NCTC to Host Aerial Drone Competition and Aviation Open House

By Northland Community & Technical College | November 29, 2021

November 29, 2021 — Northland Community & Technical College’s aerospace site in Thief
River Falls will welcome the community for a public open house on Saturday, December 11,
from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. In conjunction with this event, a first-of-its-kind to northwest
Minnesota REC Foundation Aerial Drone Competition (RADC), the 2021-22 Challenge:
Downdraft 2, will be held featuring high school students from across the region.

Visitors to this event can test their metal riveting skills, fly small drones, explore the world of
virtual reality, and compete in a paper airplane creation and flying contest to win some Northland
gear. Take the opportunity to sit in the cockpit in one of many aircraft, explore Northland’s
industry specific program offerings, and enjoy some refreshments.

Northland faculty, students, and staff will be on hand to speak to the opportunities available in
the aerospace industry. This career field is in high demand, with a national outlook revealing a
need for 192,000 qualified aircraft maintenance technicians between 2020 and 2039. This
particular challenge is due to the aging workforce and overall shortage of trained technicians.
These factors have aerospace employers investing in recruiting serious candidates within the
first semester of college at Northland.

“We’re excited to invite the community into our facility to learn more about our programs and see
the cutting edge technology we work with first hand,” shared Curtis Zoller, Northland Associate
Dean of Aerospace. “Visiting in person is the best way to see the high-tech and hands-on
learning that Northland’s students experience every day. The aerospace industry is fast evolving
and there is no ceiling to the career opportunities that wait for trained professionals.”
Along with the open house, up to 14 high school student teams will compete in the RADC
2021-22 Challenge. In this exciting competition, teams maneuver around obstacles and through
gates to score as many points as possible and accumulate the highest score. Matches will begin
at 9:30 a.m. and continue through the afternoon culminating with an awards ceremony at 3:00

“The RADC competition is a great way to get kids involved in STEM in a new and exciting way.
Teams show off not only their flying skills but their critical thinking, programming and
communication skills as well,” shared Zack Nicklin, Northland UAS Instructor. “This type of event
is a gateway to finding passion in STEM and allows students to explore concepts that can
ultimately lead to high tech and great paying jobs in the autonomous technology industry.”
RADC fosters student development through teamwork, critical thinking, project management,
and communication skills required to prepare them to become the next generation of innovators
and problem solvers.

Northland’s aerospace site is an 86,000 square foot ultra-modern facility located at the Thief
River Falls Airport and is host to $18 million of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and other
industry-specific equipment.

The open house is free and open to the public, and the RADC Challenge welcomes spectators
to cheer on the competing teams. For additional information, contact Zach Nicklin at
[email protected] or 218.683.8830; or visit


Northland Community & Technical College (Northland) is a comprehensive college with campuses in Thief River Falls, MN, and East Grand Forks, MN. Northland also has an aerospace site in Thief River Falls, MN, and a satellite site in Roseau, MN. Northland offers certificates, diplomas, transfer courses, two-year degrees (A.A.S., A.S., A.A.) in more than 80 areas of study, workforce training, and education programs. Northland is a member of Minnesota State, the third-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States, and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. For more information about Northland Community & Technical College, visit or call 1-800-959-6282. An affirmative action, equal opportunity employer & educator.