Students from two Paulding high schools took away more from a recent summer program than how to pilot an unmanned drone aircraft.

They also learned about the benefits of knowing how to work in teams as they prepare for life after high school.

Participants in the Upward Bound program at Hiram and East Paulding were part of Kennesaw State University’s TRiO Summer Academy recently at KSU’s Marietta campus.

Angel Bohorquez-Cortez, a junior at East Paulding High School, and other students learned coding and robotics as part of the academy’s STEM curriculum that enabled them to program and fly drones during the four-week day camp.

KSU mechatronics and mechanical engineering students led the program at its Marietta Campus in early July.

Brendon Barclay was among the instructors in the TRiO Summer Academy. He said he taught the students the basics of how aircraft are able to fly.

They later learned to program a drone for a specific action, he said.

“This was ‘Intro to Drones,’” Barclay said.

He said the program also exposed the high schoolers to exercises which emphasized team-building and the need for critical thinking.

“Communication is probably the largest of their challenges,” Barclay said.

Bohorquez-Cortez said he learned more from the program than how to pilot a drone.

“It also taught me a bit about teamwork and communication and that’s something I can use with other jobs, not just drones,” he said.

One exercise required the drone pilot not to look at the aircraft and be forced to rely on communicating with teammates to land it, he said.

Bohorquez-Cortez said he also learned a few things at the camp he may use in his daily school work, such as Bernoulli’s principle as applied to flight.

The principle explains, in part, how a wing’s design works with air pressure to help lift an aircraft off the ground to fly.

The 11th-grade student participates in the Upward Bound math science program at East Paulding, which is hosted by KSU.

The university uses federal grants to fund the program for students from the two Paulding schools and Cedartown and Rockmart high schools in Polk County.

Students in grades nine through 11 are eligible for the program which “provides fundamental support to participants in their preparation for college entrance,” according to information from KSU.

Participants must come from “either a low-income family (or) be a potential first-generation college student,” and “have a need for academic support in order to pursue a program of postsecondary education.”

They are selected based on “recommendations from teachers and counselors, thoughtfulness of personal statements, and staff observations from interviews.”

During the school year, East Paulding students remain eligible for the two-year-old program at the school by maintaining at least a 2.5 grade point average and attending 80 percent of the programming.

Krystina Leverett, a former STEM coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, is the East Paulding program’s academic advisor.

During the school year, she said she serves as an advisor to the 60 program participants and follows their academic progress.

“We have a great group of kids,” she said. “Basically, we’re just trying to help them keep their grades up and graduate and go to a two-year or four-year institution and get a degree, hopefully related to math or science.”

Leverett said she and others leading the program also take the students on cultural field trips and college tours.


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