Elementary Institute of Science drone program taught high school girls to become FAA certified pilots
San Diego CA— Girls from three local high schools completed a drone training program at the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS) and have earned their FAA Remote Pilot Certification.
The program, called “Girls Take Flight,” began last spring and will culminate in a graduation ceremony at EIS on January 11.
“We structured Girls Take Flight like a tech boot-camp,” said drone instructor Anjelica Thang, “and these 10 girls came through with flying colors.” The program began with an assembly of about 60 high school juniors. Ultimately, 10 qualified to participate in an intensive, 32-week internship where they learned to build, program, and fly drones. Each girl has received more than 130 hours of instruction from Thang and Desi Ekstein, who is an accomplished drone pilot based in Lake Elsinore. The students will each receive a $1,500 stipend for completing the program. Some have already decided to use the money to buy a drone and start their own business.
“We are excited to have a unique program like this in San Diego. This is the kind of thing that can have a powerful impact and change a person’s life,” said San Diego Unified School Board member Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne.
Drones are playing an ever-increasing part in day-to-day life, including roles in agriculture, security, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief. According to a McKinsey and Company report, commercial drones—both corporate and consumer applications—will have an annual impact of $31 billion to $46 billion on the country’s Gross Domestic Product and create tens of thousands of new jobs.
“This is the first program of its kind in California and there is nothing like it in the entire country where high school girls are spending this much time studying and flying drones and earning their FAA Remote Pilot Certification,” said EIS Executive Director Jim Stone. He went on, “Women are dramatically underrepresented in technology fields like drones, and with programs like this, we are making progress changing that.”
Girls Take Flight was funded by The San Diego Foundation’s Science and Technology grant program as well as a number of other local organizations including Las Patronas, SDG&E, General Atomics, Northup Grumman, the Nordson Foundation, the UTC African American Forum, and the MIT Club of San Diego.