On the 5th-6th of November 2021, I had the opportunity to run a drones workshop for girls between the ages of 13-16. The overall camp was organised by High5Girls and hosted at Denmark’s Technical University (DTU). The aim of the camp was to give girls a chance at seeing how drones work and how they can be integrated into our society.
The camp started on the 5th November at 15:00, where the girls were welcomed at the Autonomous Systems Test Arena (ASTA) located at DTU. ASTA is the world’s largest indoor infrastructure for testing mobile robot technology on land, in air, and on/under water. The girls were then introduced to each other and divided into 3 groups. After the general introduction, the girls were given an introduction to the drones themselves, which was done by me, Neha. I wanted the girls to really understand not only how the drones can be coded to fly, but also how they are built. To show girls how the hardware works, I disassembled the drones and gave girls the opportunity to assemble them. This allowed me to give them a class about how the different components work together and allow the drones to fulfil their given tasks.
After assembling the drones, the girls were introduced to the area where the drones were to be flown, which is a cage with motion sensors in each corner. Using the motions sensors, the drones are able to figure out where in space they are. The code to be used with the drones was pre-written in MATLAB and the model was made in Simulink, so in terms of coding the girls were allowed to code in the co-ordinates. As this was the first day, the girls were given the chance to free play and just get comfortable with flying the drones.
After flying for a while at the end of the day, the girls got to meet Alexandra who works with drones on an everyday basis. Alexandra is currently working as a researcher at DTU, and she has been working on a drone, which can be used to provide help faster to the people who fall off ships. It is very difficult to detect where exactly the person has fallen and how far they have drifted after falling in the sea. But with the use of the drone, which operates using thermal detection, it is easier to detect where exactly the human is and it sends the message to the rescue team so they can get to the place of incident faster. After Alexandra, the girls got to meet a maritime engineer, Martina. Martina currently also works at DTU. Martina works within the area of aerodynamics, green shipping, and digitalisation. She is working on a project on how we can change the design of ships, so they are more environmentally friendly. She has the goal of trying to eradicate the number of harmful pollutants that are put out in the environment by ships, for this she has been working on how sailing techniques that can be utilised in large-scale ships, so the ships are able to use wind as a tool for energy instead of fuel. This leads to less use of fuel, which then also leads to less pollutants being sent out in the atmosphere.
The second day started at 9:30, and as soon as the day started, I wanted to give girls specific tasks with the drones, so they could be challenged and practice what they learnt on the first day. For the first task, each group was assigned a colour. Three pieces of paper with their assigned colour were randomly laid in the cage at different coordinates. The aim of this exercise was for the girls to fly their drone to different co-ordinates and figure out how they can incorporate more positions in the code. On the first day, the girls were allowed to only fly to 3 positions, but on the 2nd day they were given the chance to fly/land the drone on various positions. After successfully completing the first task, it was time for the second challenge. The cage was divided in 2 using a separator with some openings. The girls were given the task to fly their drone through the openings, which were at different heights. This was a challenge for the girls, as now they had to consider all the 3 co-ordinates (x, y, and z - axis), whereas before the focus was mainly on the x and y -axis.
After lunch, I was invited to give a presentation about myself and showcase the work that I have been doing as an electrical engineering student. The aim of my presentation was to show the girls all the opportunities that exist in the world of electrical engineering. I wanted to make sure that the girls got the message that being an engineer is not boring, but instead it is all about being creative and innovative, and the options are endless.
After my presentation, the girls were given the chance to think more than just the technical bits of the drones, but also understand where and what can drones actually be used for. The girls were asked to think like entrepreneurs and brainstorm a start-up idea, and then later pitch it in front of others. It was so great to see how creative the girls got and came up with many brilliant ideas ranging from drones which can be used for surveillance to drones which can be used to clean windows in high-rise buildings. Then the girls were asked to showcase their idea by coding their drones, which gave them the chance to being their idea to life.
For me, it was an absolute honour to be a part of such an event. I am glad that I was able to spark an interest in girls about drones, and engineering. The best part of the entire event was definitely seeing the girls being all excited about drones, and them asking questions regarding what can be done in the future. When the camp started, I could tell that the girls were a bit anxious about drones and how they would work, but at the end seeing how easily they were able to handle the challenges thrown at the made me very proud. I would also like to thank everyone involved in the camp. A special thanks to High5Girls for taking the initiative for the camp. Also, kudos to all the parents who dropped off their girls and saw the importance of introducing girls to STEM. It is not enough to only wish for equality within STEM, but actions are needed, and it warms my heart that actions are being taken!