Worawa drone exercise teaches students science and numeracy

Image of Worawa students with an XM2 staff member pictured with a camera mounted on a drone.
Worawa students and XM2 staff member Aaron with a drone carrying a LiDAR camera. Image provided.

Indigenous school students from Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville have learned how drones can assist rangers in remote communities in an exercise led by researchers from the University of Melbourne’s School of Computing and Information Systems (CIS).

Designed by Professor Andrew Turpin, Dr Greg Wadley and Lawrence Molloy, the lesson titled “In the future Indigenous rangers will fly drones,” taught students the basics of drones and how they can be used to observe animals over large distances and identify archaeological targets.

“Indigenous rangers are beginning to use them in the field to identify sites for preservation or study,” Professor Turpin said.

“Our lesson allowed students to use data science and numeracy skills – watching the live drone monitor to spot and count the kangaroos, and then evaluating their target designs.

“The next step will be for students to develop additional content on their smart phones and then create a series of videos demonstrating the use of video and LiDAR drone footage for archaeological investigation.”

Professor Turpin and Dr Wadley from CIS have been visiting the school regularly since the partnership began in 2016.

Part of the school’s STEM curriculum, the program is designed to build the students interest in computer science, IT, software engineering and information systems.

Dr Wadley said students are learning useful skills for their future careers.

“We have conducted a range of different activities over the years, from app design and programming in HTML/JavaScript, to investigating phone and PC hardware, programming robots, and composing algorithms,” Dr Wadley said.

Four times a year Worawa students also visit the University of Melbourne Parkville campus, where they can experience cutting-edge digital technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.

Worawa Principal Dr Lois Peeler said the highlight of the program is the focus on practical skills that students can take back to their community.

“I’ve worked closely with Andrew and Greg to ensure the content reflects skills that are meaningful and engaging," Dr Peeler said.

"Our students come to us from all over Australia so we want to give them a unique learning experience that includes pathways to careers in technology and engineering.”