Posted 8/09/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
They came from all over the state of North Dakota and even from beyond.
The Economic Development Corporation’s primary goal of offering a free Drone Camp this past weekend was to draw people from other places to Tioga, where they would stay in hotels, shop in businesses, and see just how much the city has to offer.
By that measurement, the event was a resounding success.
From all around
Economic Development Coordinator Dennis Lindahl asked the more than 70 kids present for a show of hands to indicate where they were from.
About half the hands went up for Tioga. But there was one from Epping. About 10 kids were from Stanley. Another was from Palermo. There were a few Williston kids, and a couple from Rugby.
Then there were those from Bismarck, Grand Forks, and even a couple from South Dakota.
“It’s hard to just sit back here and watch the kids have all the fun,” said Kirk Bachmeir, who came up from Bismarck with his wife and son, and sat on the bleachers as the kids fiddled with the free drones they were provided moments before they finally got to fly them.
Melodie Bachmeir said they saw an article in the Bismarck Tribune and thought it looked interesting. They were glad they came, saying Lindahl was really good with the kids.
As measured by the fun kids seemed to be having, the event was also a success.
Duncan Loney of Tioga was eager to get his drone flying Sunday as he played around with the buttons on the controller.
“I’m going to fly it slow at first, and then I’m going to floor it,” he said.
Jess Schuler came up with her daughter Teralynn, 14, and her son Sheldon, 12. She said since the event was free, they decided to just stay at a hotel in town.
“My son loves this stuff. My daughter had a blast,” she said.
She works with the 4-H Club in Stanley and said events like the Drone Camp are so important to kids in the area.
“I’m all for getting kids excited and involved and loving these things,” she said.
Daryl Dauwen came from Watford City with his 12-year-old son Alexander. Dauwen is a troop leader in the local Boy Scouts. They wanted to bring the whole troop, but most are off with their families on vacation at this time, so his son and another scout came up for the event on their own.
Learning to fly
When the kids finally got to launch their drones, it was a bit like being in a cage with a few dozen parakeets.
The drones zipped across the floor, a few of them slapped against the high ceilings of the Neset hangar at the Tioga Municipal Airport, where the event was held. One had to duck a few times as a drone sailed overhead.
“He’s going to give himself a haircut,” said Schuler.
There were no injuries and the organizers strictly enforced the use of safety glasses.
The drones were very durable and kept going even after repeated hard landings.
Once the kids had some practice, there was a noticeable improvement in the hovering techniques and the drones started to hang in the air. A few were able to get them to fly through hoops.
“I didn’t think I’d be good at it, but I’m surprisingly good for a first time,” Sheldon Schuler said as his drone hovered right in front of him.
“I am most definitely going to do it next year,” he added.
Towards the end of the event, once the kids had the hang of flying their drones, they all sat in a circle and flew them together. It was about 69 drones flying at once inside the hanger.
“It’s like a world record or something,” Lindahl said.
The event had a number of sponsors, including Enel Green Energy, the company building a wind farm north of Tioga. They use drones a lot in examining the towering turbines, and they sent a few representatives out to help instruct the kids.
Rob Stupar, regulatory affairs associate, was among the assistants.
“It’s good to see so many kids having this great experience,” he said.
Local drone enthusiast Dorn Martinson brought his kids, Dovelynn and Noel, out to the event.
“This is incredible. It’s just so well organized,” Martinson said.
When asked if she learned anything new at the event, Dovelynn answered with a flat “Nope,” which is not surprising for a girl who regularly flies high-tech drones with her father. But she said she still had a lot of fun at the event.
Chris Norgaard, president of the EDC, said the kids were very well behaved, even through Saturday’s lectures, which could get a bit dry at times.
“I think with 76 kids here, it’s turned out very well. Every kid I asked said they had a blast,” Norgaard said.