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Nashua High School North to launch new drone photography and video class

Union Leader Correspondent

February 28. 2018 9:53PM
From left, Rick Spitz of SI Drones, photography teacher Erin Knoetig of Nashua High School North and John Spitz of SI Drones meet to discuss a new partnership between the school and the Merrimack business to help bring a drone photography and video course to Nashua students. (COURTESY)

NASHUA — Designed to attract students into future engineering programs, Nashua High School North is planning to pilot a new drone course believed to be the first of its kind offered at a New Hampshire high school.

The New Hampshire Department of Education has awarded the school district’s Nashua Technology Center with a federal grant for nearly $10,000 to implement the drone photography and video course this fall.

“I am really excited for the students and the community of Nashua because this is a win for the city,” said Amanda Bastoni, co-director of the Nashua Technology Center. “This is a great way to create pathways for nontraditional students into the engineering fields.”

The pilot course, Girls in STEAM, is open to both male and female students. The course will be offered to six students each quarter for a total of 24 students during the pilot year.

If it is a success, the program will become a full course at both Nashua High School North and Nashua High School South in the fall of 2019, according to Bastoni.

“I know that art can be used as a catalyst to draw in nontraditional students to engineering programs,” said Bastoni. She explained that Erin Knoetig, a photography teacher at Nashua High School North, has expressed interest in teaching the drone course.

Knoetig plans to become a certified drone operator, and hopes to prepare her drone students to take the Federal Aviation Administration’s remote pilot certification exam for small unmanned aircraft at the conclusion of the course, if they want.

About three or four drones will be purchased for the class, and the Nashua Technology Center is partnering with SI Drones of Merrimack to get the program off the ground.

“The drones are a new technology that offer new kinds of career opportunities,” said Rick Spitz of SI Drones. “We believe this might be the first school in the state to offer a full-blown course rather than summer seminars or camps involving drones.”

As an industry partner, Spitz said SI Drones is looking forward to working with Nashua High School North on this new initiative attempting to get more females interested in STEM fields.

Superintendent Jahmal Mosley said he is pleased with Bastoni’s effort to obtain the grant that will kickstart the drone course.

“We are just starting to build the program now,” Mosley recently told members of the Board of Education, adding the course will be contingent upon enrollment.

According to the grant application, there are 192 Nashua Technology students enrolled in STEM courses, such as introduction to engineering design, marine robotics, principles of engineering and Vex Robotics, although only 30 of those students are females.

The purpose of the grant is to modify the work already being done and create a new, cutting edge drone course that will blend art and STEM, states the application.

“I personally wish I could fit that course into my crazy schedule,” said Patrick Gillis, student representative on the Board of Education from Nashua High School North. “I think it will be a hit.”

Bastoni said the course will be offered during the flexible block of the school day, and credits will be given for the coursework.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management has already reached out to Bastoni in the hopes that a partnership could be formed that would assist the city with possibly bringing unmanned aircraft into its disaster emergency courses.

She is pleased that school officials, administrators and the community seem supportive and optimistic about the opportunities the new course could offer.

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