Old Crows event brings robots, drones, other technologies to Houston students

alopez@macon.comMarch 26, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Air Force drone pilots briefed hundreds of Houston County children Wednesday on the capabilities and uses of the Predator and Reaper unmanned aircraft.

The students were guided through the Museum of Aviation’s Century of Flight hangar, which hosted dozens of informational booths from military divisions, colleges and defense industry companies. The purpose of the day’s event, called Novel Experiments with Science and Technology, or N.E.S.T., was to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“These are things kids want to see,” said Michelle Hartman after visiting a robot exhibit. “They can read about them in books, but to be able to see newer technology, especially my children, I think it’s awesome.”

After the robots, Hartman’s two sons flew F-15s in the museum’s simulators. They were part of a group of about a dozen home-schooled children who were guided through the interactive displays. Hartman said many home-schooled children in Houston have a high interest in technology because their fathers have high-tech jobs at Robins Air Force Base.

More than 300 students from Houston County schools participated in the event. Students from Houston County Career Academy and Veterans High School learned about the $800,000 suit used by pilots of the supersonic U-2 spy planes. Fifth-graders from Hilltop Elementary School’s gifted and talented program talked about unmanned vehicles with the part-owner of a private company that develops mobile command centers.

“We use robots every day for emergency responders and for farmers and utility companies, so we are just trying to share with kids how we use technology and why they need to begin to study their math and science to get into our industry,” said David Copenhaver of IPS NexGen.

Copenhaver’s company employs unmanned aircraft, rovers and submarines to assist private companies and public agencies with operations like search and rescues or bridge inspections. He said there is a “tremendous need” for qualified candidates to fill jobs in his field.

The Dixie Crow Chapter of the Old Crows Association organized Wednesday’s event, which was part of this week’s symposium on electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The Old Crows, a nonprofit, works to promote the use of electronic warfare technology in national defense.

“We need to shape our leaders of tomorrow,” said Lisa Fruge-Cirilli, past president of the Dixie Crow Chapter.

In addition to encouraging defense industry vendors to interact with students, the event gave the vendors an opportunity to network near the base, an important customer hub for their products and services, said Fruge-Cirilli, who works for BAE Systems.

The main mission of the event and of the Dixie Crow Chapter, however, is to encourage education, Fruge-Cirilli said. The chapter has a $46,000 annual budget for scholarships, she said.

“Our main objective is trying to enhance and assist people with higher educational opportunities,” Fruge-Cirilli said. “With technology advancing at the rate that it’s advancing, it’s very important that we pay attention to our youth.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 256-9751.

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