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NAF Program Takes Off at NC State

NC State TRIO Pre-College hosted a week-long STEM program for under-resourced high school students from across the state, which included flying drones on the Court of North Carolina.

A large group of high school students in red and white shirts sit on and in front of a brick wall on the Court o Carolina Play Video

On Thursday, July 15, 28 rising 10th graders from across the state of North Carolina converged in an NC State classroom to learn the basics of drone use. Later, they got to put their newfound knowledge to the test when they piloted their own Tello DJI Drone on the Court of Carolina.

This was just one of many fun and educational activities hosted by NC State’s TRIO Pre-College program as part of NAF (formerly the National Academy Foundation), a week-long summer STEM program for under-resourced high school students. NAF is a national network of education, business and community leaders who work together to ensure high school students are college, career and future-ready. They have established academies in schools across America to promote college readiness, career exploration and personal development. Specialized STEM camps, like the one at NC State during the summer, help NAF students to explore, with greater focus, STEM areas while introducing them to life on campus. 

Three masked students seated at a table closely examine drones they just removed from boxes.
Students examine their drones in the classroom

NC State is just the third campus in the United States to be approved to host a NAF Future Ready Scholars Academy, in conjunction with the TRIO Pre-College program. 

“Programs like NAF and TRIO, and similar pre-college pathway programs, spotlight the university’s connection to our mission as a land-grant institution,” said Courtney Simpson, the TRIO Collegiate Programs senior director. “The activities held throughout the week truly reflect NC State’s daily mantra of Think and Do by providing space for students to critically think of solutions and practice what they learned in a safe environment.”

The week offered many robust opportunities for students to be engaged, both academically and socially. Specifically, the drone course introduced students to the basics of drone usage and careers that utilize drones. 

Justine Hollingshead helps a student configure their drone outside on the Court of Carolina
Justine Hollingshead (left) helps a student configure a drone

“It was important for students to learn about drones because many jobs and arenas currently use them, and their pervasiveness will continue to rise in the coming years,” said Maurice Mathis, senior director of the TRIO Pre-College Programs. “This workshop truly embodied the NAF slogan of ‘Be Future Ready.’“These kinds of courses and experiences are pivotal for TRIO and NAF students because it brings real-life, hands-on and immersive experiences directly to them; experiences they would not normally receive in their traditional classrooms,” Mathis continued. “We hope the partnership between TRIO and NAF will be expansive so that more innovative programming with a greater number of students from across North Carolina will be possible.”

A student in a shirt that reads "STEM Scholars 2021" smiles and holds up their drone