Mid-Winter Vacation Turns into an Unforgettable AFRL STEM Learning Experience at Drone Camp

Rome, NY – While many kids spent their mid-winter vacation relaxing at home or engaging in typical winter activities, a group of motivated young individuals embarked on a unique adventure at the Air Force Research Laboratory March Information Directorate’s (AFRL) Drone Camp facilitated by the Griffiss Institute.

Students from Rome Free Academy’s Air Force JROTC program, Proctor Senior High School’s Navy JROTC program, Whitesboro High School, Jamesville-DeWitt High School, and Christian Brothers Academy participated in a comprehensive program aimed at immersing them in the world of drones and aerospace technology.

“The Information Directorate is excited to offer a Drone Camp to the JROTCstudents in our area,” said Jeff DeMatteis, test lead at the AFRL Information Directorate. “These young men and women will be the next generation of military officers leading our nation. We hope this experience will be a positive learning experience and open their mind to possibilities of how drones can be used to better our nation.”

The action-packed week began early as participants boarded the bus at 0645, heading to the 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse. There, they delved into a day filled with invaluable learning experiences, including insights into the MQ-9 drone operations and hands-on opportunities such as Civil Air Patrol flights and simulator sessions, and the day concluded with an enlightening tour of the NUAIR Command Center at the Syracuse Airport.

Days two and three saw the students at Mohawk Valley Community College’s Rome Campus, where they rolled up their sleeves to build and configure their very own drones. Guided by experts, they honed their piloting skills through simulator sessions and commenced test flights, laying the groundwork for their future endeavors in the field of uncrewed aerial vehicles.

The excitement continued on day four with a visit to Drone City’s manufacturing facility in the Innovare Advancement Center. Here, they engaged in discussions with Col. Jennifer King, Commander of the 224 Air Defense Squadron, and witnessed firsthand the cutting-edge technologies shaping the drone industry. A highlight of the day was a drone flight demonstration by SUNY Polytechnic Institute pilot Michelle Turner at SkyDome, followed by an immersive tour of aerospace career opportunities at Collins Aerospace. First Source Federal Credit Union generously provided lunch, and afterward, the students returned to SkyDome, where they put their skills to the test by navigating their drones through an obstacle course they designed.

These students demonstrated exceptional dedication and enthusiasm for learning. Their commitment to spending their vacation immersed in educational activities speaks volumes about their passion for aerospace technology and their eagerness to explore future career paths.

For more information on AFRL’s STEM Drone Camp and upcoming educational opportunities, please visit www.griffissinstitute.org or contact Jennifer Marshall at RISTEM@Griffissinsititue.org.

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