DroneBlocks Easter Egg Drop

Spring has arrived so at DroneBlocks, we decided to share a fun activity to try with your Tello drone. Read on for some spring inspiration...

Here in Texas, students have finished the first round of state testing and teachers are searching for ideas to keep students engaged, but still learning. In our search for awesome Easter activities, we came across a brilliant 3D print design on Thingiverse created by Mr. Will Adams, username: B1inkfish. As you can see from the screenshot shown, he flew his Tello with a real egg on top! So cool!!!! However, once we saw this, all we wanted to know is…

Can we program Tello to flip and drop this egg???  🤔

Right away we 3D printed the design with a MakerBot. It was a fairly quick build and snapped on top of Tello perfectly! (Note: It is a very nice fit but be cautious when removing the Egg Flopper because the small prongs can easily break off.) Next, we opened the DroneBlocks app and programmed Tello to fly with a plastic egg in the Egg Flopper full of candies!  It took off, flew up, flipped forward, and the candies flew all over the place! It was impressive, hilarious and incredible!

Our teacher brain immediately went to work thinking of how this could be used in the classroom. We could record data and analyze to see if different Tellos perform the same way when “flopping” the egg. We could test to determine if the Tello has less power after a few trial runs with the battery power at a lower level. We could even measure the area of the room, placing markers to hit with the flopping eggs. Talk about an exciting lesson!

...However, there was something we still needed to test: dropping a real egg.

Remember, in the Thingiverse photo B1inkfish has his Tello in the air, holding an egg. It has to work, right?

We had a full Saturday of rain and wind storms and were not about to mess with a raw egg indoors so Sunday was the day. We programmed a simple DroneBlocks mission…

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We waited for the magic to happen and Tello took off...

…And it flew, but then promptly landed.

So we tried again and it promptly landed.

Then we tried launching from our hand to help with the lift!

...And it promptly landed.

After quite a few tries and full batteries, we came to a conclusion: Yes, Tello can fly a real, raw egg in the Egg Flopper. Can it flip while holding the egg? No, not with our tests. We did get to see the egg finally break but it was because of a tumble landing and it was still cool!

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Can Tello Flip and Drop An Egg?

It certainly can fly holding an egg with a fully-powered battery, but does not have enough power to flip holding a real egg.

We went back to dropping the plastic egg which worked every time!

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Watch the video below, which showcases our attempts:

Try this activity yourself or with your children this week. We cannot wait to see what data you are able to gather. While we’re a little disappointed Tello was not able to flip while holding an egg, the idea is excellent and it worked great with lighter plastic egg. A few ideas we hope you will try:

1. Fly and flip Tello holding a Cascaróne and see if you are able to release the confetti inside!

2. Fill plastic eggs with jelly beans and have teams of students measure the distance, and use DroneBlocks to program Tello to fly and flip the egg into a bucket. The team with the most eggs or candies in their bucket wins the challenge!

3. Analyze data! Collect information about how Tello performs with different payloads. Determine if battery power percentage affects the performance. We tried testing outdoors but the slight wind could have impacted Tello’s ability to flip while holding an egg. Test out some of these ideas and share your results!

Remember, it is not recommended to fly Tello outdoors because of its light weight. There is very little wind today and Tello was slightly weighted with its load so we felt comfortable performing short, contained flights outdoors. Please also remember never to fly above your head and practice safety when attaching any sort payload to a drone. Fly safe and share your photos and results with us @DroneBlocks (Twitter | Instagram). We cannot wait to see what you discover!


DroneBlocks Medical Mission Challenge at TEDxYouth Austin

We were honored to be invited to TEDxYouth Austin this past weekend. Thanks to Kush Desai and the youth leaders of TEDxYouth Austin for arranging the event and asking DroneBlocks to be a part of the xLabs experience.

I wanted to take a few minutes and share the interactive session we planned for the students. We setup a DroneBlocks challenge that we called the "Medical Mission". The objective was for students to deliver medication via drone to an elderly lady across the river. You can read more about the challenge here. Feel free to use this with your students and modify as necessary, and remember that our introductory course that teaches programming with drones is available for free here.

The goals of the challenge were:

- Safely attach medication to the DJI Phantom 4
- Estimate distance between takeoff and landing pads
- Program a DroneBlocks mission to safely fly from takeoff to landing pad
- Take a photo of the surrounding area before landing

Here is what the box of supplies looked like. Marisa Vickery put this box of supplies together and it was amazing to see all the different ways the medication was mounted to the Phantom 4.

