Flying into the future

The new Drone Blocks programme will be launched at the school in 2020.

Llandudno Primary School is set to give a new meaning to the term “higher education” when they launch their drone programme next year.

When the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) decided to add coding to the CAPS curriculum in 2020, the school decided to take matters a step further by introducing the Drone Blocks system.

Coding, operating a drone, building a drone and studying the many uses of a drone will all form part of the curriculum, taking computer studies to the next level.

“We always strive to stay ahead of the curve and decided to incorporate coding into our computer classes, which the children attend twice a week. In the current age, technology is everything and coding exists in some form in almost every piece of technology,” said the programme co-ordinator, Carrie van Lingen.

Llandudno Primary School will become the first government primary school in the country to adopt the Drone Blocks system. Coding will be introduced to Grade 4 to 7 pupils at the school.

“By introducing the coding to our pupils at such a young age, we aim to provide them with a skill set which will enable them to create and build their own systems, games and even obtain their drone pilot’s licence and assist in some of the many projects taking off in South Africa with regards to drones,” Ms Van Lingen said.

She said there is a “huge initial monetary outlay” when it comes to purchasing the equipment needed to carry out the programme, which includes the licences for the Drone blocks and Python curriculum. The school has already purchased 10 programmable drones, 10 build a drone, 10 controllers, VR Headsets and a drone racing course.

The school will run weekly computer classes for all grades, where they will teach the basics of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

“We will be interspersing the coding lessons with the computer basic lessons to make sure that our pupils receive all the training they need. We hope to incorporate some of the skills learnt in other school subjects in future,” Ms Van Lingen said, confirming that lessons have to be restructured at the school to fit in with the current lessons.

“South Africa is looking to adopt coding into the curriculum, and currently computers is not an official CAPS subject for primary school,” she added.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the drone programme was not a WCED programme, but it was rather being done by a private company contracted by the school.

However, Ms Hammond said: “The WCED supports initiatives that expose pupils to 21st century skills. Ten years ago, the career as a ‘drone operato’ had not even been heard of, yet today it is something that is becoming increasingly popular and sought out.”

In March this year, the WCED hosted a “Future Focused Education conference”, where the needs for the 4th industrial revolution and the skills required for the 21st century and how pupils can be equipped to be prepared for the work place in this era, were discussed.

Digital literacy, robotics, coding, are all areas in which the WCED are focusing on, Ms Hammond said.

“Learning new technological skills such as how to operate a drone are all useful tools for learners to learn, as well as, remains a fun learning process at the same time,” she added.

Ms Hammond said other schools may be engaged in similar drone specific programmes that are not WCED sourced as extra-curricular activities.