Lindsey Saba, News Editor

On Mar. 26, Howell High School alumni Ryan Rozek returned to his high school halls carrying something a bit different than the customary backpack: a drone.

The drone, a steel-grey affair resembling a fighter jet, was built by Rozek himself. Its body is constructed out of foamboard; Rozek stated that he built it out of very common materials.

“If the aircraft is damaged, [I] just need hot glue and foam to repair it,” Rozek says.

Rozek learned how to construct aircraft solely via the Internet. He believes that sharing information, ideas, knowledge, and ways of doing things should not be dreaded, because without this communication, technology will stagnate.

“His willingness to share with other students is incredible,” Rozek’s former teacher, Mr. Schafer, says.

Rozek graduated from HHS in 2012, but school was never enjoyable for him; in fact, he hated it, mainly due to the paperwork-and-lesson-plan approach

“Hands-on works much better [for me],” says Rozek.

“Hands-on” certainly seems to be Rozek’s forte. While attending college, he constructed another aircraft in his free time, this one equipped with LED lights on its flanks. After Rozek took it out for a night flight, he returned to the building to find that his peers were excitedly sharing pictures on their cell phones of the “UFO” they had seen soaring through the dark sky.

“This drone took me about two weeks to build,” Rozek says, “and the hovercraft took two years, and I’m still fine-tuning it four years later.”

Yes, Rozek built his own hovercraft as well. He is part of the Hovercraft Club of America, and he is a member of the Livingston County Model Airplane Club to boot.

“[Hovercraft are] so light, any wind that gets under them will blow them right over,” says Rozek while showing a video of hovercraft wipeouts to Mr. Schafer’s second-hour class.

The racing hovercraft in the video do not look like the sleek skyborne machines of science-fiction movies; rather, they resemble swamp gliders, as they each have a large fan for propulsion. There, however, the similarity ends, as instead of the slightly curved metal bottom, the base of a hovercraft has the appearance of a particularly puffy air mattress.

“Two years ago, [Rozek] had a hovercraft on the pond right out back of the school,” Mr. Schafer says.

Rozek also raced the hovercraft he built, and he found out firsthand just how fickle they can be: while making a quick corner turn, Rozek’s hovercraft went off course and angled in such a way that another hovercraft being piloted by his father slammed into Rozek’s propeller and broke it.

“[It was] a bad crash, I got drenched in gasoline,” Rozek says.

While Rozek was giving his altogether more peaceful demonstration on Mar. 26 for Mr. Schafer’s class, Assistant Principal Mr. Jason Feig made an appearance, examining the the drone and congratulating Rozek.

The drone itself can fly at 30 miles per hour, and Rozek has flown it five times. During one of the flights, Rozek purposely let the drone out of his field of view in order to test whether he could pilot it while looking at only the live video from the drone’s camera.

“Personally, flying one of these, I’d find it hard to look through someone’s window,” Rozek says, addressing the fear that drones can be used to spy on people. He says that with the constant motion of the drone, combined with the customarily small screen the video feed is played on, peeking in on people’s privacy would be incredibly difficult.

Rozek knows that, despite the fragile appearance of aircraft, they are resilient enough to withstand a few hard hits. After all, Rozek’s five flights have all ended with his aircraft making a belly landing, as he has yet to acquire landing gear for it.

“I am constantly flabbergasted by the things I see and learn,” Mr. Schafer says of Rozek’s achievements.