David Burchfield, unmanned aircraft systems teaching assistant professor, is the 2020 recipient of the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award from Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.
Presented annually, the award recognizes a Kansas State Polytechnic faculty member for teaching excellence, a commitment to research and honorable service to the university, college and community.
Burchfield, who first arrived on campus in 2016, strives to provide hands-on practical experiences in the classroom. He also uses field trips to reinforce ideas and practices discussed in the classroom. Burchfield teaches multirotor flight training, unmanned aircraft systems design and construction, data acquisition methods and the senior capstone course.
Kurt Carraway, head of the unmanned aircraft systems department, describes Burchfield as a model faculty member.
“He embraces a research-driven approach to instruction, bringing case studies, datasets and problems from his own research projects into the classroom in order to give students real-world examples of course topics and their applications,” Carraway said. “When his research activities occur during a course, he successfully obtains funding to transport his students to the study area to observe and participate in research activities.”
In 2017, Burchfield took a group of students to Kit Carson County Airport in Burlington, Colorado, to conduct one of the first-ever UAS-based mapping surveys of an active airport. Students practiced UAS mapping skills, organized simultaneous operations of small UAS across three sectors of the airport. They also coordinated with air traffic to ensure a safe operation.
In 2018, Burchfield’s students participated in a series of field trips to Gove County in western Kansas where they assisted an Ohio State University ornithologist. The observation project studied the effects of UAS surveillance overflights on flocks of lesser prairie chickens, a threatened grouse species. In 2019, another project introduced students to foresters from Kansas Forest Service. They assisted with UAS-based mapping and monitoring of a forest preserve near Lawrence. After the operation, the students processed the dataset, which was later delivered to the forest service.”
A native of central Florida, Burchfield move to central Mexico after high school to work as a volunteer for his church. In 2011, he completed an undergraduate degree in geography at Brigham Young University followed by a Master of Arts in geography at K-State in 2014. He is currently completing a doctoral degree in wildlife and wildlands conservation at BYU.
“One thing that has really enhanced my teaching has been pursuing a doctorate, which I plan to complete this spring,” Burchfield said. “Taking classes part time and conducting extensive research in the summers has injected new ideas and content into my courses.”
Burchfield presented a portion of his research at the 2019 Esri User’s Conference in San Diego. He also published the first chapter of his dissertation earlier this year in a peer-reviewed journal.
Burchfield said he enjoys working with students and helping them develop skills to benefit them professionally.
“Continually evolving and strengthening my courses to give my students the best possible experience has become a healthy obsession of mine,” he said.
Because Burchfield teaches in a fast-moving discipline, he is committed to development time to keep his courses fresh and relevant. He also focuses on discussion-based classes, asking students many questions to help them relate to the content and to promote in-class collaboration.
“It means a great deal to be recognized for teaching excellence, and I am grateful for this opportunity to represent our fine campus as a McArthur faculty fellow,” Burchfield said. “I feel honor-bound to continue to provide conscientious instruction to my students.”