BROOKFIELD CENTER, Ohio – For Brookfield High School senior Sam Plyler, just having the opportunity to compete and represent his small community on a national stage is an accomplishment in itself, no matter the outcome.
“It’s something far beyond what our school has done before,” Plyler says. “It just made me feel good to represent the school on a national level, and I was proud to be there.”
As it turns out, Plyler and four other seniors – Billy McAnany, Makenna Hunter, Kara Svarny and Cameron Neely – finished strong during the Drones in School National Championship race May 10 and 11 in Denver.
Brookfield’s team, The Fuel, competed among 12 high school teams in five events: Capture the Flag, Head-to-Head, Design and Engineering, Video Presentation and Portfolio & Display.
The team took fifth place in all of the events except Video Presentation, in which it placed fourth.
Tim Reinsel, coach and a science teacher at Brookfield Local Schools, says the showing is impressive for a program that is just 18 months old.
“I already have students looking to join the team next year,” he says.
Brookfield’s team is an extracurricular class that is apart from the high school’s drone course, Reinsel says. The objective of that course is to teach students how these devices operate and provide them with enough training so they can achieve FAA certification.
None of the team members are certified because the drones used in the race competition are underweight and did not require regulatory approval.
A significant part of the competition was challenging students to design and engineer their own drones.
“We’ve been in here for about two years,” says McAnany, one of the students. “The first year we didn’t quite make it to nationals because we were iffy on the whole design process.”
The team designed its drone on a free online software platform and applied additive manufacturing to manufacture its components, he says. “We started off using our school’s 3D printers and they’re a little old and didn’t work very well.”
This trial-and-error process enabled the team to research how to reduce the drone’s weight while retaining its strong physical properties. The team experimented with several materials and printing filaments before arriving at one best suited for the project.
Just recently, the school obtained a new 3D resin printer, which will enable future drone teams to print components more accurately and with higher strengths.
Pictured at top: The team and their coach are Makenna Hunter, Kara Svarny, Sam Plyler, coach Tim Reinsel, Cameron Neely and Billy McAnany.