A new club at the University allows students to design and build drones, exploring cutting-edge technology and robotics.
College senior Chapin Lenthall-Cleary founded the Drone Club at Penn in the spring of 2023 to create a space for all students to explore the world of drone technology.
Drone Club at Penn is open to students of all backgrounds, regardless of their previous experiences with engineering, coding, and electronics. Before founding the club, Lenthall-Cleary had no formal electronics and coding training.
In his first year, Lenthall-Cleary recalled being rejected from several similar clubs exploring hands-on technology. According to him, club exclusivity prevents students from gaining technical knowledge and the opportunity to meet like-minded people.
“Ultimately, I decided I didn’t want anyone else to deal with that,” Lenthall-Cleary said.
Lenthall-Cleary said that he has always been interested in hobby electronics because of the thrill of creating something yourself.
Joy Luo, a Wharton junior and finance director of the club, said the club's welcoming and enthusiastic nature initially drew her in.
“Inspired by their passion, I wanted to help raise funds that will let our members construct even more advanced drones,” Luo said.
So far, the club has already built two successful drones. These drones, while not without their imperfections, are an impressive milestone for the club.
"Compared to professionally built drones, these things are much more entertaining to fly,” Lenthall-Cleary said.
Currently, newer members are crafting a duplicate of the club’s first drone. While the motors are up and running, they are troubleshooting some other mechanical aspects, a big part of the process in engineering.
Engineering first-year Maria Zotova states that she was the founder and leader of her high school robotics club and wanted to join a similar club at the University. As part of the Drone Club at Penn, she and the other members have already gained experience in soldering, Arduino programming, and building complex circuits.
“It is fascinating to be able to build a flying robot from scratch,” Zotova said.
Zotova encourages anyone interested to join the club as they start working on bigger projects and join drone competitions.
“We have extremely talented students on our team, and I really believe that the Drone Club at Penn has big potential,” Zotova added.
Lenthall-Cleary said that the goal for this year is to give the new members more experience so everyone can contribute to building more advanced drones in the future.
The club's ultimate goal is to build a drone capable of carrying a person.
“I don't know if this is possible, but I gotta try,” Lenthall-Cleary said.
As for the future of the Drone Club, Lenthall-Cleary envisions a journey that focuses on education, innovation, and inclusivity.
“Keep the club open to everyone," Lenthall-Cleary said. "Keep helping everyone, including novices, learn stuff."