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Finalist — Gavin Jones



The first Queensland students to undertake a drone-piloting course have participated in a World of Drones event and learnt from police how to map out crime scenes, all thanks to an inspirational Logan teacher who is a finalist in state teaching awards.

The drone-piloting program, which put Mabel Park State High School (MPSHS) students on the cutting edge of technology and ahead of their peers in the booming drone industry, has been highlighted as one of the reasons the school’s enrolment figures have doubled in just four years.

Every student enrolled in the MPSHS Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot – Visual Line of Sight) course, which was introduced by teacher Gavin Jones, has obtained the qualification.

Mr Jones, who comes from a family of teachers, has taught at MPSHS since graduating from his teacher education program 32 years ago and has just been named a Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Excellence in Teaching Award Finalist.

Mr Jones had earlier introduced a Certificate III in Visual Arts program at MPSHS and was subsequently asked to introduce the remote pilot course. The teacher, who had obtained a commercial pilot’s licence when taking long service leave, was keen to combine his two passions.

Since then he has been constantly tweaking the drone course and coming up with scenarios for students to learn the applications of drone technology and what a pilot must think about when flying.

“You’ve got to work out how fast you’re going. How high you are and where the winds are blowing. What’s the pressure altitude for the day? What traffic is going through here? When do you have to make a radio call? Fuel log, when do I have to change tanks? The other day we were looking at emergencies and what to do when something goes wrong. You’ve got to learn so that things are second nature,” the aviator said.

Mr Jones wants to provide real-world knowledge. Queensland police visit the school to show how they use drones to map out crime scenes and students have participated in the World of Drones event where they flew pens to waiting dignitaries.

“When they’re flying [their drones], I go over and have a talk to them. That’s the good thing about [the program], we’re all spread out over the oval, a small group of 16. I can check in on individual students,” Mr Jones noted of the ability to connect in the program’s setting.

Sometimes things do not go as planned: a carefully planned mission to remove balls from the roof of the school hall was undone by a helpful janitor intervening ahead of the lesson.

Mr Jones passes on aviation stories and is regularly delighted by students coming to him with research they have done in their own time or business cards they have from a drone company they contacted. One student helpfully corrected Mr Jones’ directives with a rulebook taken straight out of the box of a drone the student had purchased.

The teacher reflects on small things former students have told him years later that they retained. He hopes to spark a passion for flying in his students and one has already gone on to enrol in a Bachelor of Aviation at Griffith University. Recently, he was able to arrange for eight students to obtain their Remote Pilot Licence through the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The winners of the TEACHX Awards will be announced on 29 October, on the eve of World Teachers’ Day in Australia.

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