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Whitefield School grad demonstrates his remote control drone

The sight of an Oct-rotor drone buzzing around outside their school on Friday intrigued Whitefield School youngsters in Jackie Garneau's preschool classroom. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
January 22, 2014
WHITEFIELD — A Whitefield School graduate who was learned the fundamentals of technical education by having Erv Connary as his teacher for when he was in the 7th and 8th grades visited a 7th grade class on Friday, Jan. 17, to demonstrate the Octo-rotor — a remote radio-controlled drone equipped with eight (octo) rotors, self stabilization and GPS (Global Positioning System) — that he designed and built from scratch.

Gordon Clement of Whitefield, a graduate of St. Johnsbury Academy and now a senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y., explained to the seventh-graders that he had first made a small working model of an Octo-rotor and then a medium-sized one. This, he said, allowed him to solve a myriad of technical problems before building the larger one he was demonstrating that day.

Clement had successfully participated in WES' Technology Student Association (TSA) competitions when he was a WES student under the tutelage of Connary, then, as now, the TSA advisor.

Breaking down a problem into manageable chunks is the best strategy to use in technical problem solving, the teacher told the seventh-graders.

Clement said that he would graduate from RPI this May but would remain on campus for an extra semester.

Many of the students were familiar with an interview that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had in early December 2013 on CBS' "60 Minutes" in which futuristic footage was shown of a package under five pounds being delivered by a drone directly from an Amazon warehouse to the sidewalk in front of a single-family house.

Clement showed the students and others on hand how his Octo-rotor worked, putting it through its paces of changing angles, ascending and descending, taking off and landing. Each of the robot's two long legs is four feet long and is equipped with four rotors.

Clement is also able to equip his Octo-rotor with a gimbal-mounted camera that is able to stay level while it takes aerial photographs. He, however, did not bring it with him on Friday.

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