Schools from across the region will converge on Pryor Dec. 2 for Rogers State University’s annual AeroGames competition.
Introducing learners to drone coding and piloting skills, AeroGames is an opportunity for middle and high school students to interface with RSU’s AeroCats STEM Training Team for a day of educational fun and competition.
Curtis Sparling, interim department head and assistant professor in the Department of Technology and Justice Studies, oversees the annual event, which has evolved since its inception to be increasingly focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“I took over (AeroGames) about five or six years ago, before which, it was things like stomp rockets, paper airplane competitions – that kind of thing,” Sparling said. “What I did was to turn it into a design/build/fly competition involving drones and beginning this year – and forever more – it will be an autonomous flight competition.
“What that means is that the high school learners will have to program their drones to fly without any kind of remote input,” he continued. “They’re going to be flying them based off of the Python (high level, general-purpose) programming (language) that they complete prior to showing up the day of the competition.”
Once programmed, competitors’ drones will navigate through an obstacle course, with points awarded for flight precision, culminating in an awards ceremony.
“First, second and third place trophies are awarded for high school and middle school teams,” he said, “as well as awards for ‘most team spirit’ and ‘best crash’ because there will be crashes.”
Presently, 15 teams have registered for the AeroGames, from schools across Rogers, Mayes, Tulsa and Wagoner counties.
On-hand for the day to offer in-person mentoring and encouragement to the students will be the AeroCats, Rogers State University’s technology and IT capstone students who run the annual drone competition.
“Many of my students have been going out and acting as mentors in the local high schools, assisting them in going through the program, which is a big part of why I do this – for that interaction of STEM between university-level learners and high school kids,” he said.
Sparling said the most satisfying aspect of the competition for him is seeing the younger learners exercising skill sets they might not have developed without an event such as AeroGames.
“There’s a camaraderie that develops amongst the team members,” he said. “Watching them come together, perform and shine in front of a crowd of hundreds of people, that’s extremely gratifying.”
RSU’s AeroGames will kick off at 8 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at the Mid-America Industrial Park Expo Center in Pryor. The event is free and open to the public.
Rogers State University’s Department of Technology and Justice Studies’ innovative degree programs combine aspects of business, communication and computer science to prepare students to excel in the information technology field.
For more information about RSU’s Department of Technology and Justice Studies, visit www.rsu.edu/TJS.