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Florence 4 Drone Stem

TIMMONSVILLE, SC (WMBF) - The drone industry is taking off and it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon.

That’s why Florence County School District Four has brought the technology to classrooms. As a part of its new STEM initiative, students in Florence County School District Four are getting hands-on training, thanks to the help of a $20,000 donation from Honda.

With that money, the first STEM Lab was completed last year at Brockington Elementary School. Two more labs are also in the works for Johnson Middle School.

Through instructors from STEM University, on Thursday students put their learning to the test by building roller coasters, engineering robot cars, and flying drones.

Most of the changes follow State Superintendent Molly Spearman’s state of emergency declaration for the district last May. Tonya Addison, the district’s administrator, said they’ve already seen the benefits of the state takeover through better test scores and more opportunities through the STEM labs.

“We had two schools on the state priority list, which was Brockington Elementary and Johnson Middle, and both have come off this year and so our middle school has kind of outperformed some of our competitors. So we are moving in the right direction and we’re hoping that with our expansion we’ll continue to move forward,” Addison said.

Christopher Williams, the founder of STEM U, said the non-traditional classrooms allow students to learn real-world skills at a young age.

“They’re learning how to collaborate with one another, they’re learning how to solve a problem, so you’re seeing this in the mini classes here in Florence Four,” Williams said.

Williams believes a big part of that has to do with drone technology. He said the district was the first in the state to offer a drone pilot certification course for high schoolers. The year-long course is 16 sessions to prepare students ages 16 and up for the drone pilot exam at the end of the semester.

“Drones are being used in so many different ways. Really what’s happening now, we are understanding it from a consumer that drones are bigger than what they use to be years ago,” he said.

Williams said he’s expecting the drone industry to grow by tens of thousands of jobs within the next two years and he wants the students to be prepared.

“We’re giving them the opportunity to be more competitive, to be in an environment to be more successful now because of a certification that puts them on a platform that’s global,” Williams said.

That’s the reason high school senior Bryan McFadden said he decided to take the course

“The certification will take you a long way. That’s going to be the second career for me. I want to go into exercising sports science, but this drone program that’s been introduced to me, I feel like I can use this as my backup career now,”

It’s that confidence that Williams said is the goal of the program, allowing students to walk away with the knowledge to make them successful in whatever career they choose.

“That is a skill set that does not normally resonates on A letter grade, that resonates to say I have skill from the technological capacity, but I also can do the job,” Williams said.

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