A dream has came true for two Denver teenagers who took on an ambitious school project that is now having a global impact.
As seniors at the Denver School of Science and Technology, Max Alger-Meyer and Nathan Lapore built a drone.
The two had teamed up on robotics projects before but had never built a drone.
"We have exactly zero experience building drones," Alger-Meyer said when we first met him and Lapore at their high school.
After months of researching, measuring and building, the drone was complete and functional.
Getting a good grade on the project was not the only goal.
Alger-Meyer and Lapore are currently in eastern Rwanda, where they gave the drone to the Akagera National Park, which is being restored following years of poaching.
The drone the teenagers built will conduct surveys of remote areas that are hard to patrol for poachers. It will also be used to spot brush fires.
The idea came about when Alger-Meyer went with a DSST group to Africa during the summer of 2015. He learned the park rangers would use helicopters to look for poachers from above the 300,000 acres of the park. However, fuel is expensive.
"I thought they could use a drone for this, and it would be a lot cheaper and more efficient," Alger-Meyer said. "I came back to Denver and told Nathan 'We have to do something about this.'"
Alger-Meyer and Lapore have now trained the rangers at Akagera National Park how to use the drone.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame spent part of his day on Sunday meeting with Alger-Meyer and Lapore and other students from DSST. Alger-Meyer and Lapore showed President Kagame how the drone works and explained how they put it together.
Following that, President Kagame took all of the DSST students on a tour of his cattle ranch to explain farming in Rwanda as well as conservation and economic development.
Up to 150 students and metro area community leaders make trips to Africa every year through the Denver-based Global Livingston Institute. GLI is a community-based research institute that focuses on education and social impact.
"The GLI exists to encourage students to listen, think and build genuinely reciprocal relationships with communities before taking action to address important issues," GLI's founder and CEO Jamie Van Leeuwen said. "These students from DSST learned from their conversations in East Africa, developed an idea that could have a significant impact and put it into action."
"Max and I are interested in entrepreneurship as a career path, pertaining to engineering," Lepore said. "We have spent far more time talking to people, sending emails and networking than the actual physical construction of the drone."
"We wanted to have a project that we can use to prepare ourselves so when we're older, we're just changing the world all the time," Alger-Meyer said.