Competition-based active learning instruction for drone education

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5 Scopus citations


This paper presents a competition-based active learning approach that prepares undergraduate students for careers in the drone industry. The competition-based learning (CBL) approach focuses on preparing students for three key drone industry requirements (1) drone assembly, testing, and validation using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts, (2) simulation of drone flight missions and (3) manual and semi-autonomous drone piloting. The CBL curricular modules were developed using the Interactive-Constructive-Active-Passive (ICAP) framework of cognitive engagement. These modules immersed students in the technical challenges corresponding to the three essential drone industry requirements. The approach was implemented through fourteen (14) drone workshops that culminated in a final drone piloting competition at a STEM research university in the United States. Ninety-seven (97) students from various backgrounds with little to no prior experience in building drones participated in the competition as part of 22 teams in total. Multiple assessment methods were used to evaluate the students' progress and the perceived drone-related skills gained by the end of the workshops. Assessment methods included data from direct formative (weekly or biweekly curricular milestones), direct summative (drone piloting for multiple flight tests), indirect quantitative (Likert-style feedback survey about student perceptions), and indirect qualitative (descriptive feedback comments) tools. Direct quantitative assessments indicated that most students successfully reached the technical milestones of the workshop sessions and gained practical drone piloting skills. The indirect quantitative assessment revealed that students perceived the workshops to be a valuable experience in their drone industry skills and knowledge. Indirect qualitative analysis of the feedback comments revealed that students perceived CBL as an engaging and effective method of introducing drone technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInteractive Learning Environments
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


  • Competition-based learning (CBL)
  • STEM education
  • active learning
  • drone competition
  • engineering education
  • small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAV)


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