4-H National Youth Science Day: Drone Discovery

Yesterday, October 5th, youth from around the nation designed and flew foam planes, coded virtual flight patterns, and explored the practical uses of drones and other unmanned aircraft to mark 4-H National Youth Science Day (4-H NYSD). Youth from around New York participated in this event!

This event occurs each year as part of National 4-H Week, and each year has a different theme. More than 100,000 youth nationwide plan to participate throughout the month of October in Drone Discovery, a hands-on program created by a Cornell team composed of campus and county partners in collaboration with National 4-H Council.

Drone Discovery teaches youth to use the engineering design process to understand unmanned flight and its applications. First, participants learn about aircraft types by designing and flying simple fixed and rotary wing aircraft; next, they discover how drones can gather data with a foam glider and keychain camera; and finally, youth explore the basics of coding, as they program virtual drones to solve real-world challenges, such as tracking the spread of an invasive plant species or searching for lost people or pets.

National 4-H Council selected Cornell as the university partner for 4-H NYSD this spring after a competition among land-grant institutions. Cornell staff participated in two 4-H NYSD events yesterday. Alexa Maille, Drone Discovery project leader and state 4-H STEM specialist spoke at a panel titled, “Breaking the STEM Barrier: A Youth-Led Perspective,” at the 4-H NYSD flagship event in Washington, D.C.  On Oct. 21, Maille and other CCE leaders will host a Drone Discovery challenge at Cornell’s Mann Library for approximately 40 youth from Tompkins County and the surrounding area.

Alexa Maille (on left) serving on a panel in Washington, D.C.

The Cornell team that developed Drone Discovery includes Maille; Susan Hoskins, senior extension associate in soil and crop sciences; Anne Glasgow, CCE Broome County; Charles Malone, CCE Genesee County; and June Mead, CCE Broome County.

“We are so excited to see Drone Discovery in action,” Maille said. “Drone Discovery is a great example of Cornell campus and county extension educators working together to inspire youth to explore new technology and STEM learning.”

At the event Wednesday in Washington, youth split up in rotating groups to experience the three-part challenge, building their own foam drones and putting them to the test. Youth were also able to get hands-on at the special Drone Zone, with real drones provided by national sponsor DJI. Youth left the event with an appreciation and understanding of drones, and how they help solve real-world problems. The event was a success and it’s all because of the tremendous support of our partners, sponsors and 4‑H community.

NYS 4-H's Chip Malone is in Washington D.C. engaging the next generation in Drone Discovery.