The students stood outside the cage and waited for their game to begin, awaiting the camp instructor’s signal.
It was a relaxing, fun end to a week of hard work at one of the US Drone Soccer Camp sessions, brought to Modesto Junior College’s West Campus through a partnership between MJC’s Lifelong Learning Department and Modesto City Schools.
The group of 10 middle school students, divided into two teams of five on opposite sides of a web, stood controllers in hand and trained the laser on the drones they were building. The plane was lined up on the ground ready to be flown.
One of the campers was Diego Hernandez-Juarez, a 15-year-old who attended every drone soccer camp offered through the partnership.
He stood alongside his brother Moises as the two protected their hanging goal from the opposing team’s forward drone.
The Striker Drone is the only one allowed to cross the goal post and earn points for their team. The other drones serve as defenders whose job is to stop the striker from getting into the goal.
“It was pretty cool,” said Diego Hernandez-Juarez. “…It’s different and kind of stressful to build it, but today it was nice to be here to fly it.”
The camp, with upcoming sessions open to the public, makes MJC the first known site for drone soccer in California.
“We have this opportunity to work with city schools to invite young prospective students and help them find opportunities that they might not otherwise have seen,” said MJC Interim Vice President of Instruction Brian Sanders.
Three week-long camp sessions were held through the MJC-MCS partnership. Students were on MJC’s west campus for about three hours a day. During this time they learned to assemble a drone, troubleshoot and program how the drone flies, and learned to fly it during the last days of the week.
Each week ended with drone soccer games developed in South Korea, which is a fast-growing e-sport in the United States and around the world.
“It’s the perfect combination,” said Angela Vizcarra, interim contract and program manager for Community Lifelong Learning at MJC. “A really cool, attractive e-sport in a neat package, and then a lot of knowledge that goes with it.”
The June partnership between Modesto City Schools and MJC’s Lifelong Learning Division helped demonstrate demand for the camp, which caters to students ages 12-17.
There are still places available for these summer dates:
- July 11 – July 15, 1:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m
- July 18 – July 22, 9:00am – 12:45pm
- July 25 – July 29, 9:00am – 12:45pm
Interested parties can register online at www.mjc4life.org or call 209-575-6063.
impact on students
Students arrived at MJC’s west campus in the afternoon for the first four days of camp, but Friday’s drone soccer games began at 9 a.m. Tony Lomeli, director of student support services at Modesto City Schools, said he saw the impact of the camp on the students and how it continued to bring them back.
Drone soccer usually attracts the quieter students, but during games they let it out. Cheers after the striker was sent through goal and squeals of disappointment when a drone battery had to be replaced at the end of its three-minute lifespan.
Students assist each other in turning on controllers, arming and operating drones while navigating the designated “flight zone,” which can be as large as 65 feet by 32 feet, according to the World Air Sports Federation website.
Esports is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and drone soccer is now an official international sport of the World Air Sports Federation.
One of the reasons esports and drone soccer are growing in popularity is how inclusive they are. “Any kid as young as 12 can learn this,” Vizcarra said. “A child could be in a wheelchair and participate. This is actually a great thing for autistic students who are on the spectrum because there is often minimal physical contact. So they can compete and be part of a team.”
opportunities for the future
While drone soccer was a fun activity to reward campers for their hard work throughout the week, learning about drones was a big part of the students’ experience.
“We’re dealing with junior higher schools, and that’s a really influential age,” said camp instructor Dylan Hoyt. “When you engage in activities like these, you (teach) skills, cognitive memory, technical skills, practical skills that can actually affect children, maybe even at the subconscious or metacognitive level.”
As technology advances, drones will become more widely used in the way the world works, and this type of training could lead to careers in the future, Hoyt said.
“It’s a very inclusive activity that also leads to a pathway for professions because drones are exploding,” Vizcarra added. “Amazon delivers (testing) with drones. Drones are used in agriculture, real estate, film production, weddings, search and rescue, and public safety. There are all kinds of uses for drones and the number is growing every day.”
Sanders said, “When we were kids, we didn’t know that being a drone pilot was a potential career that was fun and similar to video games. This is also a new esport so it’s something that kids of all abilities can participate in which is fantastic.”
This story was originally published June 30, 2022 6:30 am.