High school and middle school students from across northeastern Oklahoma descended on the Rogers State University campus Thursday to test their engineering and drone-flying skills during the 6th annual Aero Games competition, powered by Google.
More than 150 students from 18 teams participated in the Aero Games challenge to build a flight-worthy drone and fly it through a complex obstacle course designed specifically for the event.
The course included six components: Elevated Pass Thru; Vertical Slalom; Bullseye Landing and Vertical Takeoff; Three-Point 180-Degree Turn; Obstacle X-treme Wind Challenge; and a Top Cup Pyramid Finish. Googlers scored the competition using objective criteria such as time, speed, distance, and accuracy.
This is the 6th year that RSU has partnered with Google to host this STEM-based competition for area students.
The obstacle course was designed by the RSU AeroCats Leadership Team, a group of senior students who are facilitating this year’s competition as part of their final capstone project under the direction of RSU faculty member Curtis Sparling.
Congressman Markwayne Mullin attended the event and spoke with students, saying he was encouraged that so many of the students who attended the event were interested in engineering careers. He said these opportunities were especially important for small schools.
Also speaking at the event were Dennis Altendorf, director of Aerospace Development and Strategy at Tulsa Regional Chamber, and Michael Tate, COO of Infinite Composites Technologies, an innovative pressure vessel design and production company in Tulsa. Returning as emcee this year was Karen Larson, anchor for Tulsa’s KJRH Channel 2.
Earning awards in the high school division were: Westville High School, first place; Welch High School, second place; and Northeast Technology Center, third place. The school spirit award went to Foyil High School, the most creative award went to Nowata High School and the best crash went to Adair High School.
In the middle school division, awards were presented to: Bell Public School (Stilwell), first place; Owasso Public Schools, second place; and Foyil, third place. The school spirit and best design awards went to Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore, with the best crash award going to Cleora Public School.
The first place teams in the high school and the middle school divisions earned a $500 STEM stipend for their schools. One 2018 graduating senior student will also be eligible to receive a $1,000 scholarship/tuition waiver from RSU.
In addition to the competition, the event featured Geek Street, an educational showcase of local businesses and industries on hand to demonstrate how they apply STEM principles in the workplace.
Both the Aero Games and Geek Street are free and open to the public.
“The Aero Games gives students the opportunity to learn core STEM principles in a fun, competitive environment,” Andrew Silvestri, Google’s head of community affairs for Oklahoma, said. “We are always inspired by the creativity and spirit these students bring to the event. Our goal is to encourage and celebrate the students’ interest in STEM to develop the next generation of engineers and scientists.”
Since the opening of Google’s Oklahoma data center in 2011, it has awarded more than $2 million in grants related to STEM education in Oklahoma including funding laptop labs, robotics programs and STEM labs in all Mayes County schools.
The event was sponsored in part by the Unmanned Aerial Systems Cluster Initiative of Oklahoma and Kansas.