New technology takes flight at MSU Extension

ROVs and drones are cutting-edge and programs to learn about these technologies are offered by Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension.

Although already popular, more remote operating vehicles (ROVs) and drones will be utilized in the future. Considered unmanned aerial vehicles, drones fly while ROVs are used underwater. As ROVs take to the seas, drones can fly into potentially dangerous places. Currently, ROVs and drones are used in various areas for military strikes, deep-sea exploration, search and rescue and even sending packages across cities. They are also used for surveillance, checking for traffic and safety issues, and helping to fight fires and check pipelines. As they do the “dull, dirty and dangerous work,” they keep human lives out of harm’s way.

With the growing use of these technologies, the need for people educated in aviation design and flight operators, as well as engineers, pilots and video programmers will also grow. To help youth develop an interest in these areas, 4-H offers programs that help young people learn to build and operate these new technologies, as well as have fun and solve problems. These programs reinforce the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields that are promoted in schools and the science community.

ROV and drone related programs include the 2014 International MATE ROV competition. A global event held in Alpena, Michigan on June 26-28, the competition was backed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Thunder Bay Sanctuary. Competitors from around the world traveled to the event to test their skills on the shipwrecks located in Lake Huron. The competition highlights the importance of this new technology and how ROVs can go places humans have trouble reaching, including places that are cold, small, dark, toxic and dangerous. Without the need for insurance and threat of bodily harm, ROVs can be a great assent in many industries. For both educators and students, events such as these develop skills and expose youth to careers and opportunities in this field.

With more than 100,000 jobs expected in these fields by the year 2025, according to the UAV Job Bank, we will continue to see a wider range of application of ROV and drone technology. Having our youth both educated and inspired to create new uses in these areas will be greatly advantageous and the skills they develop with 4-H can lead to future careers or jobs in this fast growing industry. To learn more, look for other science and technology programs offered through 4-H and Michigan State University Extension.

This is the third article in a six part series about Extension for the future. Other articles in this series include: Feeding the people - now and in the future  and Climate change and its effects on natural resources. Stay tuned for the next article, regarding the obesity issue in America.

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