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Arkansas high school to start drones program


BEEBE, Ark. (AP) — Beebe will be bringing drones to school this fall.

The school district will offer a drones class after ninth- and 10th-grade Principal Mike Tarkington got the idea for starting one while watching an episode of “60 Minutes” about them in March.

“These were not military drones, but different types of drones,” Tarkington said. “I thought it was one of the most interesting segments I’ve seen on television in a while.”

Tarkington said he started thinking about how “cool” it would be if the school integrated drones into its curriculum, and he approached the school administration about it and “met no resistance whatsoever.”

“After we got permission from our administration and the CTE (Center and Technical Education) department in Little Rock we started planning, applied for, and then received a grant from NASA and the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium,” Tarkington said.

Beebe School District Superintendent Belinda Shook said the grant was for $2,000.

Tarkington said he started researching drones and found many businesses are or will be using drones for everyday work, and he figured it would be helpful for Beebe’s students to have those skills.

“The applications for the use of drones is growing daily,” Tarkington said. “I do believe it will excite some of our students about learning, as well as prepare them for possible careers.”

Tarkington said in his research he learned about different types of drones (butterfly, hummingbird and fly), that the U.S. Postal Service has considered drones for mail delivery and Amazon wants to start a program using drones for book delivery, and that even Domino’s Pizza has discussed using drones for pizza delivery.

Beebe School Board member Clay Goff said Beebe High School is the only one in Arkansas to incorporate a drone program.

“We certainly may be the only school in the state with a yearlong UAV (uninhabited aerial vehicle) class,” Tarkington said. “I reiterate ‘may.'”

Chad Mercado, who Tarkington said has experience with drones, will be teaching the class for the 2014-15 school year. In the class, students will build drones and receive one credit hour for the year. Tarkington said he is hoping to “grow the class” to a program lasting two or three years.

“The kids are real excited about it,” Shook said.

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Daily Citizen

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