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4-H Drones in Agriculture takes flight in local schools

A group of students watch a drone demonstration

DANVILLE, Ill – Students from Champaign, Coles, Douglas, and Vermilion Counties gathered at Danville Area Community College (DACC) for the 4-H Drones in Agriculture Competition and Career Pathways Fair. Schools that participated in 4-H Drones in Agriculture curriculum during the school year were invited to this event, which is the culmination of the partnership between Illinois 4-H and DACC and is sponsored by local businesses, Precision Agronomics, Inc., Bayer, Prospect Bank, Country Financial, and Beck’s Hybrid.

Each of the participating high schools utilized the 4-H Drones in Agriculture curriculum, during the school year.  4-H Drones in Agriculture is a three-week educational unit created by Extension staff in partnership with Brandy Marron, an agriculture instructor at DACC. The unit is designed to be easily adaptable for high school science, agriculture, and career and technical education course and was created to help address the need for skilled laborers, especially in precision agriculture, who can operate drone technology and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Fourteen local high school agriculture and science teachers from eight different Illinois counties embedded the curriculum into their courses this year, six more schools than what participated in the first year of the program.

“It gives them an outlet where they can express their creativity,” said Villa Grove High School agriculture teacher, Callie Parr. “They can show their expertise and it’s kind of empowering for them to feel like they know more than the teacher.”

The competition was won by the team from Villa Grove High School. Teams from Fisher High School, Kenneth D. Bailey Academy, Oakland High School and Urbana also competed. Each school was represented by two teams, featuring a pilot and a navigator that received points based on how they traversed the obstacle course. The scores from each team were combined to create a total score for the school.  While teams were not competing, they were able to connect with local businesses, industry professionals, meet with representatives from post-secondary colleges and universities as well as watch industry drone demonstrations performed by the Illinois State Police and Dennis Bowman, University of Illinois’ Extension Digital Agriculture Specialist.

When asked what he thought about the day, Fisher High School Senior, Dylan Zwilling stated, “I really liked it being a hands-on experience. I think working with your hands is the best way to learn. The thing that surprised me the most is just how many opportunities there are with drones. It’s not just for agriculture, it can be used in every industry.” 

If you’re interested in learning more about 4-H programming or the 4-H Drones in Agriculture Program, please contact Mynda Tracy at or call our office at 217-333-7672.

Special Thanks to: Danville Area Community College, Country Financial, Illini FS, Precision Agronomics, Bayer, Prospect Bank, Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education, Beck’s Hybrid, Illinois State Police, Nick Wherley (Coordinator of Agriculture Outreach and Recruitment, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences/University of Illinois), Dennis Bowman (Extension Digital Agriculture Specialist, University of Illinois), Keith Jacobs (Illinois State 4-H Office), and Gerald Wilson (Autonomic Material, Inc.).

About Illinois 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. 

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.