TRADITIONALLY maths and science classrooms are littered with textbooks, graphs and Bunsen burners.

But one school in Colchester is using an altogether different set of equipment to get kids ready for life outside of education.

At Thomas Lord Audley, in Monkwick Avenue, youngsters are using 3D printers and virtual reality headsets to create and then learn to pilot their own drones.

It is all part of a drive to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects - collectively known at STEM.

Science teacher Hannah Bryant took over as the school's STEM co-ordinator in September and has been spearheading a drive to get kids' off their PS4's, Xbox's and iPhones and instead learning about propulsion and gravitational forces.

"When I took on the role I wanted it to be about letting the kids experience something different and getting them excited about our subjects," she said.

"In ten years time, who knows what career paths will be available to kids, but STEM will be a big part of it.

"All of our clubs are geared towards getting them towards looking at careers in these sectors.

"We have a good following now, particularly for our drone club.


"Sometimes we have so much to teach the kids in the curriculum we do not get to showcase things like this. It is nice to be able to show them more of the practical uses of these skills."

As the recent Gatwick Airport fiasco shows, flying drones is not without its concerns and there are strict rules and regulations any flyers have to adhere to.

Fortunately for the youngsters in drone club, they've got an expert flying coach to show them the ropes.


Maths teacher James Williams is an avid follower of the Drone Racing League. He bought his first drone several years ago and says he jumped at the chance to get the kids involved in something a bit different.

With the help of an advanced computer programme and a virtual reality headset his aim is to get the kids flying both as speedily and safely as possible.

He said: "We are doing a lot of simulator work beforehand and then we get them back on the drone.

"They have the headset on and they fly it from a first person point of view.

"I am not a great pilot myself but I will do my best to get the kids flying.

"Eventually the plan is to fly a five inch racing quad drone at competitions against other schools."

In fact, they've actually taken part in their first competition, and it appears drone clubs are becoming more popular across north Essex.


Mr Williams said: "We are one of the first schools in the area to have one I think, but there are community drone clubs all over the place and we have our own national tournaments now."

Whilst he admits first and foremost drone flying is "really good fun", Mr Williams said eventually the kids will be learning lots of skills which will help them if they choose to pursue careers in STEM subjects.

He added: "Once you start fiddling with the settings it becomes more about engineering.

"At the moment the kids have not made them themselves but eventually they will take over from me building and repairing them.

"Hopefully eventually the kids will get to the stage where they are designing their own drones and printing them."


Flying a drone is also deceptively difficult and requires one thing more than anything else - perseverance.

Mr Williams said: "These guys need to learn how the drone works and how to control it.

"You are going to have to put in a lot of training if you want to be good."

And so flying drones teach the kids one of the life's most important lessons - never give up.

Mr Williams said: "Some kids came to drone club once and did not come back again.

"But the ones who still come seem to enjoy it."