STEM Volunteers Seek Support

Lisa Marie Payne

CNY Drones Lead Mentor, Paul Brown, directs a new hovercraft challenge during a recent STEM event hosted by the SUNY Academy of Model Aeronautics Student Club.

UTICA, NY - Today, CNY Drones, a community-based volunteer group, kicked-off its 2019 Fundraising Campaign. Founded in 2016, the group provides low-cost interactive drone demonstrations, introductory flying sessions, build workshops, and an annually themed indoor Team Drone Challenge, all promoting STEM -  science, technology, engineering and math. The organization’s Planning Committee meets weekly to update its information hub website and map out a variety of events to reach rural and inner-city students. CNY Drones volunteer mentors provide safe flying information and guidance while promoting regional education and employment opportunities. All mentors are members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, an international community-based organization for recreational drone pilots. Local company and individual donations continue to make CNY Drones’ low-cost programs possible by supporting the purchase and maintenance of drone and presentation equipment. The group’s volunteers head a community effort to provide a connecting point for tech-minded students and parents.  

“We’re here to answer questions from students who’ve been intrigued by drone technology, attended STEM camps or purchased a drone and want to learn more,” according to John Reade, CNY Drones Safety Officer. “We’re the support system that sparks further interest in the education and employment pipeline. We see start-up and economic development promotion on one end. Then there’s all-in drone racing on the other end.  We’re situated in the middle, helping students and adults see the whole picture of what is out there. We speak to the future tech workforce.”

CNY Drones’ activities center around their growing drone event. The 2019 Team Drone Challenge, FOREST FURY consists of two separate 30 by 60-foot netted flying fields. The event features 17 high school-level teams from New York State and Connecticut. Regional teams scheduled to compete include Carthage, Cazenovia, Cortland, East Syracuse-Minoa, Hannibal, Oneida, Stockbridge, Syracuse City Schools, and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill. This year’s competition will be held at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute Wildcat Field House on April 7, 2019. The event is free to spectators and is hosted by the SUNY Academy of Model Aeronautics Student Club, the 3D Printing and Design Club and Fabrication/Combat Bots Club.

In addition to their fundraising drive, CNY Drones seeks volunteers to assist as general event staff, website and social media contributors, event organizers, technical advisors, school liaison, and mentors. Drone enthusiasts and aspiring drone enthusiasts benefit greatly from the connections made through the group. No previous experience is necessary.  

CNY Drones exists under the fiscal sponsorship of the Griffiss Institute, a 501c3. Donations made through the Griffiss Institute are tax deductible. To learn more about CNY Drones and contribute to their 2019 Campaign, visit the website page: or email

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