Bound Brook High School students learn to fly drones, while earning college credits through Raritan Valley Community College

Hands-on learning is gaining new heights for Bound Brook High School (BBHS) students thanks to an expanded partnership with Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC). Students in the Career Technical Education and Work-Based Learning (CTE/WBL) Program can now enroll in a drone certification course through RVCC.  

The first cohort of students enrolled in the course are preparing to take the FAA Part 107 certification exam – passing that exam makes students certified Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) pilots. 

“I do plan to take the test,” said Olivia Scire, a BBHS junior. “BBHS and RVCC kindly pays for the students in the program to take the Part 107 exam the first time.”  

Olivia is active in FIRST Robotics and is interested in pursuing an engineering degree in the future. When she heard about the drone program, she immediately decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see if it could further prepare her for college. She pictures building drones in the future – and knowing the rules and regulations gives her an edge. Scire describes the CTE/WBL program as “lifechanging.” 

“I like how this program is not what I expected. It’s something completely different,” she said. “It’s something I didn’t think I could learn at such a young age; I would imagine learning this when I’m in college. It’s definitely opened my mind for the future.” 

Another advantage to the CTE/WBL program is being in the college environment. BBHS students are on the RVCC campus two days per week and get comfortable being on a college campus, exploring their interests, while still in high school.   

In-demand Career with Vast Applications  

Dennis Florentine, the program’s instructor and the Director of Operations, UAS at Warren County Community College, prepares students for flights by covering various topics including regulations and safety concerns. He takes it one step further by educating students about in-demand careers and how to safely fly drones.  

“As an educator, I want to see my students succeed,” Dennis said. “You can sit for this test and pass it and become a drone pilot. So, what we do, is get students ready for the test, but also give them the opportunity to apply the skills.”  

The goal of the CTE/WBL program is to prepare students for in-demand careers. BBHS students can study Make-Up Design, Advanced Manufacturing, Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Allied Health Phlebotomy. The drone program is the newest addition this school year. Unmanned Systems Technology is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the career market. Another program is planned to join the line-up in the fall: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)/Emergency Services/Fire Science. 

“We often tell students that college and career are not an either-or,” said William Ross, Bound Brook’s Director of Data, Planning, Research, & Evaluation. “We want you to think of both simultaneously for your post-secondary pathway life.” 

Students learn about a wide variety of industries that employ UAS technology such as agriculture, environmental sciences, search and rescue, and law enforcement. Many of these industries are understaffed with qualified professionals – that’s where BBHS students come in. Ready with advanced certification and training, students can enter the workforce and meet the demands of this emerging industry. 

“We learn about the vast opportunities available through this course,” said Kimberly Chaves, junior at BBHS. “I am interested in law enforcement and that’s one of the careers that use drones for search and rescue and other pieces.”  

For Chaves, learning about drones has expanded her skillset and branched out to new opportunities. She joked she even improved in her map reading skills. 

“It’s a huge switch in setting coming to a college campus,” Chaves explained. “The class is very hands-on, and you learn to apply the skills while interacting with other students and professors. In the small setting, everyone is focused on the materials.”  


The Future for Unmanned Aircrafts 

The drone certification program is a nationally recognized program that began at Warren County College in 2018. Now, the program travels across New Jersey even working with corporate companies on basic skills.  

Alex Morales is a senior at BBHS and was surprised when he heard about the opportunity through Mr. Ross. With an interest in technology, he decided to absorb more skills and pursue the program. Although he does not see himself flying drones in the future, he can visualize the application in cyber security, his planned career path.  He will attend Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the fall to pursue that goal. 

“Learning the tech that goes into drones, like coding. Even a drone could get compromised,” he said. “So, understanding how they work will help me.”  

CTE/WBL offers students opportunities for in-depth learning so students can clarify goals and interests, while enhancing their career readiness in industries like UAS.