Teaching Kids how to Learn, Build, Fly, Create!
It only took a week to get kids to build their first aircraft and get it flying with their own hand built pair of goggles! Even doing flips and rolls by the end of the workshop 😀 It was over a month in the making with a lot of back-and-forth between parents to figure out the best workshop for their kids. We settled on a plan to build two 250 spec racers along with goggles for FPV. Cost a total of $400 per unit, including expensive international shipping. Not that bad of a cost when comparing to a NanoQX FPV RTF or a new gaming console, plus all the parts are Hobby grade and can be used with other machines/configurations.
Complete List of Parts Used
- HobbyKing 250 Class Racer ARF – Pre-soldered kit with bullet connectors for a plug-and-play experince.
- Quanum Goggle Kit – Cheap and effective, with some modifications they can be better than some of the more expensive pairs of goggles.
- Naze32 – With it tuned correctly these machines perform extremely well. You can get them pre-soldered by Multirotor Superstore for $10
- RC Breakout Cable – Connects the Naze32 to the Receiver
- Receiver – Basic DSM2 receiver, worked great out to 1000+ feet and back.
- Transmitter – OrangeTX – Full 6 channel digital transmitter.
- Batteries JST / XT60 – Piles of 3s Batteries to keep them in the air. The Quanum goggle kit uses a XT60 connector.
- 5×4 Propellers – Skipped the 5030 propellers and the tri blades, using the 5040 gave the crafts stable hover at mid throttle.
- Charger – Cheap easy to use 2-3s charger that uses the balance port, great for kids.
- Wide FOV Lens – Needed, without it the Quanum goggle kit is miserable to use.
- Optional cage for the kit airframe.
- Foam to mount the flight controllers to the frames.
- Zip Ties – Zip-tie colors can be a fun way to customize your machines.
- Launching Pad – Helpful for take-off in grass.
- Training Quad to learn the basics of flying LOS.
- Be prepared and have an extra frame handy. We didn’t need them but just in-case you do!
Before the build process with the kids, I soldered & configured the flight controllers ahead of time. This way the kids wouldn’t have to do any soldering to build and fly their machines. No-soldering is a big deal, not only is it safer for younger kids, it also saves a lot of time during the build process and keeps things moving. Transmitters need to reverse Aileron and Yaw in setup to work correctly, and had to have the end points set to 120% for it to arm the flight controller. You’ll also need to use subtrim to get everything dialed in correctly.
The agenda for Day 1 is to get the kids familiar with the basics of multirotors plus some of the details. To do this we had a session on the training quad to go over the basics of yaw, pitch, roll, throttle, arming, disarming and safety. After all the batteries were burned on the training quad we brought the kids out to the field for a demo, showing off a race configured quacopter to get them excited to build their own. Giving them all homework to keep practicing with their training quads- best homework ever.
The first thing each new pilot is taught is what to do in an emergency and to mentally prepare for a crash. If you’re about to crash? Cut throttle. If you can’t see where you’re going? Cut throttle. Heading towards people? Cut throttle. Craft is out of control? Cut throttle. I quizzed each kid every day about what to do in different potentially dangerous situations, mentally preparing the kids to crash at a moments notice. Also teaching them that crashing is part of the process- and that knowing how to build their own machines will mean they can also repair them. The majority of crashes happened with the quads un-powered, saving propellers and time repairing.
Today is the day we get to building our machines with the kids! With the demo of day one and practice on the training quad the kids were ready to build their first FPV aircraft! It’s a good idea to take breaks with the training quad, and surprise quiz the kids on safety throughout the day until they’re responding before you can even finish asking the question ‘What do you do if-‘. Overall there’s a lot to do, and it took several hours to get it all built. During this process we took time to go over what each part does and how it works. It’s also a good idea to break this build process into two sessions.
The Build Process – Quadcopter
- Start with building the frames from the kit- putting together the optional cage.
- After frame assembly we attached the flight controller to the frame with a piece of vibration damping double sided foam tape. You may want to watch this video on the ins and outs of the Naze32
- Attach the ESC’s to the frame using zip-ties
- Connect the ESC’s to the flight controller using this diagram
- Attach your receiver to the frame with a zip-tie
- Connect the receiver to the flight controller using the CPPM RC Breakout cable
- Attach the motors to the frame
- Connect the signal wires on the motors to the esc’s, you’ll need to do a power test after completing the build to check motor direction. To reverse a motor simply swap two of the signal wires. I put a piece of tape on the top of the motor for testing.
- Attach the optional cage to your frame.
- Bind the receiver to the transmitter by inserting the bind-plug in the receiver, applying power, and turning on the transmitter. It should bind after a few seconds, turn off the transmitter and receiver, take out the bind plug.
- Test! If all motors are spinning the right way great, if not swap the ones that need it.
- Add FPV gear, zip tie the video transmitter to the frame. The Quanum goggle kit has an easy to use power harness that plugs into the balance port of the battery.
- Use some Velcro or 3M Dual Lock to secure the on-board camera.
Building the Goggles
- The goggles have a fairly easy to follow step-by-step guide.
- We used electrical tape to secure the lenses into the goggles, this allows for easy swapping out and placement of lenses.
- Use some foam safe glue to attach it together.
- You can attach everything to the top of the goggles, this will add weight to the front of it. It’s recommended to try and put the receiver & battery on the strap, sitting on the back of the head to equalize the weight.
- You can cut the foam of the goggles to make them more comfortable for your head.
- If you have a spare pair of ski-goggles around you can mod the goggles to fit more comfortably.
We have take-off! By the time they get to this point they’ve already practiced on the trainer and are ready to fly without much further instruction. Again covering the topics of safety and going over the basics of how to operate the aircraft. The kids were extremely excited to get in the air at this point- roshambo does wonders in settling who gets to go first.
Getting in the Air
It’s important to establish pilot-spotter communication with the kids before take-off. Explain what you mean by saying ‘forward’ and ‘backward’, establish different locations, how high they should fly, the difference between going left and turning left. Teaching them to communicate effectively with their spotter will go a long way with guaranteeing their first FPV flight will be a great one. Set goals for their first flight- start small with a basic hover. Add in the challenge of going around an obstacle, and if you’re daring challenge them to fly over a tree.
At this point the kids should know everything they need to fly and to operate their aircraft and FPV equipment. They’ll have learned everything needed to start practicing on a regular basis with a spotter to direct them. Today we acclimate them to flying in a group with other people and to get more stick time and practice in.
The pay-off, getting to fly with others! After the workshop we got together with some local flyers for a night of fun at one of our local flying spots. The kids getting a chance to talk with other pilots about their new hobby- all while learning tips and tricks from those that have been doing it for years. Everyone had fun flying and crashing! It was a great way to top off an amazing workshop with something that is so core to our hobby, flying with others 🙂
“The coolest thing I’ve ever done” – Isaac, 13.
By the end of the workshop the world had a batch of fresh new pilots join the ranks of FPV flyers. Every kid had a good time, and every one of them left hungry for more time in the air. They were even doing flips & rolls by the end of it! For a first time workshop it went really well- and everyone including myself had a lot of fun! The next workshop will go a lot smoother and by that time I’ll have a fleshed out the curriculum- can’t wait to get it going!