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How can drone technology be used to respond to global problems? A team-taught, interdisciplinary class at James Madison University have pooled their talent and resources to see if we could answer this question.

This slideshow provides slides that will provide more information about each of those projects. Clicking on one of the images will send you to that team’s home page, which provides more information and updates on the projects.

Students from seven majors across the arts, humanities and sciences at JMU are participating in a Fall 2015 class that is team-taught by entrepreneurs from NOVALabs in Northern Virginia and professors from four disciplines. In just 15 weeks, we hope to use collaborative learning, design thinking, social entrepreneurial skills, and a variety of technologies to develop prototype uses for six drones that were custom-built built by JMU students last Spring. The students have been divided into cross-disciplinary teams, and are working with mentors from across JMU to identify global issues that drone technology might address.

Although fifteen weeks is too short a time for the groups to completely solve their chosen projects, they do plan to develop prototypes that will make a valuable contribution for others to build upon for future research and development.

The JMU Drone Project is sponsored by 4-VA, an organization that promotes innovation and collaboration between four major universities in Virginia, and the course is hosted in JMU 4-VA’s X-Labs facility in the Lakeview building on the JMU campus. This state-of-the-art maker space has 3D printers, laser cutters, and sophisticated teleconferencing equipment.

Nick Swayne and students talk with Fred Briggs and Christopher Vo from NOVALabs via the BEAM telepresence robot.

Entrepreneurs from NOVALabs, a volunteer-driven makerspace in Reston, Virginia, are generously providing students with their experience and expertise throughout the course. They are guiding the students to create technologically sophisticated, cost-efficient ways of making valuable contributions to their projects. During class sessions when NOVALabs entrepreneurs are unable to attend class, they participate using telepresence robots.

This site provides you with the opportunity to find out more about this experimental class and the ambitious projects the students are currently undertaking. We cordially invite you to talk with the entire team at our showcase event on December 9, details of which will be following soon. In the meantime, enjoy our short promo video, which we hope will give you a sense of the creative energy that JMU students are bringing to this exciting project: