Alumni Spotlight: Elliot Spaudie, Class of 2008
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Elliot Spaudie, Lutheran West Class of 2008, is an FAA certified remote pilot. After seeing the new and exciting opportunities for drone businesses, he began his company, Birds That Fly, LLC as the Chief Pilot in October 2018.
Elliot developed his passion for ice hockey while the Spaudie family lived in Appleton, Wisconsin until he was six years old. Upon the family’s move to the greater Cleveland area, Elliot attended St. Paul Westlake and then Lutheran High School West, graduating in 2008. Having played hockey since he was six years old, he realized a dream by winning two Ohio High School State Championships with his travel hockey team and later going on to play Division III collegiate hockey at Concordia University, Wisconsin. His initial pursuit was a degree in pre-pharmacy, although he eventually switched majors to engineering and transferred to Valparaiso University. As his relationship with his now wife, Rachel Coulter ?08, developed, his transfer allowed the couple to be closer geographically.
Valparaiso offered an abundance of hands-on learning opportunities in the electrical engineering field. One of Elliot’s favorite projects was his senior design project — a voice-activated food service robot. He used an industrial 6-axis robotic arm and utilized a 3-D printer (called “rapid prototyper” at the time) to create a serving mechanism. In one of the labs he enjoyed most, called Embedded Microsystems, Elliot learned to program microcontrollers to talk to one another, perform tasks, and compute algorithms. Much of what he learned during this time is knowledge he leaned on to build the drones and quadcopters he now flies. Elliot had a very successful college career, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2013.
Following graduation, Elliot worked for Rolls Royce in Mount Vernon, OH (near Columbus) for approximately two years before spending the next four years employed with Siemens Energy in Columbus. During his time with Siemens Energy, Elliot was first a Controls Engineer and then a Sales Estimator. In both capacities, he worked with the Project Lead Engineer in electrical, mechanical, and safety systems. Elliot focused his efforts on reducing his student loans and paid off $100,000, between him and his wife Rachel, within five years! Without student loan debt hanging over his head, Elliot could pursue a dream of his — becoming a pilot. It was in Columbus that he earned his UAS License as a remote pilot. Elliot explains that he “kind of stumbled into video right away through friends and contacts in Columbus. My uncle would take pictures of deep space and comets using Photo and gave me a picture of Hale Bopp taken with a telescope.” This intensified his love of video and photography, and Elliot conceived a business plan in which he could combine his remote pilot skills with photography and videography.
Elliot then began Birds that Fly, LLC, his drone photography and videography business. Some of Elliot’s clients include real estate agents, roofing companies, breweries, and many others. Elliot is able to provide an highly-aesthetic, impactful component for advertising and marketing, including aerial photos and videos for real estate agents, inspection videos for roofing businesses and fly-through promotional videos for restaurants and breweries. Jamie Spacek (father of LW alumnus Jesse Spacek '07), President of local company West Side Roofing, understands what a great resource Birds That Fly’s video product offers for his website. Jamie says, “For the larger projects, offering clients a birds-eye view — that’s a great selling tool. With 320 roofing contractor competitors out there, we need to ask how we can differentiate ourselves from others. Birds That Fly helps us showcase the type of work we do. The video allows us to walk through the details of a job. Elliot is very professional...there’s no one else out there like him. It’s nice to have him as part of the team.”
Engineering companies have also used services provided by Birds That Fly to photograph remote locations for future bridge and roadway projects. “The aerial footage provided by Birds That Fly gave our firm’s presentation the extra touch to make it stand out above our competition. Our clients could envision exactly what we were proposing to design when looking at the roadway corridor from a birds eye view. Elliott’s customer-first attitude was refreshing and guarantees him repeat business with LJB,”
states Dennis Albrecht, Lutheran West Class of 1984 and PE (Regional Manager) for LJB Inc., a civil engineering firm. Elliot believes the drone business opportunities are as numerous as one can creatively imagine. You can view samples of his videos here
Elliot suggests that anyone interested in learning more about flying drones should visit faadronezone.faa.gov
for rules and regulations. In order to become a drone pilot, you must be at least 13 years old; however, all ages with the correct adult supervision can enjoy the technology that drones provide. A drone that includes a radio can be purchased for between $80-$100. In order to make money or register a business with a drone, one needs to be at least 16 years of age and pass the test for a Part 107 Commercial License. Elliot suggests being part of The Drone University (https://www.thedroneu.com/
) if planning a business. A membership with this organization is advantageous for the support and community it offers, assistance in submitting the necessary license renewal documents, and document templates for everything from rules to copyright releases. Best practice for
drone flying is to buy a hobby radio (Spaudie’s radio is a JumperT16 or Jumper T12. There are many other brands out there but Elliot says that these are cheapest and most flexible and have a lot of support in the drone community) and download Velocidrone or DRL Sim from Steam, which is a computer gaming platform. This program allows aspiring drone pilots to undergo flight simulations, and as Elliot says, “crashing a virtual drone is cheaper than crashing the real thing.” Elliot had plans to teach drone seminars and an after-school program at St. Paul Westlake this spring before schools shut down due to the COVID-19 mandates.
Elliot, and his wife Rachel married in 2013. The Spaudies welcomed their first child, a son named Noah, this past February.
