One of the most amazing things about the Virginia Drone Project is the combined gusto with which all the teams tackle difficult global issues. We were all presented with problems which, frankly, seem grim. Problems that others may have lost hope for. And yet, every team has put in hours upon hours of research and work to help make a difference. After all, as Ben Franklin once said, “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Each and every team seems to have taken this idea to heart as we work tirelessly to create innovative solutions, and make sure that none of the issues we face are ever “certain,” or unstoppable. To be honest, our team here at George Mason University struggled with even picking a single issue to develop a solution for because we felt so strongly about the all the possibilities lying before us. We decided eventually that we would address the dire straits facing honey bees around the world. These tiny, incredible insects are an integral part in the process of growing a multitude of crops; without their pollination, we wouldn’t be able to have many of the fruits and vegetables we have today. Unfortunately, their populations have been dying out at alarming speeds. We at the GMU team have decided: no more. We won’t stand idly by while we have the resources to potentially create a solution to such a monumental issue. Below, learn more about the GMU students who are working hard to create change.
Never did I think that during my time as a Computer Game Design major, I would have an opportunity to work on such an impactful project. I have always felt strongly about environmental issues, but, being an art major rather than a science major, I thought that my impact would be limited to recycling my plastic bottles and picking up litter rather than tackling anything directly. As soon as we had decided on a problem to address, I researched and researched… and researched. And probably now know more about honey bees than I ever really need to. But I know that my strongest contribution to the team has been the amassing of information, then combing through finely to put together blog posts, infographics, and presentations. This project has shown me that, even as an art major, I can still use my skills to make a difference. I think that the most important aspect of this project is education: educating audiences as to why these global issues need to be addressed, and why they aren’t as grim or inevitable as they may seem. If more people had hope and knew about the possibilities, then maybe they wouldn’t treat problems like honey bee population drops as inexorable as “death and taxes.”
I initially took this class because A: the 399 class I initially took met at a bad time for me which was a problem for my schedule and B: because that same class was a lecture based class that required a research paper. I graduated from my last college under computer science and I actually found the drone class to be far more interesting and a useful avenue for my major. I assumed I would be doing a great deal of coding to manipulate how drones acted. Now that I am actually in the class I have found that I have been reaching out of my comfort zone to help my team be more well-rounded. I started out trying to help the team get creative ideas by making many of my own to get everyone interested. Once we had found our topic I again tried to take creative liberty and come up with new and unique solution to our problem that took advantage of our UAV. Now that the team has a good direction I have tried to manage our assets and handle our timeline as it changes week to week. In the short time before we prepare to present I hope to head up our physical presentables for the 7th. I have already had experience in leadership in order to become an eagle scout, but I found I was not prepared for this project. I struggled a great deal at first because nothing was set in stone, there was conflicting information, and the team was always changing. This was very different than the parliamentarian procedure structure that I was used to and I had to discover how to make order out of chaos. I learned that a real leader is not simply someone who can work with others, but has the motivation to take action when and where others do not. I think our team has done an amazing job at solidifying into what is now a well-oiled machine. We communicate well through slack, but even more efficiently in person. Moving forward we need to identify the specific tasks we must finish and I want organize exactly how we will accomplish them in time.
Liam Devinney, Sophomore, Computer Game Design
I picked up this class when my adviser sent out an all call email for students of any level to take a course regarding drones, and my interest was officially piqued. I had thought we would merely be learning about them, their capabilities, and discussing some potential use cases, and low and behold we find ourselves researching ways to track and identify honeybee drones using UAVs. Once we determined a problem to solve, I was dunked after some delay into the manufacturing, flight, and modification of our UAV. With the time remaining prior to our final presentation, it is my goal to gain a solid understanding and command of flying our UAV, as well as creating a design for attaching our sensors and processing units to the UAV without adversely affecting the flight capabilities. This plays well to my interests, as learning more about manufacturing of parts using 3D printing and various casting methods has been a goal of mine for a few years now. I’ve found that among our team, a solid hierarchy has formed among the team members, with each of us taking on a pillar of the project to cover and maintain, allowing for fluid communication and work between all team members. I sincerely hope that our team can find some solution that may help researchers to determine useful data in regards to drone congregation areas, and perhaps as to why honey bees are in such a drastic dive in population.
I was excited to take this class because my craving to learn about UAV programming and engineering. I never expected to work on a worldly, and impactful project. It took a considerable amount of conversation and contemplation, but once an idea was forged, our team worked to construct our UAVs, build an outline, and plan our prototype. My goal is to program RFID, thermal, and location sensors that will assist in the analysis of colony behavior. Tracking movement and temperature will help our team predict and stop colony collapse disorder. Bee colonies are critical to the growth of an ecosystem, developing a way to use UAV technology to analyze and monitor activity has been a rewarding and educational experience.