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Meet the Two Winners of Our 2021 Drone Technology College Scholarship

BY Zacc Dukowitz
16 June 2021

We are pleased to announce the two winners of our fourth annual Drone Technology College Scholarship, a scholarship we launched in 2018 to provide financial support to college students who demonstrate an interest in pushing the drone industry forward.

Each scholarship winner will receive $1,000 to support their college studies. Scroll down to meet the winners and read their award-winning essays.

Want to learn more about the scholarship? Check out this page on the Drone Pilot Ground School website.

[Did you know? We also offer scholarships for high school students, which provide free access to Drone Pilot Ground School to help students prepare for the Part 107 test and cover the $173 (or $109) FAA exam fee.]

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Our 2021 Drone Technology College Scholarship Winners

Drone Pilot Ground School’s Drone Technology College Scholarship is for current or rising college students who demonstrate an interest in pushing the drone industry forward. High school seniors are eligible to apply.

Scholarship winners are selected based primarily on the quality of their essays.

Here are the three essay topics applicants had to choose from this year:

  • How Drones Can Be Used to Do Good
  • How Drones Will Change Our World Over the Next Ten Years
  • How Drones Can Be Used for STEM Education

Now let’s get to the winners!


Michael Bernheim

Essay Topic: How Drones Can Be Used for STEM Education

Drones in my opinion are the best tool for inspiring and educating students on STEM. Drones can easily captivate students’ interests and they also combine almost every type of engineering field. Whether it’s being used to survey an area for a new bridge or for flying on different planets, drones can do it all. Creating drones can also be a great activity for students interested in STEM. To create the drone, students must learn electrical engineering and computer science engineering to understand how the different components work together and how to code them. The motors and body allow students to learn and experiment with mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering and give a chance to learn about biomimicry with Biomedical engineering in the drone’s design. For these very reasons, I decided to create a drone racing team at my school to introduce and expose students to this innovative cool technology.

It all started with an engineering project where I built a drone that would follow GPS waypoints on the football field. I built the drone from parts on Amazon and used tutorials on YouTube to put it together. I started watching these videos of drones racing inside football stadiums and thought this would be a great club. Students could learn about the forces of flight while working with cutting-edge future technology. I posted signup sheets and captured the interest of several students. I took my plan to my school’s administration, but I had to fight to show how this club would benefit the school. A flying machine with four propellers traveling 60 mph is terrifying, especially for a principal who would be responsible, not to mention the licenses and mess of guidelines that would be required. But I persevered, reading through the FAA guidelines, and trying to find other scholastic drone racing teams. I then found that we could fly miniature drones, only weighing a couple hundred grams, safely within guidelines while we worked on getting our licenses. I showed the administration a policy requiring students to learn how to fly through simulators before they could fly a real drone. I spoke to several of my teachers to find a teacher who would sponsor our club. Lastly, we found that this would be the first scholastic drone racing team in Central Florida with a few teams spread out in Miami and Jacksonville. With all of this, we were finally able to start racing drones at the end of my junior year. Unfortunately, at the end of my junior year, the coronavirus came. Rather than giving up, however, I decided to move meetings and races virtually until the following year where we were finally able to meet in person again.

I reached out to several engineering firms near my school and found one that would sponsor a race at our school. I drew up a track and bought hula hoops, LED strips, and a few drones with the grant money we received. I met with my school’s administration and set a date for the race. A friend of mine made a trailer video that we aired on the school news to help get the word out about the race. We visited a local middle school and talked to the teachers about bringing some of their students to the race to introduce them to drone racing. I reached out to different drone startups around the area and eventually found a college racing team nearby at the University of Central Florida. Although they couldn’t make it they were excited to work with us in the future. Finally, it was the day of the race and I was nervous. Far more people showed up than I anticipated and even the local news station came. Thankfully, the race went off without a hitch and it was so much fun. Students watched members of the team race and although I did not win first place it was exciting to see so many people being interested in drones. Countless students talked to me after the race, asking how to join the club, and some teachers from the middle school asked if we could do a demonstration at their school and possibly start a club there.

This is how drones can be used in STEM education. This club introduced new challenges, new ideas, and new ways to solve problems for the students in my school and the ones around it. Drones are fun to fly but complicated enough to keep students learning and thinking while interacting with them. This is why I believe drones will be one of the main driving factors in STEM education.

Bio

My name is Michael Bernheim and I am from Lake Mary, Florida. I expect to graduate college from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering in 2025. I plan to pursue a career in autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles. I am interested in building and racing drones. I have created a club at my school and ran the first high school drone race in central Florida. I am the captain of the swim team and I am ranked 5th out of 500 in my high school graduating class. I love finding new ways to create drones with longer endurance or solving engineering problems, like attaching a nerf gun to a drone.

