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Safety Third Racing Academy - FPV Racing Afterschool Program in NJ

#1
Hi everyone!

Wanted to share something our team in NJ - Safety Third Racing - has been working on for the past few months. Would love to hear your questions, feedback, suggestions.

Our team is very tech-oriented, "racing experts", and we could really use input from educators, administrators.
We really love all of Flite Test's high quality build/test/play videos, and the beginner-friendly approach.

Here's the program:

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Safety Third Racing Academy
Become an S3 Cadet! You will build and customize your very own racing drone,
improve your flying skills by training with your school team, and compete head-to-head
with other schools in blazing fast First Person View (FPV) races all across New
Jersey! Boost your STEM skills and get involved with this exciting new sport that will
also look great on your college application!

Who can participate?
Safety Third Racing, one of the East Coast’s largest and most experienced drone
racing teams, is looking for high schools and high school students who want a new
way to learn, build, train and compete in FPV racing. No experience necessary — we
have you covered!
If you’re a school teacher, administrator, or organizer, contact us to learn more about
starting an S3 Racing Academy at your school! If you’re a high school student or
parent, let your teachers know you want to join S3 Racing Academy!

How much does it cost?
For cadets, registration is free! Until the full program rolls out during Fall 2016, you
can expect small participation fees for events and workshops.
For schools, we are working on a several solvent program models that won’t dip into
your budget, and cover the costs of equipment. S3 Racing Academy partners with
local vendors to provide standard kits and materials at discounted prices.

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We've had more than a few great discussions with contacts at AMA and MultiGP, and it seems like our goal of being FPV Racing focused is a little different than other programs out there.

Do we have kits?
Short answer, yes! We've pulled the collective knowledge of our team's best builders to put together three complete FPV Racer kit options with tried-and-true stuff. It was a balancing act between Cost, Availability of parts, Difficulty of build, Competitiveness of build, Flexibility of build. In the end, we chose a ZMR250 platform, added all of our other favorite components and put them in a box, which we are testing with several schools right now!

Current Status
Currently, we're working with 3 NJ schools who are already building our kits! We're talking to several other schools, and also to a few NJ Educators Associations to see what they're looking for in a program like this.

We've also had a few vendors sponsor equipment for the program, and it seems like this might help with the numbers.

How much does it Cost?
This is by far the most common question we've run into, from schools, parents, everyone!
We have a modular program / pricing structure at the moment, more details to follow.

What we're looking for
- input from educators about curriculum tie-ins
- input from educators / administrators about structuring as an after-school program vs. in-the-classroom
- input from administrators about how programs are funded
- input from educator associations about possible funding / sponsorship
- input from vendors about how they might make a sustainable business selling components for an edu program
- input from media specialists (Flite Test!) about structuring a build video series... we're total hacks :p

Okay I know that's a lot of info, thank you for taking the time to read through it all!
 
#2
Update!

Went down to the College of New Jersey in Trenton to check out the NJTEEA (New Jersey Technology and Engineering Educators Association) during their "un-conference." What an awesome group of educators! Had a chance to present our a little info about FPV Racing, our racing team and our Safety Third Racing Academy to a group of 12-15 people, which lead to more than an hour of discussion!

The great thing is that everyone in the room is already super on-board with "drones" as a catalyst for learning!

The discussion that followed our brief presentation covered a bunch of good questions/topics:
- how can we make flying things safe enough to present to administrators?
- what ways can kids iterate and innovate on their drone platform?
- can a racing drone be used for any/all of the other things students want to use drones for? (photography, autonomy? picking things up and dropping things off?)
- how can this work indoors?
- how does insurance work?
- can drones be adapted for or included in task-based competitions instead of / in addition to racing? (like First Robotics, etc)
- we've been imagining the build/fly program as a high-school thing; which parts and how can it be adapted for younger kids?
- a unit for an FPV racer may be similar to a CO-2 car unit

Of course there were also questions about which specific components to purchase, required tools etc. These questions we already receive during our S3 Racing events, and have lots of good answers!

Take-aways:
- teachers/schools would really like to know the basic logistics behind what it will take to get FPV Racing into their schools
- structuring as an after-school program definitely makes sense for the immediate future, will help with more robust in-classroom curriculum dev and funding options
- an indoor FPV racing, if done safely, would be an excellent option!

Action items:
- put together a fact sheet or checklist for our website that answers "how to get drone racing started at your school"
- work with a few enthusiastic tech-ed teachers to dive deeper into the types of classwork / activities they'd like to be able to do
- invite interested teachers to one of our upcoming races and/or demos
- send S3RA racing kits to interested teachers


Oh, and here's a fun-fact: There is a huge demand for Tech-Ed teachers right now — there are only 13 students in the senior Tech-Ed graduating class at TCNJ, and most of the recent grads had multiple job-offers right out of school!

Okay, that's all for now.
 
