Monday, September 24, 2018
News Roundup

Drones can stop school shooters, inventor says. Students work to prove it

TAMPA — When the military put out the call for help disarming bombs left by a retreating Islamic State, a Sarasota inventor developed and delivered a drone that paired heavy lifting with artificial intelligence.

Another idea came to the inventor, Skip Parish, when he learned about the 17 people gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

"There has to be a better way to protect students than having a gun on a gun," said Parish, who has worked with militaries and companies around the world on drone technology.

He reached out for help from Manatee Technical College in Bradenton, a school with a reputation for innovation. If he brought his technology to the school, could the students there apply their advanced tools and skills to create a quick and safe way of detecting, identifying and disrupting a potential shooter?

The goal: produce a small drone to fly inside a building that can receive alerts through a special software and approach a subject instantly.

The software uses artificial intelligence to identify images like a gun. Facial recognition software could be added to identify a potential shooter. It can even be outfitted with speakers to distract a shooter.

The drone would be placed in a central location, affording it a wide field of vision. It would instantly alert authorities to potential trouble so they could launch and control the device.

The concept received an enthusiastic reception from Gil Burlew, the school’s advanced manufacturing and production instructor. The way events unfolded in Parkland, Burlew said, with confusion about who or where the shooter was, reveals problems with the current approach to active shooters.

"I don’t believe the answer to anything is more guns in schools," Burlew said. "I’m a big guy, 6’3’’, 250 pounds. But after 40 years of teaching, I can’t imagine giving teachers a gun. Why? That teacher will never be the same if he had to use the weapon. And what the students would see is not something they would ever forget."

A few months back, Parish attended the school’s advisory council meeting and was invited for a closer look at Burlew’s instructional program.

"Our students are pretty high-tech," Burlew said, with students from both high school and college. "Skip came in, saw drones in my classroom, and started putting two and two together. He said he was working on things for the military and there was no reason why we can’t be doing some of those things here."

Manatee County school officials liked the idea, as well.

"One of the key focuses of our engineering and technology programs is to use emerging technology to solve real world problems," said Doug Wagner, executive director of adult, career and technical education for the Manatee County School District.

The drone project is in its early stages. The goal, said school district spokesman Mike Barber, is to plan, design, create, and build a product that can be manufactured commercially. Students, he said, have been studying the physics of force, lift, and payload.

The program has purchased two DJI brand drones for practice and instruction, Barber said. Students are working on their prototype with Parish and the video piloting company Lumenier.

The project is pushing the edge in a number of ways.

A student in the program already has been promised a job with Lumenier after graduation, Barber said.

And a demonstration set up to illustrate this story proved real enough to cause concern in the Manatee school district, where seven students have been arrested recently for making threats to schools.

A student carried a toy rifle through a hallway at Manatee Technical College on Thursday as a drone flew nearby and camera shutters clicked.

"In light of our experiences," Barber said, "in the wake of Parkland, to have video and photos of a person who looks like a student, going though school with what looks to be a real AR-15, really gives us scary concerns."

The drone project, with an estimated budget of about $5,000, has ambitious goals and students aim to have something to show before the end of the school year in June.

"By engaging in this project," Wagner said, "our students hope to make a contribution to school safety, not only here but across the country."

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

 
Comments
SiriusXM to buy Pandora for $3.5 Billion in bid to expand reach

SiriusXM to buy Pandora for $3.5 Billion in bid to expand reach

Satellite radio provider Sirius XM said Monday that it would acquire music streaming service Pandora Media for $3.5 billion in a bid to corral listeners who do not want to pay for premium channels.Pandora rose to success by providing tailored radio s...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Jeff Vinik invests in gaming headset maker boosted by Fortnite’s popularity

Jeff Vinik invests in gaming headset maker boosted by Fortnite’s popularity

TAMPA — As a mutual fund wonder-boy, hedge fund manager and real estate investor, Jeff Vinik has long displayed a sense for knowing when to put money into the next big thing, and his latest bet on e-sports may be no different.Vink recently bought nea...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Russia probe, has offered to resign

Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing Russia probe, has offered to resign

WASHINGTON - Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein has told White House officials he is willing to resign in the wake of revelations he once suggested secretly recording the president, but it’s unclear if the resignation has been accepted, according...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Pasco deputies identify body of man found in wooded Wesley Chapel campsite

Pasco deputies identify body of man found in wooded Wesley Chapel campsite

WESLEY CHAPEL — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has identified a body discovered Saturday in a wooded area as a 60-year-old Hillsborough County man.Two people flagged down a deputy Saturday to report a decomposing body in the woods north of Beardsl...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

LAND O'LAKES -- Kristin Kellin got a series of disturbing text messages late Sunday from her friend, Samantha Keithley, who complained about her husband, Kirk. "Kirk has lost his mind Kristin," one text said. "He's literally losing it. He's been har...
Updated: 1 hour ago
John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

CLEARWATER — The day John Jonchuck was supposed to go on trial in the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, attorneys met instead to discuss a new trial date. The trial scheduled to start Monday was delayed last week after Jonchuck’s attorn...
Updated: 1 hour ago
It’s state or bust this season for Shorecrest volleyball

It’s state or bust this season for Shorecrest volleyball

ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest Prep's volleyball team underwent some changes prior to this season. While the Chargers didn't graduate any players, they did get a new head coach in Raquel Ferreira. And junior setter Annabel Happ and sophomore hitte...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fall may have arrived, but Tampa Bay area will still feel the heat

Fall may have arrived, but Tampa Bay area will still feel the heat

Falling leaves, cool winds and pumpkin spice characterize the autumn season, which began Saturday. But the Tampa Bay area won't be seeing any differences in our recent hot streak until mid-October, and even then it could be short-lived.Temperatures t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

St. Petersburg firefighters responded to a fire early Monday morning in the gymnasium at Lakewood High School.According to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, firefighters responded to the school around 5:40 a.m. after a maintenance worker discovered the fir...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rick Stroud previews Bucs-Steelers

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rick Stroud previews Bucs-Steelers

The Bucs host the Steelers tonight as Monday Night Football comes to town. Will the FitzMagic continue and move Tampa Bay to 3-0? Rick Stroud breaks down the game. Also, Tony Dungy will be enshrined in the team's Ring of Honor.Plus, is there any...
Updated: 4 hours ago