When Tioga Economic Development first proposed holding a drone camp for students, there were some naysayers, but now, with 90 students expected, you could say the idea has really taken off.

Puns aside, Tioga Drone Camp for Kids, which is set for Aug. 11 and 12, has attracted a lot of interest and a lot of praise. It was awarded the 2016 Impact Award for Community Development by the Economic Development Association of North Dakota.

And this year, Kirsten Baesler, the superintendent of the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, will be at the camp.

“We’re excited to get the superintendent’s endorsement for this program,” Dennis Lindahl, Tioga Economic Development director, said.

The free, two-day camp will feature a number of speakers, and Marlo Anderson from Tech Ranch will be the emcee. McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger will talk with the students about using drones for search and rescue operations.

“Finding uses for (drones) is really what’s going to drive demand,” Lindahl said.

The hope is that the two-day taste will get students interested in working with drones and possibly even getting a license to fly them commercially.

Last year, the camp attracted students from five different states.

Part of the idea behind the camp was to give students, especially students in Tioga, an experience that they might not get anywhere else. Tioga Economic Development has also partnered with the local school district to push Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. Tioga is the only district in the state that has its own drone, 3D printer and Creation Crates, Lindahl said.

The camp is open to students in grades five through 12, but it seems like eighth and ninth grades are the sweet spot. This year, the University of Mary signed on as an educational partner, along with the University of North Dakota and Lake Region State College.

Not only will the students get knowledge, and hands-on instruction, they’ll get a drone of their own. Enel Green Power North America, operator of the Lindahl Wind Farm, is sponsoring the drones.

There aren’t just events for the students, though. At 5 p.m. Saturday, there will be “Dancing with the Stars,” and adult dance instruction by coach Alona Tovarnova. That’s followed by a music festival and street dance featuring Breaking Eight and the Lexi Wyman Band.

“We want to include everyone,” Lindahl said.





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