Pillar’s PluggedIN - Physics of Fun

3 minutes read

pluggedin invitation

“The Physics of Fun” How I got thirty-one 6th graders to learn physics while having fun.

In 2012, I found myself on a project, delivering a software solution to a manufacturer of very large yellow and green tractors. And by large, I mean… wheels taller than my body and capable of working thousands of acres of land… very easily. The term ‘drone’ was being added to our vernacular and most really didn’t know what a ‘drone’ was… but drones were getting a bad name. I became interested.


As a little kid, I would stand with my father flying model RC planes. We would spend hours flying a bright orange sailplane in circles overy my grandparents dairy farm.

return to present day…

Flying a drone had to be the same… sure? I convinced my friend and manager, we should be investing my time and his money in the pursuit of ‘drones’. He said, ‘yes’, and $1800.00 later… I was on a mission to build a 1000 millimeter, hexacopter. Six blades of spinning death… a flying lawnmower… all descriptions that were being used to describe these new fangled flying machines, called ‘drones’.

When I started the ‘drone build’, very little, good… documentation existed, detailing how to build a drone on your own. And to be clear, by ‘drone’, I mean multirotor copter. Undeterred by my lack of experience, I started, How tough could this be? I could already fly. (remember the part about me flying with my father) I didn’t have an electrical background, but I grew up the son of a hardware store owner. Everything is very mechanical in a hardware store… or at least the non-electrical stuff. After several ‘smoked’ electronics and many new parts later, the copter was air worthy. Surprisingly, the copter flew quite well, very stable and plenty of power. The copter build started with little knowledge and a box of parts. The build ended with an airworthy craft and considerably more knowledge ‘in my head’ about the electrical, mechanical and physical aspects of a multicopter.

A year after building the first hexacopter, I had assembled a small fleet of six copters. I believed I had learned enough ‘copter building knowledge’ to teach someone else just how to accomplish the task. From this, started the ‘BYOD - build your own drone’ talk, which I have presented at Codemash 2014. During the Codemash version of BYOD, I met Scott Seighman, the tech club advisor at Avon High School. This is where the STEM story begins.

The Avon copter build became my introduction into the world of build copters with high school kids. My primary goal of teaching kids the process of building a multirotor copter, was ‘having fun’ and learning a little along the way, the build was a complete success. It took the students approximately four hours to assemble the nine kits. They learned how to solder wires, as well as different physics aspects.

Fast forward to July 26, 2016…

We find ourselves at the monthly Pillar PluggedIN event. We will explore the process of building multicopters along with the mechanical, electrical and mathematical aspects multirotor flight.

Pillar’s PluggedIn events exist to open your mind, one interesting topic at a time. A portal to another dimension. Pillar believes in the power of sharing our experiences and stories. While sharing these stories, your mind will become fully occupied. A place where impossibilities do not exist.

Tonight we will explore human’s interest in flight, the nature of creativity and the technologies extending this creativity.

As children, we were able to explore and imagine limitless possibilities. Unfortunately, our imagination dwindles over time. Tonight we will return to our childhood and explore the power of learning through fun. We will inspire creativity by exploring the mechanical, electrical and mathematical aspects of building a quadcopter.

Sit back and relax. Open your mind and allow me to bring you into my world.

Welcome to an evening of flight… and fun.

View the slides on SpeakerDeck


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