NSF Drone Research Experience for High School Teachers

What is the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Teachers (NSF RET)?

The NSF RET invites 10 Tulsa-area high school teachers to conduct research and curriculum development activities at the TU campus for six weeks during the summer. Teachers will work with TU faculty, industry mentors, graduate and undergraduate students from electrical, computer and mechanical engineering. The Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance will also facilitate 3 follow-up interactions a semester between teachers, mentors and STEM students, including an exciting quadcopter-based competition open to the teachers’ students.

Projects include pointing and tracking for mobile laser communication, remote sensing and monitoring, navigating 3D spaces, minimizing electromagnetic interference, and mechanical systems for securing payloads during transport. Throughout the projects, teachers and mentors will gain knowledge on quadcopters, solve technical challenges and develop engaging learning experiences and activities to bring back to their classrooms.

Participants will have access to the experience of TU faculty, including Assistant Professor Loyd Hook, Associate Professor Michael Keller, Hans S. Norberg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Kaveh Ashenayi, and Professor Peter LoPresti, and industry mentors from NORDAM, an aerospace company with facilities in the Tulsa area.

Requirements and Benefits for Participating Teachers

  • Must be a certified high school teacher
  • must teach in Oklahoma for the duration of the program
  • Must be available for six weeks of the summer as well as several follow-up days throughout the school year

Participating teachers will earn the following benefits:

  • $8000 stipend
  • $2000 for their classrooms
  • Drones and classroom materials throughout the program
  • Access to TU faculty and students throughout the school year

Program Objectives

Objective 1: Develop teachers’ knowledge of the science, technology, engineering and math used in designing, building and flying quadcopters. Teachers will work with TU faculty, graduate students and industry mentors to conduct research that develops their knowledge of quadcopters and informs teachers of the integral role that STEM disciplines play in quadcopter operation and applications.

Objective 2: Develop and implement innovative curriculum by translating research experiences into classroom practices. TU faculty, graduate students and industry mentors will work with the teachers to develop a quadcopter based curriculum that best translates the research from the university laboratory into the secondary classroom while maintaining an emphasis on exploration and discovery.

Objective 3: Build long-term, sustainable relationships between TU, TRSA, and Tulsa area school districts to promote and provide support for advancing pre-college science and engineering education. Projects will include a series of follow-up activities during the academic year to support integration of the quadcopter curriculum elements into existing classes. The activities will provide opportunities for continued interaction between the teachers, mentors and student staff to continue curriculum development and expand related student activities, including a quadcopter-based competition.

Click here to find out how the activities in each project matches up with Oklahoma and national teaching standards for your classes.

Contact Information

For more information on the NSF drone research experience, contact Dr. Peter LoPresti at peter-lopresti@utulsa.edu.

globe with gold spokes and the letters NSF in front, the logo of the National Science Foundation

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation, NSF Award #180049.


Curriculum Available to Teachers

  • Geometry of Drones: A Unit of Discovery

    This unit is designed to review concepts taught throughout the year in geometry. Students will have already learned the information presented in the curriculum, and they will now have the opportunity to further understand, apply and experience geometric principles as they are employed through drone technology and design. This plan can be used over 2-4 days (or longer). Pre-test and post-test are on page 17 of this document. Download the curriculum.

  • GPS Drones

    Where am I?

    How does GPS and the system of orbiting satellites help define my location??


    Global Positioning Systems work because of a network of at least 24 satellites that orbit earth. (31?) Satellites send signals to the GPS receiver. With one signal, GPS can determine very generally and broadly where the GPS receiver is, but no clear point.

    So, GPS receives a signal from a second satellite. Again, that signal alone is quite broad. However, combined with the first signal, the GPS receiver is able to narrow down its possible location.

    Luckily, there are more satellites! The GPS receiver receives another signal from another satellite. With this 3rd signal, the receiver’s position becomes clear … Why? What does this look like?? Download the curriculum.

  • Physics Egg Drop Project

    With new drone deliveries from companies such as Amazon, packaging construction becomes even more important. In addition to protecting the contents, the package must also be lightweight and durable. Drones must be able to safely fly and maneuver while carrying the package. This will limit the amount of mass of the package material, and thus, can affect the protection it offers to the contents.  Students will use this real-world design problem and apply it to a physics unit about Newton’s second law.

    This project is a twist on the traditional egg drop. Students will use engineering principles to create an egg container that will withstand a drop of 10 meters.

    Students will work in pairs to create an egg launch container. Once it is made, the students will use drones to drop the container from varying heights. Students will calculate force, mass and acceleration of the containers. Download the curriculum.

  • Quadcopter Drone Aquatic Ecosystem

    Monitoring model creation and experiment implementation in an aquatic environment

    Grade level/subject: 9-12 in environmental science, chemistry, biology, geology, etc.

    Lesson Plan Developer(s): Shannon Chatwin

    Summary: Students will take a pre-test and watch a video on:

    • Water cycle
    • Watch video on contamination of water sources/pollution
    • Civilization of humans
    • How a quadcopter works

    Download the curriculum.

  • Drone Surveying for Conservation

    Drone Surveying for Conservation by Leslie Thornburgh and John White

    Math Standards

    • Represent functions in multiple ways and use the representation to interpret real-world and mathematical problems.
    • Develop and verify mathematical relationships of right triangles and trigonometric ratios to solve real-world and mathematical problems.
    • Discover, evaluate and analyze the relationships between lines, angles, and polygons to solve real-world and mathematical problems; express proofs in a form that clearly justifies the reasoning, such as two-column proofs, paragraph proofs, flow charts, or illustrations.
    • Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving three dimensional figures.

    Download the curriculum.

  • Egg Drop Lab Using Drones

    Purpose: Students will use engineering principles to create, evaluate and revise a launch container to drop a raw egg from a predesignated height.

    Overview: Students will work in small groups using recycled and/or easily obtainable household materials to design a launch container for a raw egg. It must meet several parameters, including mass, dimension and availability of materials. Students will test their devices by dropping them from drones at predesignated heights.

    Download the curriculum.