Lesson 1: Inspiration

OVERVIEW


At DroneBlocks we love when the worlds of technology, engineering, and art converge! It is impossible to miss how companies such as Intel have brought innovation and creativity to the skies to exhibit this integration through dancing drones.

Image: Intel 100 Light Show

In this set of lessons, students will first be guided through researching ways groups around the world are programming drones to dance. After being inspired in this lesson, students will discover synchronization, incorporating music, choreography, and team collaboration to design their own dance missions while practicing safety and troubleshooting along the way.

In no time, you’ll be dancing with drones, but not just yet. Always review safety before beginning this, and any future lessons. Students should master the concept of choreographing their missions and learning what to expect when flying multiple drones at the same time before standing in close proximity to the drones. Being too close to drones could cause bodily harm to fingers or anything that could become tangled in the propellers.  Ensure students practice caution.


ORGANIZATION


Most lessons in this course will take approximately 1-2 hours to complete. However, this initial lesson could take a few hours to complete, depending on class variables (the number of students you have, their knowledge of DroneBlocks, the detail of their research, and how smoothly the test flight runs.

Determine the best way to divide your students into groups. Take into consideration:

  • how many devices you have running the latest version of DroneBlocks, 
  • the number of Tellos, and Tello batteries in which you have access,
  • whether your students work better in pairs, or small groups and, 
  • whether student groups should have assigned team leaders or will be allowed to rotate roles (such as "Pilot in Command," "Mission Designer," and "Visual Observer”).

Depending on the students and number of Tellos in which you have access, provide activity guidelines for your students. A few examples are described here:

Small Group Example: If you have a small group of students and many Tellos (and batteries), have students work in pairs, each with a Tello:

  • 2 Students paired with 1 Tello. Pairs can then be placed with two or more other groups to collaborate and dance together.

Large Group Example: If you have a full class of students and enough Tellos for small groups, have small groups pair together, each with a Tello:

  • 4-6 students in a group with 1 Tello. Groups can then be placed with another group to collaborate and dance together.
  • Note: Depending on the level of your students, you may choose to provide a sample mission for them to program and practice for synchronization.

Limited Number of Tellos?  If you have a full class and only 2 Tellos, use this activity as a rotating center. Allow students to work on this activity as time permits, rotating to different groups throughout your class until all students have had an opportunity to progress through each lesson. Once you have organized student groups and work spaces, it is time to gather ideas through research!

RESEARCH


Get inspired, then determine guidelines that best fit your timeframe and expertise. Drones can be programmed to fly synchronously using a variety of methods including infrared cameras and Python programming. This lesson utilizes the DroneBlocks app to program synchronized flight. Before we begin programming, we need to discover additional ways to accomplish this task through some background research.

Educator Autonomy: Depending on the maturity of your students, invite them to conduct research on their own about drones in flight! If your students need a starting point, begin with these links to guide you:

Sky-Dancing Drones at Travis Air Force Base

EHang Egret’s Drones Dancing Over Xi’an for Guinness World Records

Coordinated Drones in Flocks at USC

Amazing Drone Show - Technology Perfection

Robot Drones Play James Bond Theme at University of Pennsylvania

Drones Dancing with the Rockettes

 

COLLABORATION


Once students have been inspired and have ideas of how they would like to choreograph their missions, have each group share their findings. While it is understandable that some groups may be apprehensive about sharing their brilliant ideas, remind them that collaboration, trialing, and gaining feedback are extremely important processes to creating the best design and plan.

Encourage students to be creative in presenting their research. 

Students could write an article, a blog post, or present their findings from a technical aspect. Regardless, they should share what they were excited to discover about "drone dances" and use descriptive language to build the interest of the group.

 *Expert Tip: Need a grade? Have students present in a way that addresses a variety of grading standards! Speaking, writing, and language arts standards all tie into this activity.

CODING & LAUNCHING A TEST MISSION


Since you have already completed the Introduction To Tello Drone Programming lessons, you should be familiar with DroneBlocks and the capabilities of basic command blocks. At this time, it is necessary to complete a connectivity check with your groups and test flying multiple Tellos at once. Flying multiple Tellos simultaneously allows pilots to check for interference within your location. We recommend beginning with a simple program such as this:

Once your blocks are in place and you are ready to execute the mission, follow these steps. (Note: These steps apply to any missions you run with DroneBlocks and Tello. For a refresher, these steps can be found in the Overview Lesson.) Here is the information to review if needed:

  • Power on Tello and place on a flat, open-area surface (indoors)
  • Double tap your home button and go to Settings > Wifi
  • Tap on the Tello, which will create a hotspot that will look similar to: Tello-XXXXXX
  • Double tap your home button and return to DroneBlocks
  • Click "Connect To Tello"
  • Now that you are ready to execute your mission click the hamburger icon (the blue icon with three lines.)
  • Click "Launch Mission."

Watch DroneBlocks and Tello execute your test mission. Gather data on any problems that arise and troubleshoot before beginning a more complicated mission. Take note as to whether each Tello is able to launch the mission at the same time or whether there seems to be any interference. Using your observations, designated the best location and interference-free area to fly. Test a few additional commands, then begin the next lesson to get started!

 

CONCLUSION


We hope you are inspired and excited to begin designing your own "drone dance!" The following lessons encourage learning about synchronizing to music, choreography, and a few other tips to help you create some incredible dances.

If you have any questions or want to share any ideas with our community please feel free to join our Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/droneblocks