More than two dozen high school students learned how to fly right as technology entrepreneurs during a four-week summer camp at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Camper and Dallas native and Island resident, Chandler Neames, was CEO of the first-place winner, Aegis Systems. Their quad copter product was designed to assist police and first responders to gather information in potentially dangerous situations.
Students spent a month assembling and learning to operate small, unmanned aerial vehicles called quad copters, which are remote-controlled flying robots.
“The campers not only built the vehicles from a kit and learned how to fly them, they also had to come up with a business plan for their use,” said Dr. Kenneth Berry, assistant director of the Science and Engineering Education Center (SEEC) at UT Dallas and director of the University’s first Quad Copter Camp.
The high school students were divided into five teams. With guidance from UT Dallas faculty and students, each team came up with a company name and determined a problem that its robot would address. They then conducted market and feasibility analyses and developed a business plan.
The Texas Workforce Commission provided a grant to help support the camp. Experts in unmanned aerial vehicles from area companies OnPoynt Unmanned Systems and Kasling Aircraft Company were consultants and helped campers learn to fly the quad copters.
Quad copters can vary in size, but all are lifted and propelled by four symmetrically placed rotors, which are similar to helicopter blades.
From their analyses, teams developed robot designs, including attaching sensors, cameras and infrared cameras to their vehicles. Campers also programmed the robots, and designed and manufactured custom parts using computer-aided design software and a 3D printer.
On the last day of the camp, students dressed in business attire and, in front of an audience of peers and parents, pitched their ideas via multimedia presentations to a panel of “venture capitalist” judges, who chose to “invest” in the winning company. Faculty from the business school assisted throughout the camp to coach the teams on how to make an effective pitch to potential investors.