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John Christensen

Essay Topic: How Drones Will Change Our World Over the Next Ten Years

I was born in 2002, a year to the day of when America was attacked. I grew up watching the images of 9/11, seeing Isis advance as terrorist attacks and beheadings across Europe and the world became everyday news. I remember waking up two days after my 12th birthday to find out that the US embassy in Benghazi had been attacked. I watched in horror as a small group of courageous men tried to defend the US embassy and compound. Some ultimately lost their lives as they waited for help that came too late. It was then that I decided that through Unmanned Aircraft systems, either piloting drones or coordinating their missions, I would protect our country from the biggest threat to my generation and the American dream: terrorism.
Drones allow us to be able to record and gather intelligence that we could not previously acquire because of their ability to go places that otherwise would put American lives at risk. Drones allow us to be in many places at once. You can have multiple drones simultaneously surveying areas. They can provide live footage to those at a central command analyzing the data coming in. Drones allow many more areas to be monitored than pilots could traditionally do in planes. Depending on the complexity of the drone, they can be programmed for facial recognition, so that if an individual or group is intending to do harm, the drone can be used to pinpoint the individual or group location. This would be done by scanning faces from afar in suspected areas and alerting the appropriate authorities. Drones allow us to preserve human life.

Drones can replace pilots in dangerous missions. They can help eliminate targets that are a threat, help locate and identify hidden bombs, or meticulously search an area and secure it before ground troops come in to reduce threats or the potential loss of life or limb. Though monetarily, the drones used for special military missions are costly, being able to save a life and not sacrifice a pilot or troops on the ground is crucial. When you compare the cost of a drone to the time and costs to train a pilot or troops, it is cost effective. I go back to the Benghazi attack. If drones had been helping to protect that property, those inside would have immediately been alerted. The drones could have provided valuable intelligence to individuals on the ground and those that were trying to send help from afar. The drones could have provided critical tactical data: location of the intruders, weaponry they possessed, scale of the breach, areas in the compound that had been compromised, and possible escape routes. That could have helped turn the situation in favor of the Americans, ultimately helping to protect lives.

The next frontier, where battles will be fought, is in space. We see China and Russia aligning and combining forces to try to beat the United States in this next battlefront. This is precisely why the new Space Force was created, to protect America’s greatest dependency, satellites. Today our entire way of life is dependent on satellites. The purpose of the U.S. military is to protect and defend the citizens of the United States of America. The military must have drones to protect these satellites to secure financial transactions, power grids, cell phone reception and GPS operated devices to ensure that Americans stay protected. With one swift move, an adversary could attack these satellites and leave parts or the entire country in complete chaos. We could be left vulnerable without the ability to use an ATM or conduct any type of financial transaction. Towns and cities could be left in the dark with no power if certain satellites were taken out. We could be left with no ability to communicate if those satellites providing coverage to cell phone towers were vulnerable. This is not too much of a stretch of the imagination. The bomb that went off in the city of Nashville on Christmas Day 2020 left the city for two days with the inability to communicate. Citizens could not call 911, hospitals could not electronically send prescriptions to pharmacies or call them in. Restaurants, hotels, and businesses of all kinds could not process credit card payments, and friends and families could not communicate by phone or text message. Drones will be our biggest line of defense. Our country should concentrate its focus and resources on drones, as the Space Force is doing. New drone technology enables us to protect and secure from sub-orbital regions these vulnerable resources. These drones will have to be equipped not only with the capability to guard and transmit live footage but with the ability to defend itself and the intended target should an attack happen. They will need to be equipped with weapons. It will most likely be one drone attacking another drone. Our adversaries are also aware that the key to victory and preservation is drone technology. The more we invest in drone technology, the more secure we will be. Our enemies know that taking out one satellite can negatively impact millions of citizens and leave us in a world of confusion in which our first responders, police officers, national guard, and military cannot communicate. Unless drones are guarding critical lines of communication satellites, we can be left vulnerable. In a moment of disorder caused by the loss of a satellite(s), the country can be viciously attacked.

Drones hold the key to the future of our national security. Past wars were won by the potency of our naval ships and fleets of planes. The next war will be won by the country that possesses the most superior drone technology combined with well-trained Unmanned Aerial Systems pilots and mission commanders.

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Bio

I am John Christensen from Miami, Florida. When researching the best programs in Unmanned Aircraft systems, I set my eyes on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Kansas State, and the University of North Dakota. I was accepted to all three universities. I have decided to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University because it is the top aeronautical university in the country. I will have the opportunity to be part of their ROTC program. During my junior year at the university, I will be able to apply to both the Air Force and Space Force branches, so that I can join the military if I choose to after completion of a Bachelor of Science in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). My expected graduation date is May 2025.

In the summer of 2017, I had the privilege of attending the Marine Military Academy (MMA) in Harlingen, TX for a one-month summer camp program. I got to experience arduous physical activity, teamwork, and the introduction to flight. Growing up, I went from flying remote control planes to flying my first drone in middle school. My passion has been flying and I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life, or some form of it, such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems. When I was able to attend this camp, it solidified my vocation, and I turned my eyes to Embry-Riddle, to one day be considered among its graduates.

I have been able to achieve the highest rank in scouting, Eagle Scout (with Palms). Through scouting I developed my devotion to duty. Media Production has been a great interest of mine for several years and it has allowed me through drones to fuse my passion for flying and technology together. Currently, during my senior year, I am serving as President of the Media Club. Throughout the last five years in Media, I have obtained various awards and recognitions. These skill-sets will complement my UAS career.


Learn more about our Drone Technology College Scholarship.

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