SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Marcy is quietly becoming the drone soccer capital of the Northeast.
The school hosted New York’s first US Drone Soccer Championship Showcase earlier this year and will host the inaugural season kick-off for the US Drone Soccer of New York and New Jersey on Saturday.
The kick-off will start at SUNY Poly at 10 am and will be live streamed to support teams and educators in the two-state region. Spectators can also attend in person, by registering with CNY Drones.
The event is backed by CNY Drones, a volunteer organization promoting drone-focused STEM, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Academy of Model CNY Drones Co-Founder, SUNY Poly Adjunct Professor Robert Payne Aeronautics (AMA) Student Club.
Looking ahead, the US Drone Soccer Region II Championship will be held Sunday, March 26, 2023 at Wildcat Field House in Marcy and the 2023 National Championship will take place at SUNY Poly in April.
“This is the drone corridor,” said CNY Drones Co-Founder, SUNY Poly Adjunct Professor Robert Payne, referring to the area between Syracuse and Rome’s Griffiss International Airport. “There’s a pipeline.”
Payne said the college has embraced drone soccer with open arms. It also helps the school showcase its engineering department and other areas of interest, he added.
The league is a huge event for the state and SUNY Poly, Payne said.
What is drone soccer
US Drone Soccer is an indoor “build, program and fly” sport that allows students to learn the technical aspects of unmanned aviation systems while holding interest through a fast-paced team participation.
It is played with flying quadcopters in protective exoskeletons designed for collisions.
Five-player teams fly inside a netted arena, where they ram and block an opposing team to prevent them from scoring.
Students who compete in drone soccer must first learn to build, program and repair the drones as a team.
Following a year of testing with students and teachers, a new drone was developed that could withstand the intensity of Drone Soccer and meet the needs of the modern engineering classroom. The resulting Drone Soccer Ball is affordable, durable, and easily repairable with simple tools.
Open-source software allows students to rebuild and reprogram the drone for depth of learning. Professional development training followed by access to a regional support network, helps educators and mentors find success with no prior experience.
“There are already some great STEM programs going into grade schools,” said Lisa Marie Payne, CNY Drones administrator & co-founder. “Drone Soccer is more a way to continue holding interest at a critical age when students are starting to understand the connection between educational paths and future employment.”
“Building, programming and flying make up the bulk of the program. All three are highly transferable skills. The availability of league play is the hook that brings in students with a desire to be in a competitive sport.”
About the league
This year, Drone Soccer league play has expanded through a nationwide roll out.
Lisa Marie Payne said she was unsure of the exact number of teams in New York, although she is expecting about two dozen teams to form.
In addition to Colorado, where US Drone Soccer is based, teams are set up in California, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
“This year will differ,” she said, “in that we are testing the waters with participants.”
Lisa Marie Payne has a fairly long list of area schools and programs interested in drone soccer.
Those already with the needed equipment include MVCC GEAR UP at Rome Free Academy, MVCC STEP at Utica City School District, Cicero-North Syracuse, East Syracuse Minoa, Rochester City Schools, Maryville CSD (south of Buffalo), NERIC, Madrid-Waddington ( near Potsdam), New York Institute of Technology’s STEP Program, New York Police Department’s Benevolent Assn (Community Outreach Program).
“I don’t mind starting out small,” said Robert Payne of the league. “Once the word gets out there, it just grows.”