Kickstarter: Taking Autism To The Sky

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Kids with autism get a new perspective of the world-from the air-by building/flying a hexarotor and producing a video of their journey.

Like Icarus who longed to take flight and see the world from above, we want to give a small group of kids on the autism spectrum a chance to fly and experience their world in a new way and then to pass that experience on to the world through a short film.

People with autism struggle with perspective taking, empathy and change. They often see the world as black & white, desiring predictability and struggle with understanding other people’s point of view. The also experience the world in very concrete terms.  We want to convey this issue of perspective taking in a pragmatic, physical manner that makes sense to them.  We want them to see their world from the air. We want to take autism to the sky.

Different perpsectives!
Different perpsectives!

Epiphanies come from looking at a situation in a new way, taking a new perspective or finding a new insight.  The pursuit of creative activities often leads to epiphanies.  Sometimes, it feeds them. This project is a search for a fresh perspective through the act of flight.  We want to give these kids (and all who see the film) a new insight into the human condition through a creative and technical endeavor – creating a short film comprised of footage of this group of kids building, practicing, planning and flying a hexarotor helicopter (6 props) as well as the footage they capture from the air.

The team will be comprised of a small group of kids on the autism spectrum – likely 3-4, myself and possibly another adult or two.  With adult guidance, the group of kids will build a hexarotor helicopter from a kit that includes GPS, high definition video, and flight planning software. After building the hexarotor helicopter and learning to fly it, they will plan a mission, fly it, and then produce a video both of their time building the helicopter and learning to fly as well as the flight itself. The video will be provided to their school district to put on their web site demonstrating the team’s skills.

Flying With Adult Help!
Flying With Adult Help!

How will the money be used?

We will use the money to purchase the following things:

  • Hexarotor helicopter kit
  • GPS
  • Camera and mount
  • 2 transmitters (radios) – adult and child to fly together
  • On screen display (to see as if you’re in the cock pit)
  • Flight planning software
  • Flight simulator
  • Batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Spare parts
  • A few snacks along the way to feed the flight team

We have thought through our budget quite a bit and have kept it as lean and mean as we can. We know times are tough and want potential backers to know that that this is a do-it-yourself kind of project with a frugal approach.  That being said, we have big ideas of where this could go.  Just picture this type of club existing nationwide for kids with autism!

We believe there will be ancillary benefits to the project as well.  One major benefit is that this project will showcase a positive, peaceful, enlightening application of “drone” technology that is often viewed in a negative light given the military’s use of it.  The term drone conjures up negative images of surveillance, bombing and description.  This project, however, looks to humanize and personalize the technology.  To shed light on and feed the human condition.

In addition, this project will provide these kids much needed opportunities to work with others in a small team as well as exposure to geography and electronics.  The project will also afford these kids an opportunity to be seen by their peers as ‘the experts’ and afford them an opportunity be the cool kids.  Something that is rarely the case.  Finally, the project will provide exposure to a technology that offers much needed employment opportunities down the road.

In the end, this project will culminate in several key things:

  • A short film of the experiences of these kids that will be shared with others
  • New insights for these kids of the world in which they live
  • Occasions to work together, share tasks and practice social skills
  • Development of basic electronic skills like soldering and wiring components
  • Chances to learn about the mechanics of flight, mission planning and the need for safety
  • Video production skills

Join us.  You just might get a new perspective as well.

Example Hexarotor Similar to What We'll Build (Image courtesy of 3D Robotics)
Example Hexarotor Similar to What We’ll Build (Image courtesy of 3D Robotics)
Radio Control Transmitter (image courtesy of Futaba)
Radio Control Transmitter (image courtesy of Futaba)

RISKS AND CHALLENGESLearn about accountability on Kickstarter

1. Autism. Autism throws you curveballs on a regular basis. Sounds are too loud. Attention spans are short. There’s little to no desire for social interaction. Complexity frustrates. Over focus on details. To accommodate these, we need to be patient, scrap plans and come back another day if necessary.

2. Technical hurdles. We know building and flying a quadrotor is not a ‘plug n play’ operation. However, interest level is high and there is a great community of enthusiasts out there to tap into for help and guidance. Compared to the challenges that autism puts in our path, we can overcome the technical too; with patience and perseverance.


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