Students at Bremerton High School can become certified in drone technology via a new program being offered. Nicolas Halftermeyer/Wikimedia Commons

Sky’s the limit for Bremerton High students

Can now study, become certified in, drone technology

BREMERTON — The future is here, so they say.

Millions of people roam the world with super computers the size of a credit card in their pockets. The ability to pay by a microchip embedded in the skin is available at the right price. And unmanned aerial vehicles dot the skies, flitting to and fro at the whim of someone safely on the ground.

And now, students at Bremerton High School can learn to man those aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have the opportunity to be nationally certified from a safety certification test and, importantly, have the skills necessary to be employed in many different fields.

“I am both thrilled and thankful that the students in our community will now have access to rigorous coursework in the aeronautical engineering field,” Superintendent Aaron Leavell said in an announcement of the program. “This opportunity can lead to an important and critical career field. Much of our future in business, safety and security points to drone intelligence, and we are more than pleased to lead the way in engaging young minds in this endeavor.”

Currently, 16 students are enrolled in Bremerton High School’s new USI (Unmanned Safety Institute) Drone Technology and Safety course, part of the aeronautical engineering pathway in the school district’s career and technical education program.

“The class will emphasize the importance of safety and ethical decision making,” said Linda Hupka, Bremerton School District’s director of CTE and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. “We still don’t know the extent that drones will play a role in the future workforce, but the uses are limitless.”

UAVs, Hupka said, can be controlled by a remote control or even fly autonomously based on pre-programmed flight plans.

“There are serious implications around the privacy issues with drones,” Hupka added, “so this will be a focus (of the class) as well.”

The school’s engineering 3 students will build and program drones; the drone safety and technology students will develop the skills needed to become employable in the industry.

“This is the first course of its kind to approved in Washington state,” Hupka said, “and we are very excited.”

The hope is that this area of education will help prepare students for their future beyond education.

“This class carries a great potential for providing good, livable-wage careers for our students,” Hupka said. “Whether our students decide to go on to college or they choose to go right into the workforce, we need to be sure we are providing viable options for either, and ensure that they are prepared for both.

“Career and technical education has a responsibility to be flexible and to respond to the labor market needs of our community, but we also need to be adept at forecasting jobs of the future, many of which we don’t yet know what they are. Drone technology is a STEM career that could lead to other technology careers. It is the job of our schools to ensure that our students are career and college ready.”

One way to do this, Hupka said, is through community partnerships such as apprenticeships, mentoring opportunities, guest speakers, field trips to businesses, job shadows and internships.

“We would invite our community members and local business leaders to consider serving in some capacity with your schools,” Hupka said. “One way to do that is to volunteer to serve on a program advisory committee such as the drone technology advisory in Bremerton. We have advisories for a variety of career pathways.”

She said every Kitsap Peninsula school district has career and technical education, not just Bremerton.

“They all need the support of their community,” Hupka said, “so I would urge people to contact your district’s career and technical education director.”

— Michelle Beahm is online editor of Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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