PIC receives state funding for drone educational experience

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The Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc. (PIC) recently received $7,500 in funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to provide a drone educational experience.

PIC received the funding from the 2022-23 Pennsylvania Farm Bill to enhance the existing drone program by adding an agricultural component and adding four additional slots to serve a total of 29 high school students living in Westmoreland County or Fayette County this program year.

PIC has been providing drone education to local youth for four years beginning with a donation for programming from FirstEnergy in 2018. The program has been funded by the local Westmoreland-Fayette Workforce Investment Board (WIB) since 2019, expanding each year into new industries that use drones in the workforce.

Students are able to experience a program that offers both in-person and virtual flight training principles, and the opportunity to earn a FFA Part 107 credential as well as participate in a paid work experience and gain video editing skills.

“We are thankful for this funding from the Department of Agriculture and for the opportunity to collaborate with Derry Area School District,” said Shujuane Martin, CEO/president of PIC. “This money and partnership will help us to expand our existing drone program to include an agribusiness piece. Agriculture is still a big industry in Westmoreland and Fayette counties, and this is a way to introduce this career path to our local students.”

The drone education program develops a career pathway in STEM-related careers, but with an education experience planned for this spring to Derry Area High School’s Agricultural/Horticulture Complex.

Students will get to learn about trends in precision agriculture which uses information technology such as drones and computers to help with mapping, soil sampling and analysis, weather monitoring, and labor and equipment management.

“The Derry Area School District is extremely happy and honored to host the Private Industry Council Agriculture Drone Program Field Day,” said Casey Long, assistant superintendent of Derry Area School District. “The Derry Area Agriculture and Horticulture Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs continue to offer students a comprehensive and hands-on learning experience. Our CTE facilities and educators are award-winning and second to none. Students who registered for this program will experience both classroom theory and hands-on experiences regarding the latest in precision agriculture. We are excited to see this partnership with the Private Industry Council ‘grow’ moving forward.”

Drones are being used for military, police, fire and emergency management purposes. In addition, there are opportunities for using drones in wildlife management programs, construction and highway engineering, and real estate.

“This innovative program will allow local students the opportunity to experience another unique way drones are used by the local workforce,” said Shannon Singosky, director of workforce and economic development for the Private Industry Council.

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