Flying high Julia Debel transforms learning for students

26 May 2023 5 min read

As a sponsor of the Early Career Teacher Docemus Award, NGS Super is proud to share the work of the 2022 Award recipient, Julia Debel. Julia has been recognised for designing and implementing a drone program for the students at St Stephen’s Catholic College in Mareeba, Far North Queensland.

The Docemus Awards were established in 2002 in consultation with Tom Doolan and acknowledge the dedication and excellence of individuals from within the Catholic Education community across the Cairns Diocese.

Identifying a need in the curriculum

Two years into her career as a secondary teacher, Julia was offered an opportunity to design a new unit of learning for her year 9 Business Studies students. From the get-go, Julia had her sights set on agriculture and innovation. Agriculture is a major sector in Far North Queensland, and with ongoing challenges, including variable weather conditions, innovation is playing an important role in crop production. Having grown up on a corn farm in Far North Queensland, Julia knows first-hand how agriculture and technology can intersect and improve operations.

Applying her existing knowledge, Julia created ‘Drones in Industry’- a theoretical and practical unit of learning that explores how drones can be used in farming. As the school already owned drones, Julia recognised a fantastic opportunity to incorporate them into Business Studies classes.

Drones and farming

Drones are used in farming across Queensland with great benefits. As they can fly unmanned and in hard-to-access areas, drones can collect important data, (through images) including counting livestock, measuring water levels and assessing crop health. Read more about drones in farming.

Taking this knowledge on board and applying it to a real-life scenario, the students researched how drones might be used on Julia’s family corn farm. The goal was to explore the costs, benefits and potential negative impacts.

Taking off

With the theory side of drones sorted, the students began the practical component. After various training exercises, the drones were taken to a replica farm. Students were set challenges to fly and lower the drones, manoeuvre them over a wall and navigate above models of livestock.

Real-world use

As a result of ‘Drones in Industry’, students are learning the pathways and possibilities of technology in agriculture. Two examples of this within the school community include a former student who has started her own business using drones to assess the health of the crops in the area. A parent at the school is also using drones on their farm to assess and spray crops.

Julia Debel Profile

Next steps for Julia

As a recipient of the Early Career Teacher Docemus Award, Julia received $2,000, which she used to purchase a DJI AIR 2S drone. She is enjoying learning about the drone's capabilities and how it, too, could be used in agriculture. Julia’s unit of learning continues for year 9 students. She also runs sessions at a 3-day Math Camp for advanced students in Far North Queensland schools. In the session, participants learn about coding and use trigonometry and other maths concepts to fly drones. Congratulations, Julia, for your award win and the work you do to educate and inspire students.

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