Introducing drone technology in an interactive and interesting manner to the next generation the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) has opened its Rockhampton hangar to school girls wanting to become drone pilots.
According to reports from ABC Capricornia by Erin Semmler, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) specialists, She Maps, have ample experience in organizing drone workshops with school groups around Australia this is the first time they have teamed up with the RFDS.
Speaking to ABC Australia, Trent Dean Queensland Head of Clinical Governance said he hoped the new partnership would encourage more girls to pursue a future in aviation, “We’re aiming to have a few clinic days where we go out to rural and remote areas, and that’s where the kids will also have the opportunity in the far-west regions, to be involved in these sorts of activities as well.”
She Maps education director Karen Joyce told ABC Australia that the aim of the partnership was to diversify the science workforce by showing girls that there was more to science than men in lab coats. Dr Joyce went on to add, “Obviously that’s not something you necessarily get out of a two-hour program, but at least to open your eyes to realise that drones, geospatial science, and this sort of technology, is a career path that they could pursue.”
Describing RFDS as a diverse and innovative company Dr Joyce said there was more work to be done in the general STEM workforce. “About 6 per cent of aviation pilots in Australia are female and about 1 per cent of drone pilots are female,” she said.
Dr Joyce said the RFDS would support the next generation of STEM workers. “The RFDS is an organisation that is interested in innovation and using drones and in this case for creating environmental maps. It’s something that captures the next generation as they’re coming through and hopefully they might even think of working for the RFDS at some point in the future,” she said.
Speaking about providing these opportunities for regional kids, RFDS Rockhampton base and clinical operations manager Carolyn Overy said, “I hope they just see the opportunities that are available to them in the medical area and with the drones and what that means for their future, and how things will change and progress as they go along in life.”
Talking about the strong demand in regional Australia and the challenges involved Paul Mead managing director at She Maps said, “We’ve got a big demand in regional areas, but it’s the travel to get to the regional areas that makes it not so financially viable,” he said.
Coming up with a solution towards making these workshops more accessible to regional students Mead says, “We decided to remove that transport [cost], so we’re doing a road trip and we turn up and deliver our programs for the same price as what we deliver them for in Brisbane or Sydney or Melbourne.
Sharing their interesting experiences Participants of the workshop spoke with ABC Australia. Year five Byfield State School student Charlotte Horstman said she was a bit scared of flying drones at first, “I learnt how to fly drones and the rules for safety,” she said.
Year five Keppel Sands State School student Gwendlyn Nugent said she wanted to fly a drone again.
“I was a bit nervous … I felt happy that I did it finally, because [at first] I never did it right,” she said adding excitedly, “I’d like to do it again; it would give me lots more experience.”