In a cozy courtyard in downtown Springfield, nestled among red brick buildings and gray concrete parking garages, a small white quadcopter suddenly whirs to life on a makeshift launch pad in small patch of grass. At the controls is 16-year-old Briyanna Henry, who’s learning how to fly the drone as part of a workshop put on by UMass Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program and Make-It Springfield, a pop-up makerspace on Worthington Street. Even though this is her first time flying a drone, she expertly guides the copter on a smooth arc between the trees and buildings. She jerks the controls and the copter does a flip. The crowd laughs, but this isn’t just fun and games. Drones like these are already revolutionizing industries from agriculture to civil engineering. These are the kinds of skills that future engineers like Henry will need to succeed.

—Peter Vancini,