Teachers’ Workshop at Intrepid Museum Features IEEE Resources on Drones

New lesson plan from IEEE REACH covers the evolution of UAVs

25 September 2017

Last month 25 preuniversity teachers explored a compelling question: To what extent have unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—drones—been used to benefit humanity?

That question is the topic of a new inquiry unit from the IEEE REACH (Raising Engineering Awareness through the Conduit of History) program. An inquiry unit is a lesson plan that includes resources such as primary-source documents, secondary sources, background information, hands-on activities, and short videos. The unit is designed to help preuniversity teachers incorporate the history of technology and engineering into their classrooms.

The unit was presented by IEEE History Center staff members at a workshop held on 22 August at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, in New York City. It was part of a weeklong professional development course, “Drones! A Catalyst for Integrating Engineering, Science, and History,” which was supported by a grant from the IEEE Foundation. The course provided professional credits to teachers within New York’s Department of Education.

REACH, an IEEE Foundation priority initiative, is being developed and managed by the IEEE History Center.

During the workshop, teachers explored the evolution and applications of drones. The course provided educators with ways to incorporate history and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) discussions, resources, and skills into their classrooms and to engage students in new and unexpected ways.


To address the question of how drones help humanity, teachers were divided into groups and then asked to interpret evidence from primary- and secondary-source documents, which were provided by REACH’s UAV inquiry unit. The unit also included a video designed to provide background information and grab students’ attention.

The teachers then reported back to the larger group for further discussion. The final assignment of the day was for each group to create a lesson plan and a hands-on activity that would integrate engineering and its history into their curriculum.

On the last day of the course, History Center staff members returned to the Intrepid to help the museum’s employees evaluate the teachers’ final projects. The REACH team will be examining the final projects to determine if one or more could be adapted directly into the REACH drone inquiry unit.


The REACH program was overwhelmingly well received by the teachers. Denise Seant-Bertrand, a second-grade teacher, said, “I will definitely use the REACH site to design lessons, because there are important sources that I can use with my students.”

Hannah Cavallo O’Leary, a high school science teacher, said she would use the REACH resources to incorporate history into her science class. And Claudio Leon, a librarian at Passages Academy, in New York City, praised the REACH resources and website. “It can help students think about real-world applications for designing new technologies and the impact of such tech on humanity,” he said.

You can learn more about the resources from the award-winning REACH website. Be sure to create a free account to see all that the program has to offer.

Kelly McKenna is the REACH program manager at the IEEE History Center.

The IEEE Life Members Fund of the IEEE Foundation provided a grant to the IEEE New York Section, which teamed up with the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and the IEEE History Center on the exhibition, as well as a professional development course for teachers and a technical event with the section.

The drone exhibition is scheduled to run until 3 December and is free with museum admission. IEEE members receive a 10 percent discount on museum membership—part of an ongoing partnership.

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