GREEEN BROOK, NJ – A special assembly held Jan. 22 at the Irene E. Feldkirchner (IEF) Elementary School provided students with an up-close-and-personal look at drones and all the positive things they can do.

Students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade gathered in the school’s gymnasium for the assembly, which was sponsored by the Green Brook Education & Athletic Foundation (GBEAF) and conducted by Connor Leszczuck, owner of the Verona-based company Aspekt Aerial. Several district officials were also in attendance,  including Kevin Carroll, superintendent of Green Brook Schools; Armand Lamberti, principal of IEF Elementary School and vice president of GBEAF; and Pavita Howe, GBEAF president.

“Programs like this help educators to inspire children and get them excited about technology and innovation at an early age,” said Howe. “[Leszczuk’s] presentation was an introductory event for the younger students to learn about drones and get excited about technology in general.”

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For Leszczuk, whose company builds custom drones varying in size and configuration for personal and commercial use, the goal of assembly’s such as the one at IEF is to peak students’ interests at a young age while also providing them with information on the positive and safe uses for drones.

“These days, it seems you cannot turn on the television without hearing the ‘D’ word and in most cases it’s something negative about them,” Leszczuck told TAPinto North Plainfield, Green Brook & Watchung. “This program not only gets kids thinking about what they can do, safely, with drones for fun but also how they can potentially work with drones in their career down the line.”

During the assembly, Leszczuck answered questions, reviewed the different materials used to make drones, discussed how cameras and infrared can be attached, described how motors are used to make drones work, and  explained the differences in the drones he brought with him. Leszczuk also reminded the students that any drone flown outside, even small handheld ones used for fun, must be registered and stressed that all drones are prohibited from being flown within a 5-mile radius of an airport.

“The drones aren’t the problem; it’s the people who operate them. That’s why people of all ages need to have keen knowledge on how to use them,” Leszczuk told the students, explaining how, if used properly, drones can be extremely useful and assist in search and rescue, building and/or roof inspections, real estate videos, safety operations, and more. “The options are limitless,” he said.

For most students, the highlight of the assembly was Leszczuck’s indoor drone demonstration. According to fourth grader Jake Hartlieb, it was ‘really cool.’ “My favorite part was when he drove the drones around the gym,” said Jake, who said he was considering asking for a drone one for his birthday, which is coming up on Feb. 16.

Classmate Aria Anthony said, “I liked how they flew through the air and didn't crash into anything. I kind of want one now.”

“The children loved this event. The fact that Connor was able to keep the attention of over 400 elementary school children is a great testament to him and his presentation,” said Howe. “The students were clearly engaged and asked great questions about the use, construction, and rules related to drones. And of course, the ‘wow factor’ was high when Connor demonstrated a drone flight in the school gymnasium.”

Programs such as Friday’s assembly, said Lamberti, help expand upon the district’s mission to peak elementary-age students’ interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) at an early age. “Here at IEF, we want to get out students excited about STEAM at a young age so that they go to the middle school with increased interest and knowledge,” said Lamberti. “Here, we are STEAM driven; our goal is for students to be ‘kid-ventors’ and programs like this whet their appetite.”

Fourth grader Nila Ganesh said the program definitely sparked her interest. “You learned all these things and about the electronics,” said Nila, adding, “I heard that next year, at the middle school, there’s a program and you can sign up for it and build drones. I think that is going to be good for us to learn about this stuff.”

GBEAF recently provided funding for a new pilot program to Green Brook Middle School through which 7th and 8th graders will learn about drones and their applications as well as actually build their own drones in the classroom. Both the kits and award-winning curriculum for the program will be provided by Aspekt Aerial (http://www.aspektaerial.com). Additionally, the Foundation also funded a new program for IEF Elementary School that features a robot the students can not only program to walk and talk but also interact with.

According to Howe, one of the goals of GBEAF is to bring innovative new programs to Green Brook Schools and the middle school program will enable students to learn about drones and get first-hand experience building their own drones in the classroom. “Green Brook Schools are committed to providing opportunities to expose the children to STEAM and show them that there are so many interesting things that they can learn and do themselves,” she said. “As our Superintendent Kevin Carroll likes to say ‘we want students to know that something they are excited about could be their job when they grow up!’”

Howe added. “We believe Green Brook will be a ‘school district to watch’ as a result of the academic programs they are bringing to students to expose them to all aspects of STEAM.”

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