A Beginning STEM Lesson for Parrot Minidrones and Tickle


Parrot MiniDrone and Tickle

If I had asked myself 17 years ago what type of lessons I might be planning in 2015, I’m 100% certain I would not have predicted I would be planning a lesson involving the programming of a drone for students.

But yes, this blog post is exactly that… How to teach your students the safety of flying a drone and how to program a drone. I did this lesson with a group of 5th graders in my friend’s classroom and we had 16 Parrot Minidrones.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 10.35.30 AM

Here are some tips we learned:

  1. Plan your lesson indoors. We used the multipurpose room with a lot of open space. If you do this lesson outdoors the wind will cause problems for the measuring in this lesson.
  2. Be organized and go over the safety tips I have included.
  3. Have students organized on one side of the room and plan for the drones to fly away.
  4. Often a drone gets dropped from the Tickle app and picks up another drone. So after a few times of this happening, when a group was ready to fly their drone they announced for the class to step away from the drones just to be certain it wasn’t picked up by another drone.
  5. Since there is a lot of room for inquiry in this lesson, check student programs before they fly to be sure they didn’t get too far off from the program you were hoping they would create.
  6. It is okay to be run a teacher centered drone lesson for the first few lessons until students gather confidence with programming their drone.
  7. Lessons with Sphero and Tickle first really help to build background skills for this drone lesson.
  8. Battery life is only about 7 minutes. We were able to finish this lesson without a problem with the battery.

Quadcopter Safety Tips:

  1. Always communicate well with your team. 
  2. If you are in charge of driving your quadcopter, you must be sure no one is holding the quadcopter in their hands or kneeling near it and be certain everyone on your team knows when it is time to fly.
  3. Be aware of other groups around you.
  4. Act out your program before you hit play.
  5. Do not try to grab the quadcopter while it is flying.
  6. Put your hair back in a ponytail.
  7. Do not run after the quadcopter if it is running astray.
  8. When in doubt, parachute out. (Use the emergency landing button).
  9. Each person in the group has a role. Please share the roles by taking turns.
  • Operator- in charge of the iPad and adding program changes
  • Observer- in charge of quadcopter
  • Recorder- in charge of recording measurements on sheet
  • Measurer- in charge of measuring

Goal of the Lesson:

The goal of this lesson is that students will learn the basics of blockly programming in Tickle and program a Parrot Minidrone. In addition, students will learn the relationship between time, speed, and distance through inquiry. The time, speed, and distance portion of the lesson is a lesson that I found on Sphero.com/education. This was originally a STEM lesson designed for programming Sphero with the Macrolab App. I adapted it to fit with programming with Tickle and using the Parrot Minidrone.

Student Handout:

Here is the link to the student handout I created to guide students through the lesson. Originally I had wanted the lesson to be student led, however, we had some glitches with the drones and so I moved the lesson to be one that we followed together.

Be sure you have time to get to the student challenge. That is where you will really see students collaborating, thinking critically, communicating, and creating.

I hope you enjoy flying drones with your students!

Please let me know if you think of anything else I should add to this lesson.



  1. Laura says

    Dear Jo-Ann,
    This site is great!!! thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience.
    I just got a rolling spider minidrone and I’d like to use Tickle to program the flights, but I am struggling with some of the commands… have you ever use any of these commands? Devices (accelerometer, attitude, gyroscope) , Events, or Sensing. For example in sensing what does finger touching down? mean. I keep clicking on the iPads screen and nothing happens, and how can I use the other ones.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best Regards,

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