Pitsco Idea Shop hosts drone competition

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
Winning team members (from left) Harlee Blackwell, Wyatt Raines and Noah Howard pose with their new drones after taking first place in Thursday’s drone competition at the Pitsco Idea Shop.

PITTSBURG, Kan. —  For the past couple of months, three teams of southeast Kansas middle and high school students have been hard at work planning drone missions and the placement of portable obstacles to use in those missions in a 10- by 20-foot drone arena.

The competition they’d been preparing for finally took place Thursday at the Pitsco Idea Shop at Block22 in downtown Pittsburg, with a team from Fredonia Middle School narrowly beating teams from Frontenac High School and Fort Scott Middle School.

7th grader Noah Howard, a member of the winning team, said he and his classmate Wyatt Raine are taking a robotics class at school, and got interested enough in the subject to start looking for competitions to enter.

“This was one of the first things that popped up, and we wanted to do it,” Howard said. But the Fredonia Middle School students never expected they would win, he added.

“We never thought we’d be here when we first started this,” Howard said.

A major aim of the drone competition was to give the students “some of those hands-on skills that they may or may not learn at home or in school, along with some of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles and concepts,” said Bill Holden, a development specialist with Pitsco Education and a key organizer of the competition.

“And, really, problem solving is a big part of it as well,” Holden added. “As a nation, a lot of our students are not all that good at problem solving.”

The Fredonia team created a drone mission meant to simulate the aftermath of a San Francisco, California earthquake, with a drone navigating through the rubble to communicate with a rescue team searching for someone who is trapped.

The three members of the winning team each received a HobbyTiger H301S Ranger GPS Drone, which were donated by Troy Graham, owner of local drone photography company AV8 Droneworx.