RMS science gets $5K

It’s not every day a drone flies down the hallway at Russellville Middle School, but that’s what happened March 23 as students tested the recently-acquired piece of technology purchased with grant money.

RMS teacher Lee Brownell explained the science department has big plans for making use of the drone as a vital component in a plan to plant native species wildflowers.

Brownell said they want to get native species wildflower seeds, fly the drone along a pre-programmed path and spread the seeds. The plan includes going back later and flying the path again, taking video to show how the plants are growing over time. They also hope to collect seeds to use for planting in other areas.

“We’re going to try it at the school to begin with as a way to test the process, and then we’ll work out some other places where we can plant native species,” Brownell added, “including no-mow areas.” He said native species plants are important for the environment, partially as a food source for animals.

“We have the drone, batteries and other parts and accessories to go with it,” said Brownell. “We’re working with Dr. Gary Padgett at UNA to build a seed-spreader to go under our drone.”

Brownell said they science department and students have already figured out how to get the drone to follow GPS waypoints – which identify exact locations – as well as tested its lifting capability.

With the harness purchased, the drone “will easily lift 600 grams.” He said they have also started creating the seed spreader in CAD – the computer-aided design program.

Brownell submitted the grant proposal, securing $5,000, that paid for the drone, parts and related accessories. Out of the 458 applications TVA received, his was one of 238 successful ones.

The official grant check presentation was made March 24 at the school.

“Our economy is now very technology-driven, and our students must be involved in STEM activities so they are prepared for the job market once they graduate from school,” said Rep. Jamie Kiel, who attended the check presentation. “Thankfully we have great educators in our area, like Mr. Brownell, who are willing to go the extra mile so our students can leave school prepared to enter the workforce. I’m thankful he and TVA are providing this opportunity to our students.”

The money is part of $1 million in STEM grants the TVA, in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers Inc., a TVA retiree organization, is providing to help qualifying public schools being served by a local power company receiving its electricity from TVA.

Preference was given to grant applications that explored TVA’s primary areas of focus: environment, energy, economic development and community problem-solving.

“TVA is focused on supporting STEM education that helps today’s students develop the skills needed to work in these careers,” explained Jeannette Mills, TVA executive vice president and chief external relations officer. “Innovation is the key to success, and it’s inspiring to contribute to the next generation’s visionaries.”

Brownell said student enthusiasm for the projects is high.

“Our students are eager to participate in the activities being afforded by these grants,” Brownell said, “and we’re thankful to have this funding to help provide the best we can for our students.”

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