One of the first steps to starting a club is establishing yourself as a club or group on your campus. This may differ across universities, but many perks include being able to reserve space on campus, sending emails to prospective students, and receiving funding. Get established on your campus!
When it comes to finding members, one of the easiest ways is having a call-out. Advertise by chalking on campus, sending out emails, and hanging fliers. Drones are awesome, exciting, and honestly market themselves. If you advertise properly, be expected to be a little overwhelmed with the first turnout! Be prepared at your first meeting with ideas for the club and exciting projects or activities for the future. This is your new club – make it what you want it to be!
Okay so finding people who are interested in drones is not hard, but keeping them interested and far enough into the hobby to keep going on their own can be quite challenging! One of the best ways to keep fellow students interested is by getting their hands dirty and jumping right into the hobby. Building, Soldering, Programming, Flying, Racing. These are the keys to keep members coming back! What has proven very successful at Purdue University is what they call “Buy-N-Builds”, and will get a page of it’s own later on. To summarize, a full FPV set-up is chosen with parts that are a good cross-over between affordable and quality. The club receives money from it’s members and then buys all the equipment. When the parts come in, everyone get’s together to learn how to build, solder, program, and eventually fly the quadcopter. By taking the stress and confusion out of researching and understanding all of the parts that go into building a quadcopter, a total novice can learn from a more advanced student.
One of the reasons Purdue University has been able to have such a large and successful Drone Club is due to it’s “Drone Library”. To summarize, they have multiple sets of transmitters and goggles that they loan out to their members. This helps to break down the largest barrier for college students: Cost. By providing the ground equipment, students end up paying roughly $150 for a full FPV racing quadcopter, versus hundreds of dollars for ground equipment. Consider purchasing club ground equipment, as pooling your resources can help maximize the number of students that will be interested.
Finally, one of the largest aspects of starting a successful club is the social aspect: Flying. Many clubs won’t have large Buy-N-Builds or a “Drone Library”, and that is totally fine! The core part of every group is the social aspect of getting out and flying together. Whether you have a weekly time and place to meet up and build or fly, or competitive weekend racing, this is where you will find the heart of every collegiate club. If you want to grow together, fly together.