As high school science assignments go, this one was way up there: Design a flying drone that can withstand the harsh conditions of Mars.
That was the task at hand for the 2021 Raytheon Technologies Quadcopter Challenge. More than 30 schools and air cadet teams across England, Scotland and Wales, inspired by the successful use of a drone in NASA’s Ingenuity mission, competed in the contest, part of Raytheon Technologies’ efforts to promote STEM education.
The winning team, dubbed “Stop Droning On,” represented Cardinal Langley RC High School in Greater Manchester. The team triumphed at the virtually held national final after completing a series of challenging tasks and impressing expert judges on their engineering feats and innovative ideas for space exploration.
“The students have shown exceptional effort, resilience and dedication to work together to achieve so much in a short space of time,” said James Hogg, a Cardinal Langley RC High School teacher. “I'm so proud of them, and I hope that they continue to show this dedication to their studies in the future.”
An expert panel of judges credited the team for their “knowledge, teamwork and innovation for going beyond the scope of the challenge to consider problems and solutions to other related issues such as other equipment the quadcopter will need.”
The annual Quadcopter Challenge competition first began in 2015 and continues to grow. More than 1,000 young people have participated, and the programme – originally a flagship effort of Raytheon UK – now has the involvement and support of Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney, two of the four businesses comprising Raytheon Technologies.
This year’s judges included Charlene Hunter, founder of Coding Black Females. She said it’s important to show students the principles of STEM apply outside the traditional classroom.
“When I was 10, I wrote my first line of code. I was lucky enough to be exposed to technology from a young age; however, for many young people, a career in STEM isn’t something they consider as an option for themselves,” she said.
The challenge culminated in a day of competition where young people from all over the country presented their quadcopters and responded to tasks set for them by some of the UK’s leading STEM experts.
“After a challenging period for many students, we wanted to excite and re-engage young people in learning by giving them the opportunity to test and apply their skills to activities outside of their usual curriculum,” said Alex Rose-Parfitt, Raytheon UK Engineering director. “As we enter a new era of space exploration, we hope this year’s theme of Mission to Mars will encourage the next generation of leaders and innovators to pursue careers in STEM.”
Raytheon UK is a leading STEM advocate. Alongside the Quadcopter Challenge, it runs its own global Cyber Academy workshops for university students and is the principal sponsor of the “Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security” exhibition in Manchester. The “Top Secret” display supports Raytheon UK’s long-standing commitment to raising awareness of STEM subjects amongst students across the UK.