Suffolk schools abuzz with technology

Published 9:39 pm Monday, January 25, 2016

Lakeland High School’s JROTC is zipping into uncharted territory for Suffolk schools with its new $1,100 drone, a remote-control aerial device equipped with GPS, Wi-Fi and a high-def camera.

The cadets have to adhere to strict Federal Aviation Administration operating regulations. They can’t fly higher than 400 feet, go within 100 feet of a building or operate within five miles of an airport without special FAA permission, according to cadets.

According to Principal Douglas Wagoner, the drone is not used anywhere but on campus because of Lakeland’s close proximity to Suffolk Executive Airport.

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The four-pronged, high-tech device that occasionally buzzes over band practice or the senior class is providing students with amazing opportunities. The drone has taken an aerial picture of the school that likely will hang inside the school — although the image still isn’t quite as crisp as Wagoner wants it to be.

The JROTC is using the drone to add a new dimension to Lakeland’s yearbook. Looking at specific yearbook images through a special app on their cell phone will allow viewers to see the video the drone recorded at December’s full accreditation celebration.

Besides the experience of operating the drone, the students are also learning basics about filming and editing. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the pep rally video, take a look using this link:

Later this week, the JROTC has been commissioned to use the drone to take an aerial senior class video for the yearbook.

The technology available to students — and for that matter, any of us willing to plunk down a little cash — is raising the bar.

Just in the past few months, I’ve joined Elephant’s Fork Elementary School third-graders swimming at the Great Barrier Reef and touring ancient Roman ruins. The virtual vacations were courtesy of Google Expeditions, a virtual field trip program for students the tech giant expects to release this year.

I’ve watched fourth-graders at Driver Elementary do computer coding and seen kids at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary build and program Legos robots to show the savings that could occur if the school recycled.

Every day, I am amazed by the ways technology is constantly evolving and shaping our lives, in ways both good and bad.

But I love seeing kids — our future leaders, thinkers and inventors — having access to technology and instruction that will build their futures.