Last edited:
#5
Ok, the title made me think of Mike Rowe as he has used the phrase "Safety Third" for quite some time.
Perfect.

Whenever I am inevitably asked "if safety is third, then what's first and second?" my answer has always been, "Safety and Safety." And if this means Mike Rowe and I are on the same page, then great!
 

Flat4

Senior Member
#6
Really cool what you guys are doing. If you ever need an extra set of experienced hands, let me know.

I need to make it out to one of your meet-ups one of these days. Been a member of the group for awhile, the dates just keep conflicting with work.
 
#7
HEY! New here! NEW TO RC! Have a lot to ask!! Im at school right now and I just found this forum and more importantly this thread! I am so happy I did as well!

I am very interesting in designing an entire syllabus at school for my 8th graders that is centered around DRONE SCHOOL!

I am an IT teacher BTW. I live and work way out in ANGUILLA, BWI. If you find us on a map, you have discovered paradise!!!

I have to run. I just wanted to subscribe to this thread and share some of my excitement. My kids are really bored with their IT curriculum, I showed them some videos of FPV and they went nuts, I think this would be a great way to educate my KIDS!

I have already started writing up a scheme. I will share it a little later today!!!!!!! OOOOOOOO MAN IM GLAD I FOUND YOU GUYS!! GREAT VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE BTW. SOME OF THE BEST I HAVE SEEN!!
 
#8
HEY! New here! NEW TO RC! Have a lot to ask!! Im at school right now and I just found this forum and more importantly this thread! I am so happy I did as well!

I am very interesting in designing an entire syllabus at school for my 8th graders that is centered around DRONE SCHOOL!

I am an IT teacher BTW. I live and work way out in ANGUILLA, BWI. If you find us on a map, you have discovered paradise!!!

I have to run. I just wanted to subscribe to this thread and share some of my excitement. My kids are really bored with their IT curriculum, I showed them some videos of FPV and they went nuts, I think this would be a great way to educate my KIDS!

I have already started writing up a scheme. I will share it a little later today!!!!!!! OOOOOOOO MAN IM GLAD I FOUND YOU GUYS!! GREAT VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE BTW. SOME OF THE BEST I HAVE SEEN!!

Glad you found our thread as well!
Anguilla definitely seems like paradise, lol :p

Can't wait to see your progress on your own syllabus centered on Drone School!


Updates for S3RA coming soon
 
#9
Update!

Another pilot from Safety Third Racing (he goes by "Race") and I built and evaluated an Emax Nighthawk 200 ARF kit (generously sent to us by the guys at Emax). Our goal: to see how feasible this particular ARF FPV kit would be for Safety Third Racing Academy.

Race did an awesome job going through his steps (and thought process behind) to improve the kit and bring it up to par with other competitive FPV racing quads.

Definitely check out the full build and review here.

To quote the TL/DR summary:

-------------------------------------------

Overall I would give this kit a 3/5 (three out of five). LOS and non FPV mode it flys well and has adequite power and handling. FPV mode is crippled by a cheap camera and no filtering. Here’s a line by line of the resulting final score:

* 4/5 packaging – Each component was properly labeled and safely packaged.

* 2/5 directions – Instructions were provided but missed or skipped several important steps as well as assuming a fairly high level of building experience to start.

* 5/5 frame – A very solid frame, easy to break down and takes crashes well.

* 3/5 powertrain – Motors are nice, PDB is acceptable, ESCs will fly it but have no oneshot125 or a way to reprogram them, severly limiting the quality motors.

* 3/5 electronics – Flight controller accepted and ran cleanflight. Had no gyro related or signal issues. Two points removed because my skyline + osd combo had the osd portion stop working in the first few hours.

* 1/5 FPV – Camera quality is poor to unflyable in all but the most ideal of lighting conditions. VTX is 600mw, which is rarely if ever permitted in a formal race environment. No power filter for video. Only positive is vtx has a nice mounting system.

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It seems high-quality "how-to", and maybe more importantly "why" build instructions are KEY for anyone completely new to building an FPV racer. For us, it feels a bit like validation as we progress with our own set of build media for the S3 kit we put together.

Hoping to reach back out to the Emax crew with out suggestions, see how we might work together to make the right kit/support package for S3RA!
 

JimCR120

Site Moderator
#10
In the Navy we pushed safety 2nd.

Think about it. If safety was our first priority then there would be a lot that would not get done. Lots of things would never happen. If safety was really first then why would we ever risk anything? Whenever we take a risk, safety is not first.
 
#11
Update!

We've been making some strides in our curriculum concept, materials selection and content creation. Many thanks are due to our educational partners at several NJ schools!

Before we let the cat out of the bag on our curriculum concept, we thought we would open up our Co-Creation effort to the educator community at-large — if you are an educator and have any interest or opinion regarding an aero-robotics school program like Safety Third Racing Academy, we want to hear from you!

