Brookfield Drone Team Soars in National Competition

BROOKFIELD, 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 said. “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 senior classmates – Billy McAnany, Makenna Hunter, Kara Svarny and Cameron Neely – finished strong during the Drones in School National Championship race held May 10 and 11 in Denver, Colorado.

Brookfield’s team, The Fuel, competed among a field of 12 high school teams that were invited to the competition 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, team coach and a science teacher at Brookfield Local Schools, said the showing is impressive for a program that is just a year-and-a-half old.

“I already have students looking to join the team next year,” he said. Moreover, Reinsel said that he’s looking to encourage students in the eighth grade who are incoming freshmen to join, thus giving them four full years in the program.

Brookfield’s team is an extracurricular class that is apart from the high school’s drone course, Reinsel said. The objective of the drone 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,” McAnany said. “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 said. “We started off using our school’s 3D printers, and they’re a little old and didn’t work very well.”

Yet this trial and error process enabled the team to research how to reduce the drone’s weight while still retaining its strong physical properties, McAnany said. The team experimented with several materials and printing filaments before arriving at one that best suited 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.

“It’s a good tool we could use in the future,” McAnany said.

Brookfield Local Schools Superintendent Toby Gibson said the program was made possible through a grant procured by the Trumbull County Educational Service Center. 

“The initial grant covered six school districts, and we saw this as an opportunity to expand on our STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] programs that we’ve developed,” Gibson said.

He said sending a small school to compete on a national level sends a strong message. “It shows to our students that with hard work, time and commitment, you can achieve beyond your goals.”

For students such as McAnany, the experience helped prepare him for his future.

“I’m definitely certain that the knowledge we gained from this experience will help us in the long run with whatever we choose,” he said.

Pictured at top: From left, Makenna Hunter, Kara Svarny, Sam Plyler, coach Tim Reinsel, Cameron Neely and Billy McAnany.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.