DroneBlocks Medication and Supplies Box

DroneBlocks Medication and Supplies Box

In the box there was a pill bottle with jelly beans and the DroneBlocks logo on it. This is the medication we will be delivering. You can get creative and print labels with your school or club logo and put them on the medication bottle. Students love thinking outside the box. Marisa also added tape, ziploc bags, rubber bands, a suction cup, clothes pin, and several other items that you can see in the photo.

As part of the mission the students have to estimate the distance from the takeoff and landing pads. It was neat to see all the different methods students used to estimate the flight distance.

Students estimate distance between takeoff and landing pads

Students estimate distance between takeoff and landing pads

As a side note, Marisa and her son created these incredible DroneBlocks helipads that we used during the challenge.

DroneBlocks takeoff pad

DroneBlocks takeoff pad

DroneBlocks landing pad

DroneBlocks landing pad

These mats can be found at your local Home Depot for about $15. Marisa went the extra mile and used her decal printer to put the DroneBlocks logo on the mat. If you have a decal printer then consider getting two of these mats and putting your school or club logo on them. It will look amazing!

The students were given 15 minutes to figure out how to mount the medication to the Phantom 4 as well as program their DroneBlocks mission. Here are some creative ways the students tried mounting the medication to the drone:

Medication suspended between landing legs with rubber bands

Medication suspended between landing legs with rubber bands

Medication and other supplies attached to landing legs with ziploc bags and string

Medication and other supplies attached to landing legs with ziploc bags and string

Medication taped to top of drone

Medication taped to top of drone

There were some very creative ways of attaching the pill bottle to the drone. I would like to point out that we strongly advise against mounting the pill bottle to the top of the drone. The biggest risk is if it comes loose during the mission and falls into one of the propellers. This would ultimately result in a crash. It was a good opportunity to explain this risk to the students and they quickly revised their mounting mechanism. These types of scenarios serve as great teaching opportunities as it relates to the safe and responsible use of drones.

While students from each team were mounting pill bottles and measuring distances, others took initiative and wrote the DroneBlocks software to get from point A to point B. For the sake of time, and due to limited space, the mission just flew the Phantom 4 with pill bottle in a straight line. Feel free to get creative with this part of the challenge if space allows. We plan on doing an upcoming challenge in a field that will allow us more flexibility.

Here is the mission that the students programmed:

DroneBlocks medical mission written by the students

DroneBlocks medical mission written by the students

The program is pretty basic but many students forgot to pitch the camera/gimbal down before taking the photo. In the mission challenge it says the drone must take a photo of the landing area before descending. We were able to review the code with students and explain what was missing. The beauty of software is that if a step is missing it can be easily added, reviewed, and tested. Here is photo from one of the missions:

Photo taken with DroneBlocks of surrounding area before landing

Photo taken with DroneBlocks of surrounding area before landing

I always love these straight down (aka nadir) photos. They give such great perspective of an area. 

Both teams completed the missions successfully. Unfortunately we didn't have enough space to run the challenge as we originally intended. The idea was to split into two teams and see which team could finish the challenge the fastest, and with the most accurate landing. Instead we ran each mission independently and judged solely based on accuracy (proximity to the landing pad).

As an additional extension to the challenge there were a couple of aspiring drone pilots, one from each team. We let each pilot manually fly from the takeoff to the landing pad to deliver the medication. Here is a photo of our friend Pat carrying out the manual flight challenge:

Pat brings the Phantom 4 with medication in for a landing

Pat brings the Phantom 4 with medication in for a landing

There are so many ways to get creative with this lesson and we will be working on a full lesson plan at learn.droneblocks.io for you to check out soon. Stay tuned for more mission challenges from DroneBlocks.

A special thanks to Marisa Vickery for her leadership and creativity in making this lesson interactive for the students. Be sure to follow Marisa and DroneBlocks on Twitter. 

ISTE 2016: Drones at CTN Playground

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With Dallas reaching a heat index of around 106 today, it is an understatement to say we're excited to head to Denver for ISTE 2016. Part of the DroneBlocks team and a teacher ambassador from Dripping Springs ISD will be available at the CTN Playground to provide flight simulation demonstrations and answer questions about launching a drone program!

The CTN Playground is focused around ideas, issues and practical examples which support our mission of teaching and learning about computing. Areas included are computer science and information technology. From a degree, program or career perspective, this would include the ACM Curriculum areas of Computer Science, Software Engineering, Information Technology, Information Systems and Computer Engineering.

We are grateful that Karen North and Joe Kmoch invited us to be part of the CTN Playground! The CTN Playground is on Sunday, June 26 from 12:30-4:00pm located in CCC Concourse. If you cannot attend ISTE this year, we have you covered! You're invited to follow along by joining the DroneBlocks facebook group.