Students aim high after drone-use course

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Students part of the Karratha's first drone camp with an aerial image of Karratha they captured from a drone.
Camera IconStudents part of the Karratha's first drone camp with an aerial image of Karratha they captured from a drone. Credit: Jess Boland, Jessica Boland

Karratha Leisureplex was abuzz with activity last week when a drone camp, aimed at getting young women more engaged in technology, made its WA debut in the Pilbara.

A group of 24 female Year 7-9 students from Karratha Senior High School and St Luke’s College were the lucky participants of a national camp model which encourages girls to learn about, fly and program drones over five days, and ultimately, earn their junior pilot licences.

The program was run by She Flies, an organisation supported by James Cook University that promotes gender equality in science, technology, engineering and maths education through drone use. She Flies co-founder and chief executive Karen Joyce, who is also a senior lecturer in remote sensing, attended the Karratha sessions and said the camp helped the students grow in confidence.

“We realised late last year that we had a bit of an issue with the perception around girls and drones ... so myself and Dr Catherine Ball co-founded this program to show that actually using drones is a viable career path,” she said.

“We also know that we only have about one per cent female drone pilots in Australia. So we wanted to show girls that there’s so much more they can do.”

The female students had a lesson in Australian drone safety regulations, manually flew their machines and then programmed them for automatic flight for purposes including aerial photography and delivering parcels.

The camp finished with a presentation session on Friday afternoon when parents were invited to view their children’s work and see them presented with licences.

St Luke’s College science teacher Carly Kinch said the camp encouraged young women to consider STEM careers.

“I think there’s a much higher proportion of men in STEM fields and often the girls don’t think it’s an obvious career path,” she said.

“Involvement in programs like this opens their eyes to the possibilities that are available to them in STEM.”

Since starting early this year, the She Flies drone camp program has visited schools in Cairns, Darwin and Karratha, supported by the Department of Innovation, Industry and Science.

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