VIDEO: Betabox Learning at W.C. Friday Middle

  • W.C. Friday Middle School students learn about drones, robotic cars, and 3D printing

    W.C. Friday Middle School students gained exciting, hands-on experience using 3D printers, robotic cars, and drones thanks to an educational partnership with Betabox Learning.  The students spent two days learning how to program drones and robots while learning about science, technology, engineering, and math.
    Additionally, students like Preston McConnell got an inside look at job possibilities in the STEM field. 
    “We learned that companies such as Amazon and Uber Eats are developing technology to deliver packages and meals using drones, and we learned that drones are used in marketing, commercial production, and agriculture,” said McConnell, who was among the students in the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes to learn about programming drones.
    McConnell added, “We wrote commands using DroneBlocks, which is a program used to code a drone to propel up, left, right, and then flip.”
    Other students like Breaelle Bates learned how to operate and program the Raspberry Pi computer on a robotic car by using python and the Linux operating system.  “It was exciting programming the movements of the car simply by giving the computer a command,” said Bates. 
    Justin Leonard works as a curriculum designer for Betabox Learning.  He wants students to realize that the use of technology is all around them.  For example, he pointed out that automotive companies such as Tesla are using robotic arms to build cars on a larger scale.
    “Innovative technology is becoming more and more popular, and we want students to find jobs in these fields relatively quickly,” explained Leonard. “Hopefully, this type of learning sparks an interest for them in the field of STEM and gets them thinking about what they might want to do in the future.”

    Principal Craig Short applied last spring to bring the Betabox experience to his school.
    “Betabox Learning is an on-site field trip where students are allowed to program and work with STEM-related activities while on campus,” said Short.  “In addition, students are learning about computer science programming that aligns with the classes they take in CTE.  As a Leadership Academy school, many of the things our students are doing with Betabox Learning focus on leadership and give students a chance to assume a leadership role.  In this situation, they get to be leaders in technology.” 
    As part of the learning experience with Betabox, teachers have access to online resources and have the opportunity to check out and reserve STEM equipment such as the robotic cars and drones and use them for instruction.  This keeps students engaged in technology, science, math, and engineering beyond the two-day, in-person Betabox program.
    Betabox Learning has many other STEM-related activities for elementary, middle, and high schools, including launching 3D rockets and electrical engineering.  For more information, visit
    To learn more about the Leadership Academy at W.C. Friday Middle School, visit  Rising sixth grade students from outside the North Gaston attendance area who would like to attend the Leadership Academy may apply in the spring when Gaston County Schools accepts applications for its 21 school choice programs.