Big Futures Hosts Drone Workshop

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring center was the site of high-flying action recently as more than 20 Bigs and Littles took part in a drone flying workshop – Drone Basics. A partnership between BBBS’ Big Futures program and Park University, the event gave matches a hands-on look at drones, certification requirements for flying the devices, and information about drone-related employment opportunities.

“I’m so thankful for our partnership with Park University,” said Christina Eisenlord, BBBS Big Futures Coordinator. “They hosted a great event for our kids and young adults and really opened the doors to what a career being a drone pilot can look like and the education behind it. I’m looking forward to more events like this with them in the future.”

Big Futures supports matches after Littles graduate from high school, offering information toward post-secondary education, employment, or military service.

The day’s program began with instructor and Park University professor Dr. Eugene Matthews. Park University offers an Unmanned Aerial System Drone Application Certificate course. Instructing the attendees via Zoom, Dr. Matthews explained some of the basics of drones and their piloting. Students gained insight into the different types of drones, as well as applicable laws regarding their usage for fun and profit, and avenues for becoming certified drone pilots.

Drones are often used to assist law enforcement and emergency service providers, Dr. Matthews explained, because they can be instrumental in search and rescue situations. He described how drones can also be used to inspect buildings and rooftop equipment, as well bridges, for damage and repair. Dr. Matthews also showcased footage of “drone work” in the entertainment and movie industry.

The next portion of the program was presented by Mark Eberhart, Executive Protection Officer in private security and part-time drone pilot. “This has been my hobby since I first saw a quadcopter flying in the sky,” said Mark. “At my job I work with Travis County police officers and one of them does the drone training program for the county. So, I just started training with him.”

“I’m here today because I’m interested in Big Brothers Big Sisters. I think it is a really cool program,” said Mark. “I want to see what kind of interest there is in the drone program. If there’s something like drones that can get kids more involved, that would be a great thing.”

Once the Zoom and classroom portion of the program was completed, attendees enjoyed the treat they’d been waiting for, a chance to pilot a drone around the BBBS property. One of the first participants was the smallest of the group, Little Brother Louie. He and his Big Brother Josh have been matched about 6 months.

“He loves playing video games, so I thought coming out here and learning to fly a drone would be a good fit,” said Josh.

That certainly turned out to be the case as Louie expertly flew the drone around the parking lot and brought it in for a pinpoint landing, exactly where the instructor requested. “I loved it!” said Louie, who was captivated by the whole experience. His background playing video games paid off as he showed no hesitation with the drone controls.

Some of the older Littles were interested in the drone coursework shared by the program. “This class was great,” said Little Brother Daniel. “I learned a lot. It opened my mind to photography and drone flying, plus possibly attending Park University.”

It was a great day for all involved. Special shout-out to Araceli Urquiza, Community Relations Manager at Park University, for helping to coordinate this special match event.

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