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Taft Drone Club in Cincinnati, OH Awarded $100K to Continue STEM Studies with Drones

BY Zacc Dukowitz
10 August 2017

The Taft Drone Club at Taft High School in Cincinnati, OH was just awarded a grant of $100,000 by the Ohio Department of Education through a grant entitled “Mentoring Drone Clubs: Fueling Aerospace Engineering Career Pathways.”


This is big news to us at UAV Coach, both because we love the way educators have been incorporating drones into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, and also because Matt Ernst, the founder of the Taft Drone Club (pictured above on the far right), is an old friend of ours.

[Want to learn about other ways drones are being used for good? Check out this drones for good article we published a little while back—#4 is about STEM education.]

Matt was one of the first educators we ever met who was using drones to teach STEM to students. He was also the first educator we supported by sending drones and by providing his students with free access to Drone Pilot Ground School, our remote course to help drone pilots pass the FAA’s Part 107 exam.

So it seems fitting that Matt was awarded this impressive grant to support his drone club right at the same time that we’ve decided to formally roll out a scholarship program for Drone Pilot Ground School.

Announcing the Drone Pilot Ground School Scholarship

We’re proud to announce the High School STEM Scholarship for Aspiring Commercial Drone Pilots.


The scholarship provides free access for qualified high school students to our remote course, Drone Pilot Ground School, to help them prepare for the FAA’s Part 107 exam. Over 99% of our students pass on the first try. We’re excited to extend free access to support high school students who are working hard to prepare for their future in commercial drone work.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, and there is no cap on the number of students we will be giving free access to Drone Pilot Ground School.

The criteria for eligibility is simple:

  • Student must be at least 16 years old
  • Student must be currently enrolled in high school
  • Student must live in the U.S.

For all you high school educators out there with students who are interested in preparing for the Part 107 exam, take a look at our scholarship page, encourage your students to apply, and make sure to tell other educators in your community.

There is no fee to apply—you can start your application here.

Drones in STEM and the Taft Drone Club

The Taft High School is located in an urban environment in a relatively big city, where students don’t have a great deal of opportunities after graduation. Matt Ernst’s initial thinking in creating the drone club was to provide students with an alternate career path.

The research I’ve done indicates that commercial drone pilots can make anywhere from $40 to $75 an hour, and I want our students to have the opportunity to work in this emerging field.

– Matt Ernst, Founder of the Taft Drone Club

Matt Ernst tells us that he first got the idea for starting the club when he heard that Amazon was developing drone delivery solutions, which made him curious to learn about other ways drone could be used.

Image source

When he did the research he learned—as you might already know—that there were 192 commercial uses for drones.

That was back in January of 2017. Though it’s only been eight months since then, we imagine that even more commercial uses have probably popped up in that time.

This information got Matt’s wheels turning, and made him think of all the benefits there could be for his students to learn, and master, this emerging technology.

After the club started as an after school program in January, they hit the ground running by participating in the local Tech Olympics  the very next month, where they presented on the 192 commercial uses for drones.

This was the first time a project had ever been submitted from the Taft High School for the Tech Olympics. One of the highlights of the club’s participation in the Olympics was when one of the club members, a 7th grader with an impressive amount of experience flying drones, maneuvered a nano drone through a banquet hall with an eight foot high ceiling and landed it on the table directly in front of the judges.

Long term, the goal of the club is to turn the school activity into an accredited course that would provide some kind of STEM credit for students.

Looking for more resources to help you get started with drones in the classroom? Make sure to check out this Edutopia article with seven ideas to help you get started, and also look into DroneBlocks, which provides a full curriculum for using drones in STEM education.

About the Grant

$100,000 is a ton of money. We were curious to hear about what Matt proposed to win the grant, and what he plans to do for the club now that he has the funds secured.

To start out, some of the grant money will be spent on hardware. Drones cost money, as we all know, and the funds needed aren’t usually available in a typical after-school program budget.

Here’s the equipment they already have:

  • 1 DJI Phantom 4
  • 1 Yuneec Typhoon 4K

Here are Matt’s goals for the Taft Drone Club this year, which were shared as part of his proposal to the OH Department of Edcuation:

  • Provide students a career alternative to college in the drone industry. Any commercial use of drone technology requires an FAA drone pilot’s license. Prep students for the FAA drone pilot’s certification exam (i.e. Part 107 exam) with the use of the Drone Pilot Ground School online prep course.
  • Integrate drone technology into the classroom. Teachers have also been notified that drone and student pilots are available for possible projects in the classroom.
  • Show student’s drone uses in commercial, defense, and entertainment industries.
  • Present this course and curriculum to the ODE (Ohio Department of Education) for graduation credit and college plus credit.
  • All students will be working on the Drone Pilot Ground School course during the school year. The goal is to support two upperclassmen in getting their drone pilot’s license.

TheTaft Drone Club’s 2017-2018 schedule was also an important part of their application. Some of the grant funds will be used to help students make the trips listed below (most notably the trip to the drone expo in Washington, D.C.).

Here’s the schedule:

  • Perform at two football games (halftime performances)—Fall 2017
  • Attend the National Drone Expo Washington, D.C.—Nov. 2017
  • Attend and oversee the Hour of Code—Dec 2017
  • Attend and enter a project into the Tech Olympics Tech Competition—Feb 2018
  • Create a video of the Taft High School grounds and embed it on the school website—Feb 2018
  • Co-manage a Cincinnati site for the DRL—Summer 2018
  • Plan and oversee the a District Racing League for any CPS school drone club—May 2018

One big goal Matt has this school year is to help two of his students prepare to become FAA certified as commercial drone pilots. And—you guessed—both students have free access to Drone Pilot Ground School to support their efforts.

Dontray Etter-Ward, a rising junior at Taft High School, is interested in video editing and video. He loves taking every piece of film and playing with it, and he has an audio studio at home where he does mixing and editing.

Gregory Haskins, an 8th grader, is one of the club’s most experienced drone pilots, and he’s also an avid online gamer. Though he cannot get his license now he is already preparing for the test, and the club looks forward to Gregory passing it when he is eligible. Matt predicts that Gregory will be a favorite to win the CPS drone racing league title. It’s early, but Gregory is considering a career in IT when he graduates high school.

Apply for the High School STEM Scholarship for Aspiring Commercial Drone Pilots

Want free support to help your high school students pass the FAA’s Part 107 exam? Start your application now.

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