First, check out our preliminary S3RA Fact Sheet.
- modular program
- cost estimations based on tried-and-true components team S3 loves
- quad options on 3rd page focus on "varsity" level racing
- please do not distribute without permission :p

Then, if you are an educator and feel inspired to become a co-creator, take our online survey!

Even if you're not an educator, or you don't have time for the survey, post your thoughts here!!

Side note, Safety Third had a lot of fun running an indoor FPV demo during Drone Day in Paterson, NJ. Local news even picked it up!
 
#12
Update!!

The 2016/2017 school year is fast-approaching, and we've started publishing our S3RA Curriculum to SafetyThirdRacing.com/academy!

Stay tuned in the coming week or so for lots more posts:
- Weekly Missions for S3RA Chapters
- Additional Program details, curriculum schedule
- School Chapter features

You'll notice we've decided to use a more open-source content format, pulling from our team's favorite resources (including Flite Test!) to build weekly mission content.

We're still working with a few great teachers to refine our missions and get ready for some quarterly events... more to come!
 
#13
Update!

Safety Third Racing Academy will be at NYC Maker Faire — Oct. 1 and 2!

- Check out the quads used in the S3RA
- Check out S3RA chapters' work!
- Watch a few of the S3RA students fly their quads on the ASL/Safety Third Drone Racing Course!
- Try out an FPV racing sim
- Get a nano drone demo, and even try you skills flying one!
- Chat with the S3RA organizers and get the ball rolling on your S3RA Chapter!

If you've never been to a Maker Faire before, you HAVE to check it out!

Loads of info on the Maker Faire NYC website!

And if you haven't already, check out the Safety Third Racing Academy here.
 

PsyBorg

Fly Angry
Mentor
#14
Just took a peak at the first 3 weeks projects. So far its a nice lead in to the hobby.

Does the class use any type of simulators at all? Maybe tie some assignments or an entire section to sims. Some kids are naturally nimble and have good hand eye coordination others not so much. I kind of scratched my head when I saw you guys were thinking or are using a zmr 250 set up for them to fly. Hopefully there is something in between as that is a lot of fast moving spinning vegomatic of death to put in someone's hand that didn't keep up with the class and or assignments.

Anyway other then that I wish we had more teachers and educators willing to let us get into stuff like this. The closest I had was an elective model flight and rocketry class that was very basic and not well funded to really get a nominal perspective on the hobby. Still I am thankful I had teachers like Mr Caville who were willing to put the time into things like that to open minds and let the creative dream type thinking develop. Good to see more people like him in what you guys are doing. Great work guys.
 
#15
Thanks for your post, Psyborg. Sorry for the delayed response.

I appreciate your thinking on incorporating sims into the curriculum. Several of the pilots on our community racing team, and several of the students in S3RA Chapters are already doing this on their own. It's a great idea to find ways to tie sims into the weekly missions. Certainly an excellent way to build up some muscle memory before flying (crashing) 250-sized racers! Liftoff seems to work well with the Spektrum transmitters our chapters use, hope the DRL sim supports them in an upcoming update #fingerscrossed.

More than a few teachers/parents/administrators/venue-directors have also balked at the idea of allowing teens to fly "full-sized" quadcopters... something about spinning blades and high speeds must evoke some nightmare-ish visions. By focusing the first 10 weekly missions on nano-sized quads, we're helping the S3RA cadets build flying skills and reflexes - not to mention strategies for diagnosing and fixing - so that when they make the move to a 250-size quad, they'll be doing so in a safe and responsible manner.

We know there are TONS of teachers and students who see the inherent value in quadcopter racing etc., and we're trying to find ways to make its value known to the broader educational community so we can get more kids involved.

Hopefully, by keeping our S3RA curriculum under Creative Commons and by encouraging content co-creation from our S3RA chapters, any group or individual with an internet connection can benefit by starting their own group! Flite Test sets a great example along these lines, with so much excellent, free content for our hobby :p
 

PsyBorg

Fly Angry
Mentor
#17
Make sure you understand that Lift off and DRL are more cartoony sims for learning to fly. It takes work to dial in a quad in DRL to make it feel like a real quad. That will develop bad habits if time is not taken to set them up better. Personally I think FPV Freerider still has the best most realistic physics then any of the other sims by far not to mention the more realistic maps to fly in. Hotprops physics is not too bad either. That is my second go to for the different maps.

Here are examples of both Free rider and Hotprops.

Freerider. All the settings I use are in the description. Just cut the throttle setting down to like 40 and turn on expo (defaulted) and set camera tilt around 20 or so to start them off. Wide field of view makes you seem to go faster. All these people post I am going so fast but their throttle settings are like 35 - 50 range and camera tilt is 20 -25 degrees.


This is hotptops. Again all the settings are in the description. These are more like what real quads feel like but