Pond Springs enrichment inspires student to pursue drone operator certification



Josiah Almeda

At Pond Springs Elementary School student voice and choice determine enrichment clusters offered during the school day. Last year, Pond Springs student voices elected to explore 3-D printing.

The experience fourth-grade student Josiah Almeda yielded during enrichment with 3-D innovation was all he needed to ignite his passion for technology. Now in fifth grade, Almeda has become a certified and accomplished drone operator by watching tutorial videos online, observing his dad fly a drone, personally logging more than 20 practice hours of flight time and completing the required annual registration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Almeda owns a Phantom 3 drone. The Phantom 3 is capable of traveling up to 35 MPH and reaches a flight altitude of 1,640 feet; it’s equipped with a 1080 AP camera. A live GPS App on a smartphone is employed to map the drone while a joystick controller is used for steering. Alameda says he notices improvement with his hand eye coordination since flying the drone. He uses his drone for aerial photography and videography, posting the footage on his YouTube channel. Several of his videos have over 1,000 views.

“It was just a hobby then I got super good at flying a drone,” Almeda said. “It’s fun to fly around and learn cool tricks, and I like to fly places where I can get really good pictures.”

The confidence Almeda earns from his skill with technology helps him channel the social and emotional obstacles he encounters with Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger is a condition on the autism spectrum.

Almeda’s mother, Seniada Almeda, says that he believes he was born a technologist. She’s happy that operating the drone gets him outside and credits Round Rock ISD enrichment programs for helping him discover what he’s good at and guiding him into programs that have improved his self-esteem.

“Pond Springs helps him figure out ways to develop solutions in the classroom with things he’s struggling with,” said Seniada. “The District has been on top of their game making sure he has what he needs to be successful, mostly with the use of technology.”

Almeda uses his technical expertise to serve as an enrichment mentor in robotics, Minecraft and STEAM enrichment clusters for his younger Pond Springs classmates. He plans to continue using his drone to build his YouTube library with video that documents the time and activities he spends with friends and family,

“It’s great that the skills and confidence Josiah gained through the school-wide enrichment sessions impacts the community in such an exciting way,” said Cara Shipp, Pond Springs instructional technology specialist. “Many students have benefited through his willingness to share his love and knowledge of technology.”

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See the video footage Josiah filmed of his classmates assembling to announce their campus theme for the 2016-2017 school year.

Watch the slide show below to watch Josiah fly his drone or view photos here.