Alumni Spotlight: Allison Younger, Class of 2017
by Debi Albrecht '85, Alumni Director
Allison Younger, a 2017 graduate from Lutheran High School West, continued her education at Cleveland State University (CSU). In July 2019, Governor Mike DeWine appointed Alli as the newest student trustee on Cleveland State’s Board of Trustees. The rigorous interview process with DeWine's Columbus office included multiple interviews with as many as four of his staff at a time. Some would have been intimidated, but Alli took it all in stride and won the appointment. Alli was introduced to Governor DeWine at the Ohio Board of Trustees Conference at Columbus State University in October 2019. What she accomplished in 2019, certainly a busy year for Alli, can be described as simply amazing. She set out to solve a shortfall in the government assisted program Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as that of Women Infant and Children (WIC). “I was looking at state benefits one day for one of my courses, and I was just shocked at the clear gap of care being offered.” When she found out that SNAP and WIC do not provide assistance for diapers, baby wipes, laundry detergent, cleaning products, paper products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, and shampoo (just to name a few), she began to devise a solution. Alli’s ministry, "Sharing GRACE" (Groceries Reaching Across Community Everyday), began to officially operate in November of 2019. Some may ask how a twenty-year-old could implement such a ministry. A synopsis of Alli’s CSU experience may help you understand. From the beginning, Alli decided to be involved in campus life at CSU. The list of leadership positions she has held is impressive: Phi Mu Rho Lambda (CSU Chapter) - Vice President of Committees 2020, Philanthropy Chair ’17-’18, Parent and Alumnae Chair ’18, and Sisterhood Chair ’19. Alli explains, “I joined Phi Mu Rho Lambda Fraternity during the fall of my freshman year. Fun fact: Phi Mu was founded before there even was a “sorority” so that’s where the name comes from, but it is a sorority! Right away I knew I wanted a leadership position, so I ran for our executive board that winter. I then served as Philanthropy Chair for a year. Collectively with my sisters over $500 was raised for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I have also served as the Parent and Alumnae and Sisterhood Chairs, planning various events with sisters and parents. Currently, I serve as our Vice President of Committees, meaning I oversee all of our committee/chair positions and help them in whatever capacity they need to succeed! Phi Mu has given so much to me and made my college experience what it is.”
Aside from Phi Mu, Alli’s campus positions also include the university’s Pride and Traditions Chair, The 1964 Society ’18-’19, and Presidential Student Ambassador for The 1964 Society.
She demonstrates her excitement by sharing, “I joined the 1964 Society in the fall of my freshman year. We are the Student Alumni Association at CSU. I have served in a variety of roles in the organization. I became a Presidential Student Ambassador my freshman year. I had the opportunity to work directly under CSU’s President at prestigious events doing various tasks, from ushering distinguished guests, to helping hand out awards, to greeting visitors at the University House. I have held the PSA title since my freshman year, consecutively. I have also served as CSU’s Pride & Traditions Chair, where I planned various campus-wide events to promote pride and spirit for CSU. One of the coolest things about that was that I was able to serve as the Homecoming Parade Chair in 2018 and planned the parade for all of CSU/Cleveland. I’ll never forget that! I presently serve as our organization’s President, which includes overseeing our executive board as well as membership for weekly tasks, running meetings, and recruiting. The 1964 Society is arguably one of the coolest organizations on campus that I am so proud to be a part of, as a current student, cultivating the importance of staying connected as alumni!”
As if her coursework and campus involvement weren’t enough, Alli has also been an intern at the Stuart Dean Company since 2017. Alli says, “Stuart Dean is a national provider of renowned interior and exterior architectural restoration services. Based out of New York City, we specialize in beautifying, restoring and protecting metal, stone, wood, facades, chandeliers, glass surfaces, and providing innovative grout and flooring solutions. I work in the Corporate Safety Department, handling logistics, shipping, the apparel program, as well as helping oversee the respirator program.”
Alli took on a leadership position at her church, Bethany Lutheran (Parma). Currently, this is the homebase for Sharing GRACE and also where Alli is a lifelong member. She was baptized and confirmed there, and attended BLS for Pre-K 3’s through 8th grade. The supporters of Sharing GRACE have provided financial backing as well as the items mentioned above that are crucial but do not qualify for food stamps or assistance. In the first months of operation, Sharing GRACE provided for a variety of families with various needs, from care kits during COVID-19, to boxes of needed supplies for those facing hard times. Sharing GRACE also supports Bethany’s shut-in population through essentials that can be dropped off to them.
When asked what motivated Alli to take on this ministry, she responded, “Honestly, I have just always wanted to help people from a young age. My parents instilled service in me from the beginning. Cuyahoga County’s poverty rate is 18.3% with many people living paycheck to paycheck.” Alli is driven by the fact she doesn’t want people to have to choose between paying rent one month or getting diapers; she believes that needs to change. The items not covered by SNAP and WIC are things we use everyday without a second thought, but we would think about them if we were not receiving assistance for these items when they are really needed. Alli says that she just wanted to lighten that burden for families. Filling the gap between the government services and local outreach, Alli’s ministry provides a much-needed bridge.
If you would like to join the efforts of Sharing GRACE, the most needed items are diapers, toilet paper, laundry detergent, antibacterial wipes/spray, and personal care items. Those who prefer to make a cash or check gift can direct their contribution to Bethany Lutheran Church for the Sharing GRACE Pantry. Despite the COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate currently in place at the time of this article’s publishing, they are still collecting donations at Bethany Lutheran Church & School (6041 Ridge Road Parma, OH 44129). Donations can be dropped off in the back parking lot on the back porch of Bethany’s Youth Center on Monday-Thursday from 9am-12pm. Please email Alli ([email protected]) if you are planning on dropping off items. Learn more at https://bethanyparma.org/sharing-grace
How can someone receive the services of Sharing GRACE? Bethany Church/School families can submit a simple application to establish need. It can be one-time assistance or on an ongoing basis. The pantry is focused on helping people when they have an essential need and reminding them that Bethany has their back in whatever situation they may be experiencing. They will receive care!