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Georgia Southern alumna encourages rural students to take to the skies with drone technology curriculum

Instructional technology alumna La’Quata Sumter

La’Quata Sumter (’13, ’18), has taught, led the online education efforts of colleges, authored a book and is in the final stages of a doctoral degree. However, when she evaluated her success, she realized what she wanted most was to return to her roots, offering rural minority students access to STEM fields — with the help of drone technology.

A native of Red Top, South Carolina, Sumter completed a bachelor’s in computer science from Albany State University. While working as an instructor at Albany Technical College, she pursued a M.Ed. in Instructional Technology from Georgia Southern University.

“I originally planned to complete a master’s in computer science, but realized I didn’t want to do programming for the rest of my life,” said Sumter. “I enjoyed teaching, and I thought advanced degrees in instructional technology would help. While working on my master’s I realized that pedagogy was the part I was missing in my career. Understanding how individuals learn and best practices to teaching, especially teaching online, were vital techniques I immediately applied to my job while completing both my M.Ed. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology.”

During the last semester of her master’s degree, Sumter was offered a position as the director of Academic Online Instruction at Albany State where she worked with faculty to enhance their online teaching skills and use of technology integration into curriculum. During the consolidation process of Albany State University and Darton State College, Sumter was tasked with serving as the lead of web services and software to integrate and merge software systems of the two institutions successfully to one. After the consolidation process was completed, Fort Valley State University offered Sumter the opportunity to direct their online learning.

All throughout her career, Sumter continued to teach as an instructor of computer information systems and computer and electrical engineering at Albany Technical College and continued her education. She completed an Ed.S. in Instructional Technology in 2018 at Georgia Southern, and immediately started a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas. Sumter is currently completing her dissertation, “Faculty’s Perception of Online Learning at Technical Colleges in South Georgia.”

With a passion for technology, Sumter has long been drawn to drones. From taking them apart to learn their inner workings to providing aerial footage for clients, Sumter found her niche in drone technology and saw it as an opportunity to spread her love of STEM–and a message of inclusion.

“You do not see many women, and especially African American women, who are in the computer and electrical engineering field in south Georgia,” said Sumter. “Our students can see someone who grew up in an area like where they did, who looks like them and has a career in STEM — and know that they can too.”

Today, Sumter continues to teach at Albany Technical College and also serves as the college’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Program Chair. The rest of her time is dedicated to her nonprofit agency, Focusing on Me, and the organization’s new education outreach programs, which include STE(A)M Thru Drones and Drones in Education.

“I want to build lessons and curriculum for rural areas and schools to teach drone technology,” she explained. “It’s not just about flying drones, but the computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics and art curriculum that can be taught through drone technology.”

Sumter spent June offering summer camps to local organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, teaching STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) concepts to students as young as third grade.

“The students are so excited to learn about drones that they don’t even realize they are learning in the process,” said Sumter.

Currently Sumter has seven drones in her personal collection and 13 mini drones for children. She is also one of 72 individuals in the state of Georgia who holds a Federal Aviation Administration drone pilot license.

“Drones aren’t going anywhere,” she said. “Robots aren’t going anywhere. So I am building a curriculum to emphasize to our students how we are making all the technology around us work.”

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