by Kaden Silva
The Bellbrook High School drone teams, the Hog Flyers and Speed Demonz, competed at the Ohio State Championships for Drones in School at Ohio River Valley High School on March 14.
The Hog Flyers won first overall and first place in the Marketing Video, a short film presentation of the team and their design process, and Head-To-Head Race judge categories. The Speed Demonz won third overall and first place in the Design and Engineering category.
The competition is one part of the Drones in School National racing circuit, where drone teams from across the United States compete to try and qualify for the National Drones in School racing competition. Twelve high school teams are chosen to compete depending on their performance throughout the season at both in-person competitions and virtual races.
The program’s mission statement is to provide an educational forum through friendly competition, giving students the opportunity to educate themselves in STEM concepts such as general drone operation, drone engineering and design, and soft skills such as business acumen and teamwork. “It teaches me about STEM concepts that are applicable to my future,” Speed Demonz member and Bellbrook sophomore Darius Gainer said.
Bellbrook Class of 2022 graduate, Jonny Martin, participated in last year’s Drones in School circuit as part of the Hog Flyers team. Their team made it to Drone Team Nationals, learning about both hard and soft skills in the STEM field that is helping him succeed in his freshman year of college. “The self-driven nature of the drone team definitely helped prepare me for the self-driven nature of college,” Martin said. “No one will bother you about not doing your work in drone club.”
Both teams prepared for the competition weeks in advance. “We designed the heck out of our drone,” Hog Flyers member and Bellbrook junior Ben Roach said. “Along with having our pilot Garrett [Becker] fly the virtual course and the in-person courses so he wasn’t shocked or surprised by what he saw during the races.”
Meanwhile, the Speed Demonz were not far behind in their preparations. “We had to finalize a design and produce two working drones, one display model, and a variety of replacement parts in case things break,” Gainer said. “We test our design and the integration of the physical parts, as well as the electronics to ensure they will perform correctly at the competition.”
During the competition, the Speed Demonz and Hog Flyers, despite their award captions, faced challenges prior to their respective events. They worked through these tribulations in the Pits, as the drone race referees affectionately titled the drone maintenance zones.
“We definitely [only] had one functioning drone; we thought we’d have three,” Roach said. “So we learned the importance of having multiple backups ready to go in case one of your drones does not work. It was definitely hard to compete with only one drone.”
These complications meant that the Hog Flyers could only compete with one drone in the Capture the Flag race, an event wherein competitors must capture more stationary flags than the opponent when the standard is two drones for more coverage.
Meanwhile, in the Speed Demonz Pit, things also did not go as planned. “At competitions, things are bound to break,” Gainer said. “Just at this most recent competition we pulled two soldering connections, broke a motor, and snapped a base plate.” This meant that the Speed Demonz could also only compete in the Capture the Flag race with one drone, up against teams who had multiple functional drones.
The Hog Flyers have officially qualified for the National Drone Competition in Denver, Colorado. They plan to continue improving all the parts of their competitive portfolio.
“We’re going to reshoot our video to make it look better, adjust some things on our posterboard so that our presentation overall is better with our portfolio,” Roach said. “We’re just going to keep working, keep designing, and Garrett’s going to keep flying the course, so we can make some noise at Nationals.”