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Dronepalooza encourages community to engage with technology of the future



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Students Andrew Labban, Joy Bhattacharya and Skyler Parrish work on a drone in 2018 in Bloomington High School North. Labban and Bhattacharya are in a drone club together. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos


Drones are a recent technological advancement being used for everything from filming sweeping landscapes to delivering packages to being a fun toy. 

Rarely would one expect to see them in the hands of teenagers, who can build and program them. 

The Bloomington High School North drone club is in its second year with around 20 members.

“We wanted to give this opportunity to kids who wouldn’t normally have it,” said Aishat Balogun, the faculty sponsor of the club atBHSN. “The school would be the best place to learn how to do it responsibly.” 

Joy Bhattacharya, a junior at BHSN, is in her second year in the club. She said in an email she enjoys learning about the assembly of the machines and construction skills.

“It gives me an outlet away from the stresses of school to have fun, learn building skills and work with my friends,” Bhattacharya said.

The BHSN drone club is at the forefront of Dronepalooza, an event in the Fast Forward Bloomington series.

The Fast Forward Bloomington series gives opportunities to the community to engage with technology of the future, but the upcoming event in September is going to be a little less grounded. 

The series is organized by the City of Bloomington and the Bloomington Office of Innovation. It gives the public access and information about advanced technology, such as driverless cars and virtual reality, so they can learn about it hands on by bringing in the technology for attendees to interact with. 

“There’s some aspects of our lives that are going to change when it comes to technology, and there’s a lot of fear when it comes to that change,” said Devta Kidd, the innovation director for the City of Bloomington.

Dronepalooza will be the third event in the series Sept. 7. The past two events were about autonomous vehicles in 2017 and virtual reality in 2018. 

The event will include activities such as drone obstacle races by the Indy GP racing league, a competitive racing group that flies radio-controlled drones, tours of the BHSN drone club construction area and stations for attendees to learn about the applications of drone technology in careers. People can also be taught how to fly them, both in simulators and using actual drones. 

“The landscape is changing really quickly, and there are a lot of different ways drones are being used in different respects,” Kidd said. 

These uses include art, agriculture and climate science.

Although the plans for the next Fast Forward Bloomington event has not been solidified, Kidd said the planning committee is exploring its options for future events. 

“These events are to start the process of feeling like the future isn’t so scary after all,” Kidd said.

Editor's note: The event has been rescheduled to Sept. 8 due to the IU vs. Eastern Illinois football game Sept. 7. The game means the airspace is restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration that day and attendees would have been unable to fly the drones.



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