Game of Drones

Four schools will compete In Raytheon UK’s Quadcopter Challenge Finale

British schoolchildren engaging in STEM

A dearth of British schoolchildren engaging in STEM subjects continues to be an issue, but Raytheon UK's Quadcopter Challenge, now in its second year, is bucking the trend.

They are the futuristic, unmanned, intelligent flying machines topping every youngster's 2015 gift list.

To bring to life the technical innovations that make drones important to the future of defence, Raytheon UK invited schools in the United Kingdom's Essex, northeast of London, to compete in its annual Quadcopter Challenge. Held in association with the Essex County Council, the effort reflects the company's ongoing commitment to promoting the academic subjects of science, technology, engineering and math — known collectively as STEM — to help cultivate the next generation of scientists.

Since January, year nine and year ten students from Burnt Mill Academy, Stewards Academy, Boswells School Chelmsford and Tabor Academy have been challenged to build a fully operational, four-bladed, multi-rotor, remotely piloted air system, or quadcopter.

"Using identical kits designed by Raytheon UK engineers, two teams from each school have each created a unique quadcopter by tweaking the flight characteristics and customising various components, such as the frame design, undercarriage and canopy," said Andy Mitchell, lead engineer for Raytheon UK's Quadcopter Challenge and a Raytheon UK STEM Ambassador.

Having learned how to fly the aircraft, all eight teams will participate in a set of intricate flying challenges as part of the Quadcopter Challenge finale competition on Saturday, 7 November, at the village of Stow Maries in Essex. The finale will see the schools compete across ten flying challenges (to test skills such as speed, agility, accuracy) for a host of prizes. Creativity and engineering skill will also be awarded.

Raytheon UK STEM Ambassadors, including Mitchell, provided management and technical support to the teams throughout the Challenge. To keep the lessons current, they drew from their diverse professional backgrounds in engineering, information technology, project management, finance, commercial and business development.

"Our remit was to attend weekly after-school clubs to provide project guidance and lessons involving the science, technology and future of unmanned air systems. These lessons included STEM subjects at the forefront of aerospace technology and highly relevant for future engineers," said Mitchell.

The company also organised STEM assemblies and visits at which students were able to talk to Raytheon UK engineers and STEM ambassadors for advice and inspiration. For instance, several of the ambassadors visited Tabor Academy in Braintree to demonstrate cutting-edge technologies such as the LiDAR from a Google Autonomous Car and Oculus Rift Virtual Reality.

"I think this kind of engagement and mentoring is absolutely vital to dispel some of the misconceptions regarding careers in engineering," said Nathan Bainbridge, Raytheon UK's director of human resources. "Indeed, how many of us might have made different career choices had we been able to benefit from such guidance?"

The effort is important to Raytheon UK, according to CEO Richard Daniel: "Our STEM initiatives are crucial to the long-term pipeline of resources in our company and industry. Industry at all levels, academia and government must work collaboratively to create the right environment for the UK to prosper.

"Recruiting staff with strong STEM skills will therefore help underpin the UK's ability to compete and achieve growth in many major sectors like manufacturing, construction and engineering. We therefore want to inspire the next generation to study STEM and encourage students into STEM-related careers with the aim of growing the talent pipeline at a national and regional level."

In response to the tremendous success of the 2015 Raytheon UK Quadcopter Challenge, the company has already announced its intention to roll out the competition across the U.K. in 2016

Published On: 11/04/2015
Last Updated: 12/13/2017