College of Education

Nick Swayne brings UAV technology to the College of Education

We are pleased to announce that Nick Swayne​, Director of External Relations & Outreach for the College of Education and  Executive Director of 4-VA at JMU​, has been selected as JMU’s point of contact for all matters related to unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAV/UAS), commonly known as drones.  This will include JMU and state policies governing the use of UAVs for instruction and research, JMU’s certificate of authorization/333 exemption from the FAA (federal guidelines), and external inquiries regarding UAV use in the Division of Academic Affairs.  Through the 4-Virginia initiative, Nick has been involved in a number of academic projects in this space, and we owe him a great deal of thanks for coordinating JMU’s efforts in this emerging and exciting field.
According to Swayne, "[The program is] a multi-disciplinary course designed to get students and faculty together to solve real world problems.  The UAV aspect serves as the academic catnip to pull everyone together." Seven faculty members, along with forty-two students from Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, Industrial design, WRTC, Biology, and Learning Technology and Leadership Education have identified six different projects that formed the basis of the six drone designs: finding landmines, destroying landmines, mapping air pollution, delivering medicine, mapping stream beds, and creating 3D models of architectural sites.  Faculty experts in these areas pitched their research needs to the students and students were allowed to pick which project they wanted to work on.  The students were divided into multi-disciplinary teams and challenged to develop and prototype real solutions. The faculty subject matter experts attended class periodically and served as advisers and mentors throughout the semester.  Swayne added, "We were joined by real UAV experts/engineers from NOVA-Labs, a makerspace located in Reston, Virginia.  Each week, these three experts tap into our video conferencing system or on our Beam telepresence robots to teach classes, interact with students, and provide expertise and advice on design solutions."
"Ultimately, 4-VA is involved because the goal is to be developing classes to share between our partner institutions (GMU, UVA, ODU, VT, JMU) that move Virginia forward as a state.  The idea for the drone class was to prototype it here and then gradually add institutions, instructors, and students – creating a real ecosystem that pushes everyone to learn, evolve and adapt to new ideas that emerge.  That part is working – this semester ODU joined the class with ten engineering students.  They report that this is one of the best classes they’ve had at ODU. Participating faculty have been accepted to present at least five research projects or journal articles resulting from their discipline specific outcomes of the course or in the scholarship of teaching and learning." - Nick Swayne

Published: Monday, April 25, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

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