South Fayette School District News Article

District Receives Grant to Shatter Glass Ceiling with Drones

The South Fayette Township School District’s commitment to a future-focused, student-centered, and innovation-driven education for all students will soon take to the skies above western Pennsylvania with the support of a Moonshot Grant from Remake Learning. South Fayette partnered with the Baldwin-Whitehall School District and the Beaver Area School District to propose the creation of a drone academy aimed at shattering the glass ceiling for women in the aviation industry.

According to 2021 statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration, nearly 264,000 individuals have obtained the Remote Pilot Airman Certificate since the enactment of the small drone rules in 2016. Females account for just under 8% of the total certificates earned. Recognizing a need to enable gender representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, Dr. Kristin Deichler, assistant superintendent with the South Fayette Township School District, collaborated with Dr. Janeen Peretin, director of communication, innovation, and advancement with the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, and Ms. Emily Sanders, assistant superintendent with the Beaver Area School District, to develop the Fly Like a Girl Drone Academy.

The 12-16 week academy will take flight in spring 2023 and connect high school girls interested in STEM-related fields with curriculum, equipment, and hands-on training. Aspiring pilots from South Fayette, Baldwin-Whitehall, and Beaver Area, as well as from participating districts Ambridge, McKeesport, and Woodland Hills, would attend the academy in four-week increments on Saturdays. Sessions will last for three hours. Every fourth week, students will be engaged in a full, hands-on learning experience, working directly with drone industry professionals. Transportation from each school to the academy will be covered by Remake Learning’s Moonshot Grant.

“South Fayette is a renowned leader in embracing inventive and meaningful learning opportunities for our Lion Learners,” said South Fayette Township School District Superintendent Dr. Michelle Miller. “Through the support of Remake Learning and our partnership with the Baldwin-Whitehall and the Beaver Area school districts, this Moonshot Grant helps us to reach students who for too long have been underrepresented in STEM careers.”

By the end of the academy, students interested in pursuing their UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) license through the FAA will complete the Remote Pilot Certificate exam. The cost of the exam and transportation to the exam site also will be covered in the first year by the Moonshot Grant.

“Drone technology will shape the future, and we believe it is the responsibility of today’s educators to provide the technology, support, networking, and safe spaces that are essential for female students to explore their career aspirations,” said Dr. Deichler.

Following the inaugural drone academy courses this spring, the districts’ vision is to scale up the program and open it to all interested students. 2022-2023 participants will serve as student leaders in future academies.

For the last two years, Remake Learning has challenged our region’s educators to dream about the future of learning and test new ideas to make that future a reality. Support for Remake Learning’s Moonshot Grants is provided by The Grable Foundation and The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

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