Student’s ‘quadcopter’ project places first at statewide fair

Port Townsend fourth-grade student Nathaniel Ashford earned first-place honors in the Energy and Transportation category at the 57th Washington State Science and Engineering Fair in Bremerton on April 4-5, according to Bill Beezley, public information officer for East Jefferson Fire Rescue.

Ashford, a homeschool student, presented “Quadcopters Helping Firemen” to judges. One of 500 student entrants, he represented 4-H Port Townsend STEM Club, which promotes competitive venues in science, technology, engineering and math.

In his project, Ashford set up a mock natural disaster to test his hypothesis that a remotely operated quadcopter (four-rotor helicopter) could assess the natural disaster better than firefighters could from the ground. Ashford envisioned a fleet of amateur quadcopter operators, similar to amateur HAM radio operators, training to support emergency services in Jefferson County.

Beezley said firefighters from EJFR helped Ashford learn about how the fire district responds to disasters. Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management representatives guided him in researching overall disaster response in the region, within the framework of FEMA’s National Incident Management System.

To develop an actual quadcopter, Ashford turned to Kelvin Hughes of AirPix Northwest, a Poulsbo-based aerial photography company. Within weeks Kelvin had developed an eight-bladed multicopter with a special dual-screen option so he and Ashford could split duties operating the copter.

Ashford, in his third year at the fair, said the judges’ evaluation went great, but the results – not so much.

“My hypothesis proved incorrect,” he said. “It was too difficult to see the amount of detail we needed from overhead. The firefighters could do it faster and more efficiently. I had a lot of fun, though!” He is the son of Eric Ashford and Gabriella Gyjrko Ashford.

News Source: Ptleader