*This story was originally published in the second quarter issue of the Eagle Eye*
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School held its invitational drone race Oct. 28, inviting 11 other high schools in Broward County. Students brought their clubs’ drones to the competition to test their abilities in an obstacle course comprised of hoops and tight spaces drones must pass through.
In order to prepare for the competition, participants practiced in Drone Club coach Frank Krar’s classroom by setting up desks and seats as obstacles that drones must loop around and through.
“Because the drones are in first person viewer (FPV), that means we are able to see exactly what the drone is looking at as we’re flying,” Drone Club president David Hogg said. “It’s basically like being in a real-life video game where you’re in control in real time. It’s kind of surreal when you see yourself because it’s like ‘oh that’s right, this is real life.’”
Drone prices range from just under $100 to thousands of dollars, but the Broward County Drone League (BCDL) focuses on racing drones that are $200 or under so that schools can afford the devices.
The BCDL was formed in the fall of 2016 with MSD astronomy teacher Kyle Jeter as one of the creators alongside South Plantation High School teacher and previous MSD teacher Gustavo Junco. It began with them conducting a drone camp during the summer of 2016 at a middle school that expanded into the BCDL.
“There were half a dozen middle schools and at least a dozen high schools at the last race at MSD,” Jeter said. “Dr. Krop High School of Miami and Boynton Beach are top contenders.”
MSD has been a top contender in drone racing among the BCDL since the beginning of the league.
“We flew in the first competition, which was in Miramar, and won second place,” Hogg said. “At the second competition in MSD, we won second place there as well.”
The drone team won third place in the invitational competition at MSD and first place in glider, which is an event where competitors are given 20 paper clips and 5 styrofoam plates and coffee stir sticks to create an object that suspends in air, and the object that flies the greatest distance wins.
The MSD Drone Club is still in the works of becoming an official club. It has become a major obstacle for Hogg and his members as they cannot obtain sufficient funding and transportation to competitions.
“We are a club, it’s just that there’s so many roadblocks to become a club in a timely manner,” Hogg said. “We have meetings twice a week and had a competition at school, yet we’re still not recognized as a club.”
The ICC, led by president Elise Etheridge, requires students who want to start a new club to talk with assistant principal Winfred Porter, fill out a club packet, participate in quarterly projects and attend future ICC meetings held the first Thursday of every month in room 210.
“The greatest challenge of starting a new club is finding a supportive member of administration to serve as a club advisor and lend their room to students for scheduled club meetings,” Etheridge said. “I feel the reason [Drone Club] has been struggling to be recognized as a club is because they have not been attending the monthly ICC meetings, and therefore are not active within the council. They can simply fix this by attending each ICC meeting and possibly advertising and expanding their club to different students at MSD.”
With more practice and funding, the team plans on upholding their position as top contenders in drone racing in Broward County, and eventually become recognized as a club by the ICC.