort between Skinner, the NAWCAD Educational Outreach office, volunteer engineers from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station,, and Patuxent Aeromodelers who are local members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) community at Greenwell State Park, Maryland. Together, they created STEM4UAS, which supported each team.

Editor’s note: Upon the competition’s conclusion, the program’s format was adopted nationally by the AMA and retitled as UAS4STEM on Aug. 1, 2015. The AMA reorganized the competition for eighth- to 12th-graders, allowing students across the nation to form their own local teams of four to eight members to begin competing in 2016.

Emily Lewin, sophomore with Great Mills High School, inputs unmanned aerial systems (UAS) quadcopters flight coordinates for team “Inside Joke.” (U.S. Navy Photo)