Creating a drone academy

We chatted to computing lead Bob Baldie, of Forfar Academy, about his Rocket Fund experience.

  • Money raised: £1,544
  • Tech purchased: 7 drones

What did you think of fundraising with Rocket Fund?

We loved the process! It was smooth, there was almost no admin, it was like “Here’s the drones, let’s get cracking”.

Would you recommend Rocket Fund to other schools and why?

Definitely. It’s almost like free money, isn’t it?! You don’t start with any of your own money, you just generate it.

Why did you want to create a project on Rocket Fund?

We are focused on keeping our curriculum dynamic, to engage with the digital skills agenda and prepare our students for the future. In Scotland, computer games are one of our biggest exports with the likes of Chris Van der Kuyl of Minecraft and Rockstar North; we’re interested in capitalising on these inspirations in the classroom and making digital technology relevant to our students. We needed funding to make sure we were able to offer our students a real experience in learning by having the technology which was fit for purpose. There isn’t much educational funding about, so Rocket Fund seemed like a good idea and presented itself to us at a good time.

Why drones?

We were interested in drones as they are such a visual way of putting coding and digital skills into practice, taking things away from a computer screen and into the real world had a massive impact on our class.

What did you learn from the Rocket Fund experience?

When you go to conferences and see demonstrations of 3D printers/drones etc., teacher’s instinct is to think: “that’s great but we haven’t got any money.”

Rocket Fund shows you there is money out there. If you’re prepared to put a bit of effort in, the sky’s the limit! If there’s a will, there’s a way.

What have your students learned from using Rocket Fund?

I’d say get the kids involved! It’s a wider learning opportunity and calls on lots of citizenship skills, especially communication and collaboration, computational thinking and lots of employability skills. It gets them focused on a project which encompasses so many skills and which has the best outcome and offers them a great sense of achievement. It teaches them that if you want something, you work hard for it.

Any issues with using Rocket Fund?

Nothing. It was straightforward, especially compared to other crowdfunding platforms that I have used previously which were clunky and made me feel like tearing my hair out. I didn’t have any issues with Rocket Fund.

Imagine a world with no Rocket Fund?

Raising funds would have taken twice as long. I would’ve had to raise more through enterprise (selling keyrings, cakes etc) as well as trying to get in touch with different sponsors and benefactors. Rocket Fund gave me a real-time focus, it felt like “we’ve got a chance of doing it – let’s pull out all the stops and do this.”

So what was the overall impact of Rocket Fund for your students?

Before the project, we only had three drones. Now we have 10, enough for the whole class.

It enabled us to scale up our activities – students are now working in pairs on the drones instead of sharing one between seven. Making this technology available in state schools starts to close the attainment gap for those from lower-income families and offers students experiences they would otherwise not have. Drones are a rich man’s toy and less than 50% of our students would be able to afford them at home.

What would you say to others who were interested?

It’s a no-brainer! Free money! You can realise what you want to do when money isn’t an obstacle. No more “I can’t do that because I’ve got no money”.

To take a closer look at this project and others visit our Rocket Fund project pages.