Nearly 200 middle school and high school students from 15 schools across four counties converged on Pryor earlier this month for Rogers State University’s annual AeroGames competition.
Held Dec. 2 in the MidAmerica Expo and Convention Center, the competition allowed learners to test their drone coding and piloting skills in a day of education, fun and friendly competition.
“This year’s AeroGames went very well, and I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for my university-level learners to interact with high school-level learners,” said R. Curtis Sparling, event organizer and RSU Department of Technology and Justice Studies interim department head.
Unlike previous year’s competitions, this year’s AeroGames highlighted autonomous drone flights.
“Compared to previous years, the competitors (this year) were much more interactive, and I think that was a function of how we planned out the games,” he said. “Previous iterations were design/build/fly and only one course was flown.
“This year, we had the autonomous flight obstacle course and in addition to that, we had the piloted (course), so we were taking the teams from an awaiting station to where they were going over their coding,” he said. “From that, they moved onto the autonomous flight course, on which they had 10 minutes to make as many runs as they could before moving into the piloted (course). At any given point, we had two teams competing at the same time, and those courses were side by side.”
KJRH newscaster Karen Larsen served as emcee for this year’s event, with Google providing six judges, three of whom were RSU technology graduates who had previously been part of the AeroCats STEM training team.
“I like to think this particular program builds a want for community involvement and community outreach,” Sparling said. “I think that was reflected by individuals being part of the program throughout their university career, going out and getting a career within the community, then coming back and continuing to serve in a similar capacity.”
Finishing in first place overall this year was the team from Sequoyah in Rogers County, with trophies awarded to Claremore for “Most Team Spirit” and to Cleora for “Best Crash.”
Although the games may now be behind him, Sparling said the work of his department continues.
“Many of the schools that showed up for the competition were those that we’d been out to previously – not affiliated with AeroGames, but simply to spread STEM awareness,” he said. “Our university learners would talk about robotics, 3D printing, drones, and anything else that increases STEM awareness and sparks the interest of younger learners.”
Rogers State University’s Department of Technology and Justice Studies’ innovative degree programs combine aspects of business, communication and computer science to ready students to excel in the growing information technology field.
For more information about RSU’s Department of Technology and Justice Studies, visit www.rsu.edu/TJS.