It wasn’t long ago that Stapleton resident and recent Denver School of Science and Technology graduate Nathan Lepore knew nothing about building drones. But that didn’t stop him and a classmate, Max Alger-Meyer, from using the robotics lab at DSST to create a small, unmanned aircraft that will be used to monitor wildlife at Akagera National Park in Rwanda.
“We had a good design sense, but we had to do a lot of research on electronics, wiring and programming,” says Lepore, who left for Africa on June 14, along with a group of juniors from DSST. “Max was at Akagera last year and he got to check out what they had in place there for monitoring poaching. He looked at it and said you know what, I feel like there’s something I could do here using my engineering skills.”
With some input from a student at the Colorado School of Mines and a few contacts that he met through internships, Lepore says they were able to troubleshoot a few problems and build a successfully functioning drone. The recent grads are donating the craft to the African park this summer for use in spotting brushfires, monitoring lions, elephants and leopards and for keeping an eye on rare bird activity. Lepore and Alger-Meyer raised funds for the drone’s construction and their travel expenses with the online crowd-sourcing site GoFundMe.com. They also received some financial assistance from Denver’s Global Livingston Institute. Lepore plans to attend Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts this fall.