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Contact: Stephanie Fontenot
Title: Director of Communications and Marketing
Phone: (409) 766-5146

GALVESTON, TEXAS – Sept. 12, 2022 – A first-of-its-kind unmanned aerial and marine piloting program is gaining momentum for students in Galveston Independent School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at Ball High School this fall.

Originally taking flight this summer as a prototype internship through a partnership with the National Science Foundation and Texas A&M University, the 16-month pilot project provides students with the opportunity to pilot drones, gather aerial and boat mapping data and utilize geographic information systems (GIS) to assist vulnerable communities with pre-disaster mitigation efforts, such as providing state emergency managers with up-to-date information to assist with decision making and recovery efforts when disasters such as floods, hurricanes and wildfires occur.

The summer internship was a monumental accomplishment for GISD and the three Ball High students who completed its requirements.

It was the first internship of its kind to be considered by the NSF’s Civic Innovation Challenge grant project, and is based on Ball High’s successful incubator program. GISD is the first of the three Texas district partners (Bryan and Houston ISD are the others) to offer the 80-hour paid event. The NSF Civic Innovation project is led by Dr. Robin Murphy at Texas A&M University, Dr. Sam Brody at Texas A&M Galveston and Dr. Jason Moats, Texas A&M Engineering Extensive Service, through the Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas.

They selected GISD for the pilot due to the impressive quality of the high school’s pre-existing programs, the project’s need to serve a diverse and economically disadvantaged population and Galveston’s location as a vulnerable coastal community.

The internship, led on-site by Dr. Murphy and Laurent Langevine, PLTW/Aerospace and CTE teacher at Ball High School, consisted of a fast-paced, two-week program that provided interns with knowledge and instruction both inside the classroom and out in the field.  

The first week consisted of drone flying and image capturing, assisted in part by A&M graduate student, Alex Robic.

The second week consisted of processing data and creating 2-D and 3-D maps.

Interns received guidance and insight from Dr. Murphy throughout the internship, who is a founder in the field of rescue robotics and also a valued faculty member with Texas A&M system – the world leader in emergency management, disaster management and disaster science. Drs. Brody and Moats also provided feedback on the final report and presentations.

"Professor Murphy is a nationally-recognized expert in the area of UAS technologies for disaster pre-mitigation and response. She was an asset to the internship by readily - and patiently! - sharing her immense experience and expertise with the interns,” Langevine said.

Through experience gained flying “DJI Mavic 2 Pro Drone Quadcopters,” which cost approximately $1700 each, interns also learned about the impacts of speed, weather conditions, visibility and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations such as height regulations, controlled airspace and more.

Instruction also included training for the FAA’s Part 107 examination – the test required to gain a Remote Pilot Certificate that demonstrates understanding of regulations, operating requirements and procedures for safely flying drones.

"As a direct result of the internship, we now have GISD staff and students who are FAA certified to operate drones. We are therefore now capable of using drones to collect data for pre-disaster mitigation studies in the Houston-Galveston area," Langevine said.

Langevine, who joined Ball High School’s teaching staff in 2007 and has more than 30 years of teaching experience in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, is a beloved GISD educator who is passionate about student success and progressing the program further.

“Mr. Langevine began taking students to Texas A&M University a couple years ago for various learning experiences,” Matthew Neighbors said, GISD’s Executive Director of Secondary Education. “It is gratifying to see a teacher's investment of time and energy pay off for the benefit of our students. To make opportunities like this happen, you have to connect with fabulous partners and you must devote effort and commitment outside the traditional school day.”

According to Langevine, the CTE department is recruiting and training tenth and eleventh-grade students. There are also plans for the pilot to develop into an after-school program soon.

“I cannot say how amazing it is to be working with Ball High school,” Dr. Murphy added. “You are ahead of the game because of your programs. I knew from years ago that it was a great STEM school, but to actually work with Ball is amazing. The kids have learned a great deal and we’ve learned a lot about streamlining this for other school districts. Galveston has really jumped in with both feet to make this work. I can’t say enough good things about Ball High or Mr. Langevine and his dedication.”

As for the three students who completed the internship? The sky is the limit for their future opportunities.

“It’s really prestigious to be in such a program to collect this kind of data,” Ball High junior Vladimir Gligoric said.

Alec Trevino, now a Ball High senior, fulfilled internship requirements while also balancing a challenging schedule of waking up at 6:45 a.m. each morning to attend football practice in hopes of remaining a starter on the team.

“The internship broadens my view on maybe other things I want to do – gives me options,” Trevino said.

Lastly, Ball High senior Vincent Catanzaro has his sights set on attending Texas A&M University after graduation. “This internship has been a great opportunity. It’s meant a lot to be involved.”

The pilot program will continue to develop at GISD throughout the fall.



Photo Cutline: Texas A&M Professor Dr. Robin Murphy provides instruction to Galveston ISD students participating in first-of-its-kind unmanned aerial and marine piloting internship funded by a National Science Foundation Civic Innovation Challenge grant.