With the Morrill Act of 1862, West Point Military Academy Superintendent Alden Partridge helped form what would become the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, commonly known as the ROTC. The Act set up land-grant colleges that would receive funding from the federal government. In return, these colleges had to include military tactics in their curriculum. In 1819, Alden Partridge founded Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, where he developed the frameworks for the ROTC program. When Congress approved the National Defense Act of 1916, it formally enacted the ROTC, with the first unit at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The National Defense Act of 1916 also paved the way for the development of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). Similar in concept to the ROTC, the JROTC provides a military based curriculum to students at a high school level. Some middle schools in the United States also have JROTC programs. The JROTC did not fully commence until the 1964 ROTC Vitalization Act. Today, more than 1,700 public and private institutions provide a JROTC program. These programs train around 314,000 cadets each year under the mission objective “To Motivate Young People to be Better Citizens”. Each branch of the United States Armed Forces provides different educational opportunities for ROTC and JROTC programs, without cadets needing to make a career commitment to the military.
The Spaulding High School in Rochester, New Hampshire, offers its 1,500 students an opportunity to join the school’s elective Air Force JORTC (AFJORTC) program. Along with their regular school requirements, AFJROTC cadets at Spaulding can take classes such as the History of Aviation, The Science of Flight, Cultural Studies, and Cadet Leadership. To ensure that cadets are receiving a fully comprehensive aviation education, Spaulding’s AFJROTC recently added drones to the Science of Flight curriculum. It makes perfect sense that a military based educational program would include drone instructions. After all, the United States Armed Forces have been pioneers in the drone industry.
Though the drone industry has greatly branched out into mainstream commercialism, military drones still make up the largest drone sector. Whether or not AFJROTC cadets choose to join the military when eligible, having a background in drones will open up many professional opportunities. Cadets first have to complete the Science of Flight: Physics of Flight class to have enough knowledge to join the drone class. As stated in the course description, “This course follows the Physics of Flight course and prepares the student for the FAA Drone/UAS pilot written test and certification as a drone pilot. Content includes the flying environment and UAS/Drone operations with hands-on activities with state of the art equipment. The course is designed to complement materials taught in math, physics, and other science-related courses and is aligned with the National Science Education Standards, the Math Standards and Expectations, and ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Students. Leadership education, drill, and health and wellness are integral parts of the course.”
When Michele Halligan-Foley, director of Career Technical Education at Spaulding’s R.W. Creteau Career Technology Center, found out that the AFJROTC would be offering a drone program she couldn’t wait to get it started. “I jumped up and down with excitement when I heard the news of the new programs,” she said. The course is held in a classroom called the Aviation Learning Lab that is set up with drone charging stations, areas to tinker with drone components, and flight simulators. For some of the cadets, like junior Maximus Facteau, the drone flight simulators are the most exciting part of the program. Cadets will have the chance to fly the drones outside, but the simulators allow them to really perfect pilot skills. Maximus said he plans to have a career in aviation in the future, and the AFJROTC drone program and flight simulators will give him the edge needed to be successful.
The AFJROTC drone program at Spaulding is still in its preliminary phase and has been made possible by a collaboration of officials from the Rochester school district, the New Hampshire Department of Education, and the Federal Aviation Administration. The hope is that by next fall the program will be fully operational and can be made available to students from nearby schools like Somersworth High School, Oyster River High School, and Nute High School. The AFJROTC drone program will pave the way for participants to have a career in a wide variety of industries that utilize drone technology. As the participating Strafford County Sheriff’s Office chief drone pilot, Parks L. Christenbury said, “Medications will be transferred between healthcare facilities especially in large traffic-clogged areas. Medically equipped drones with emergency supplies and portable defibrillators will be in use. Drones can be used as mini cell towers. Lots of neat stuff is coming that will need trained pilots, payload specialists, and support crews.” The ROTC and JROTC were founded on the principle of developing participants into leaders, whether they choose to remain civilians or join the Armed Forces. By giving cadets an early education in the world of drone technology, a new generation of leaders in the field of aviation will arise.