Student UAV Challenge (Drones)

Student UAV Challenge (Drones)


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s a.k.a. Drones) are driving one of the most exciting areas of innovation today. Pilots, engineers and entrepreneurial leaders are teaming up to change the way we think of disaster recovery, agriculture, conservation, marketing and so much more.

The ultimate Student UAV Challenge is to hack the brain of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), replace it with a custom Arduino-based flight controller and configure it to fly different missions. In tackling this challenge, students integrate hardware and software systems. As importantly, they harness the ingenuity and passion of UAV pilots, software, electrical, and mechanical engineers to model their own technology business.

Click to Download the UAV Flyer.

Curriculum Overview

Students fly, configure, reverse engineer, design, build and code.

After exploring aeronautics, the science of flight, students prototype a new Arduino-based flight controller by reverse engineering a complete system piece by piece.

After mastering this first UAV Challenge, students extend their lessons learned to build a custom drone. In the process, students practice logical thinking, learn to work with microcontrollers, modify true code, use serial communication, and create user interfaces. In working with electrical components, students develop skills like soldering and critical thinking through troubleshooting.

Key focus lessons dive into concepts such as aerodynamics, electricity, computer programming and physical laws of motion.

As with all Student STEM Challenges, these concepts and skills are cultivated through the framework of innovation. Students model a business or organization that applies the technology to improve society.


National STEM League Competition (Optional)

Student UAV Challenge teams compete side-by-side with Racing and Rover teams in the National STEM League (NSL). UAV teams compete online in an annual points race and face-to-face at Open Invitationals across the country. Points leaders and Invitational winners are invited to the NSL Finals. Click here for more information on the NSL.

Scope & Applications

  • STEM Endorsement Course, 1-2 semesters
  • Principles of Engineering Course, 1-2 semesters
  • Combine with CS-1A for a Full Year of Computer Science
  • Out-of-School Club
  • STEM Competition
  • Summer Camp (1, 2 & 3 week options)


Mapped to NGSS, CC and CSTA Level 3