‘Dronepreneur’ Program Gets $650,000 Grant

NILES – Robert Marino, assistant superintendent of the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, says a former student recently thanked him for his part in bringing the drone racing program to his school, saying it led to his decision to start training at the Pittsburgh Aeronautical Institute after graduation.

“That in and of itself is justification for this program,” Marino says. “That one kid – this can lead to generations of kids.”

The drone racing program was brought to Marino four years ago by Ed Mackiewicz, supervisor of curriculum and instruction for classroom technology at the Trumbull County ESC. At the time, implementation seemed a long way off. But last year, 15 county high schools competed in the drone racing program, including Brookfield High School, which excelled at the national level.

“We’re providing students across northeast Ohio the opportunity to excel in the STEM field,” said U.S. Rep. David Joyce of Bainbridge Township, R-14. “When you show kids the possibilities of what their futures can be, there’s no stopping them.”

Joyce was in Niles at the Trumbull County ESC Aug. 14 along with former U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan to present a $650,000 grant funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

The money is not just going to fund the drone racing program for Trumbull students. It also is funding a new, three-part “Dronepreneur” program.

One part will be a partnership with Trumbull County Career & Technical Center. Students will have the opportunity to gain the skills to obtain their FAA Part 107 drone license and other licenses.

TCTC Superintendent Jason Gray said the program will offer students industry credentials, which could lead to future training or career opportunities in an in-demand career field.

Through the Trumbull County Advanced Unmanned Air Mobility Center, students will learn skills that will lead to drone research, development and testing.

Second, a preapprenticeship program will be made available for Trumbull County students at high schools. There will be kits for schools interested in participating.

Mackiewicz said Howmet Aeronautics in Niles is interested in working with high school preapprenticeship students and he is interested in forming more partnerships.

Third, an Entrepreneurship Education and Industry Awareness program will be created through Vista AST and the ESC for students in grades six through eight. This will give them an early start in learning about entrepreneurship, job readiness skills and the aeronautics industry.

Mackiewicz believes the Drone Racing League will expand this year with the possibility of training teachers and coaches for all 22 schools in Trumbull County.

“There is so much more to this program than just sitting down and doing something cool with a controller and a drone,” said Mackiewicz.

Partnering with Drones in Schools, the program provides an opportunity for students to design, build and repair their drones, market their teams through branding while approaching sponsors, engineer new parts and replace a broken frame by printing one on a 3D printer.

Joyce points out investments like the Dronepreneur program in Trumbull County can do more than train students. It can help to ensure that more drones and drone parts are made here in the United States with American technology.

“For the past decade, jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries have grown three times that of non-STEM industries,” Joyce said. “Occupations in these fields are poised to dominate the 21st-century workforce and our students should have the tools and resources necessary to be qualified to fill them.”

Pictured at top: Pictured are Jason Gray, Trumbull County Career & Technical Center superintendent; Julie Michael Smith of Vista AST and America Makes; Stacy Foster, Trumbull County ESC treasurer; Robert Marino Jr., assistant superintendent, curriculum and instruction at the Trumbull ESC; former U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan; U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-14 Ohio; Michael Hanshaw, Trumbull ESC superintendent; Ed Mackiewicz, supervisor of curriculum and instruction at the Trumbull ESC; Michele Timmons, founder and CEO of EnvisionEdPlus; and Tricia Moore, chief operations and engagement officer of EnvisionEdPlus.