Kids have to be 16 years old to drive a car, but there’s no age restriction on flying a drone. Last Saturday, a group of pre-teen drone enthusiasts lined up for a turn at the controls during an indoor flying session at the University of Vermont’s Davis Center.
The tiny remote-controlled aircraft can be tricky to maneuver, though. The first two kids who tried to pilot the drones through an obstacle course struggled to keep their craft in the air. Onlookers gasped when one drone hit a wall and dropped into the waiting crowd. Nobody seemed to mind — it only added to the thrill.
The drone fly-in was part of the Aiken K-12 Maker Faire and TASC Challenge. About 500 kids, parents and teachers attended the first-of-its-kind free event, according to organizer Jennifer Karson of UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.
The Burlington area has seen maker faires before — the Champlain Mini Maker Faire takes place at Shelburne Farms each fall, emphasizing hands-on tinkering and DIY displays. Organizers of that event also collaborated on this one. But the UVM K-12 faire was the first one geared entirely toward kids. Exhibitors included local FIRST robotics teams, activity stations where kids could create a “magic” wand, and a lemonade stand run by 11-year-old Noah Schwartz of Waitsfield. Schwartz and his “fizzy maple lemonade” won the 2015 FreshTracks Capital RoadPitch at the Mini Maker Faire in September.
The Aiken K-12 Maker Faire also included several workshops, which took place in classrooms down the hall from the exhibitor booths. The day’s other main event was UVM’s TASC Challenge. Teams of middle and high schoolers solve an engineering problem and demonstrate their solutions during this annual competition. This year, teams built robots that moved golf, lacrosse and tennis balls on a tilting playing field.
Organizer Karson said she was “very happy” with the whole event. “We’ve produced the Aiken TASC Engineering Challenge for many years, but this was the first time we combined it with a Maker Faire (and it is our first Maker Faire),” she wrote in a post-event email. “We were excited to see that so many families came and thrilled to see that so many girls participated in the Aiken TASC Challenge and the Maker Faire workshops.”
The CEMS team is already planning next year’s K-12 Maker Faire and TASC Challenge. And, notes Karson, “In the meantime other K-12 STEM educational events that will keep us busy include the FIRST Robotics competition this winter and the GIV Engineering Institute over the summer.”
Karson also passed along the TASC Challenge winners. The results are:
Playoffs – Winner – Brothers in Arms – Hanover HS
Qualification Round – First Place – TAWP – Middlebury HS
Second Place – Brothers in Arms – Hanover HS
Third Place – Honey Badgers – Champlain Valley Union HS
Best Middle School Team – Argo 2 – Champlain Valley Union MS
Best Engineering Presentation – Carebears – Hanover HS
Best Data and Analysis – 5/10 – Hanover HS