Great Brook Mavericks take fifth at drone world championships

The competition field at the Middle School Aerial Drones World Competition in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The competition field at the Middle School Aerial Drones World Competition in Chattanooga, Tenn. COURTESY PHOTO BY RICK MELLIN

Ethan Beausoleil and Bodhi Alan of the Great Brook Mavericks aerial drone team.

Ethan Beausoleil and Bodhi Alan of the Great Brook Mavericks aerial drone team. COURTESY PHOTO BY RICK MELLIN

Ethan Beausoleil, left, and Bodhi Allen at the Mavericks’ team table.

Ethan Beausoleil, left, and Bodhi Allen at the Mavericks’ team table.  COURTESY PHOTO BY RICK MELLIN

Ethan Beausoleil, left, and Bodhi Allen compete in Chattanooga. 

Ethan Beausoleil, left, and Bodhi Allen compete in Chattanooga.  COURTESY PHOTO BY RICK MELLIN

The Middle School Aerial Drones World Competition at the University of Tennessee at Chantanooga last week. 

The Middle School Aerial Drones World Competition at the University of Tennessee at Chantanooga last week.  COURTESY PHOTO BY RICK MELLIN

The Great Brook Mavericks were one of 60 teams who competed in the Middle School Aerial Drone World Competition in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Great Brook Mavericks were one of 60 teams who competed in the Middle School Aerial Drone World Competition in Chattanooga, Tenn. COURTESY PHOTO BY RICK MELLIN

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript 

Published: 05-23-2024 12:04 PM

Modified: 05-24-2024 11:41 AM


The Great Brook Mavericks aerial drone team competed in the Middle School Aerial Drone World Championships last week in Chattanooga, Tenn., achieving a fifth-place finish out 60 total teams in the Skills category.

The team is also ranked fifth nationally in Skills out of 519 middle-school drone teams. Coach Rick Mellin of Peterborough, who started the Great Brook Drones Club at the beginning of the 2023 school year, said the competition experience was invaluable and that team performed well.  The trip was privately funded by donations from families and supporters. 

“It was so great for the team to go head-to-head in competition with all these other really smart kids from all over the country. It’s great for them to push themselves. They performed as well as any other team there, and they should be really proud,” Mellin said. 

Mellin said the Mavericks competition team of seventh-graders Ethan Beausoleil and Bodhi Alan ran into some trouble in their very first event, but bounced back in following rounds.

“Initially, they got off to a slow start, because the drone wasn’t set up right, so they started off a little bit behind. But they responded really well to that obstacle. They didn’t let it slow them down; they just kept going, and in the next rounds, they did really well,” Mellin said.

Over two full days of competition at the University of Tennesee at Chattanooga campus, 60 middle-school teams competed in 300 matches and 300 skill events, with 600 scores posted at the close of the event. Teams were judged on overall excellence, teamwork, skills and flight operations. 

Aerial drone competitions are sponsored by the REC (Robotics Education and Competition) Foundation, which supports STEM education and workforce-readiness programs for educators nationwide. In the United States, 400,000 students participate in REC programs every year. Drone competition goals include learning about drone mechanics, flight principles, programming and documentation, as well as improving communication skills and exposing students to drone- and robotics-related careers. 

“They did fantastic considering this was the first year we have had a drones team,” Mellin said. “In just one year, we hosted the first aerial drone competition in New Hampshire, and we made it all the way to nationals, and then they just excelled in the Skills portion.” 

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In the autonomous flight portion of the competition, the team must program their drones to fly through an aerial obstacle course that includes arches, keyholes and loops, as well as drop objects accurately. Drones are scored on accuracy and ability to navigate flight obstacles. 

“Just a week before the competition, the kids decided it would work a lot better if they flew the course a different way, so they got together, rewrote all the code for the autonomous portion, and then it worked so much better. They get great problem-solving and teamwork skills as well as technical skills,” Mellin said.

Mellin said the drones can be “a little fluky” with connections and flight conditions, but that the team was undaunted when things did not go as they planned every time.

“They just kept getting up, and kept getting up, and kept getting up, which is maybe one of the most-important skills the kids learn in the program – to work through problems, and to persevere until they solve it,” Mellin said.  “The aerial drone program offers fantastic skills and experiences for middle-schoolers.” 

The REC and drone and robotics programs foster communication and teamwork by pairing unknown teams together at competitions, encouraging students to solve problems in groups. At competition, adults, including coaches and parents,  are not allowed on the practice field or in the skills area. 

“It’s hands-on, experiential learning, and it’s totally centered on the kids,” Mellin said.

The Mavericks did take some time for sightseeing in Chattanooga, with stops at the Chattanooga Aquarium, the Lookout Mountain Civil War Battlefield, and Ruby Falls, a subterranean waterfall. 

“We had a ball,” Mellin said.