OPPORTUNITY: Aspirations in Computing Awards for Young Women deadline Nov 5

From MN State IT Center for Excellence, and a great opportunity for the right person…

NCWIT is accepting applications for the 2020 Aspirations in Computing Awards. Young women from Minnesota’s high schools with computing related interests are highly encouraged to apply. Application opens September 1st and closes November 5th.

Award for AiC recipients are chosen for their demonstrated interest and achievements in computing, proven leadership ability, academic performance, and plans for post‑secondary education. To date, nearly 8,600 women have been honored with the Award. The NCWIT Award for AiC is sponsored by Apple, Bank of America, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions Foundation, and Symantec. MNAiC partners with over 50 businesses to support a year-round talent development program that for many students culminates in being selected as an award honoree. Since 2013, Minnesota has benefited from 313 State Honorees and 40 National Honorees.

We’re inviting high school educators across the state to advocate for young women in computing by generating awareness of the program within their classrooms and schools. The awards program and complementary MNAiC offerings provide an ecosystem of support for young women with computing interests.  In 2019, 82 Minnesota students and 2 educators were selected as honorees.

Inaugural Tribal Broadband Summit: emphasizing the role of librarians

I was lucky enough to participate in the first Tribal Broadband Summit. I haven’t been able to take my usual notes – because I’ve been giving a few presentations but I’m happy to share the high level view.

Tribal lands are in desperate shape for broadband access – and it can be a matter or life and death. We’ve heard stories of people not getting medical attention because of lack of infrastructure. (Really phones – but as you can imagine, no phones means no internet.)

There are a few reservations that are in better shape – thanks to some heavy lifting by awesome champions. I’m always impressed with the champions of deployment who go from knowing nothing about broadband to knowing every nuance – because they have to. It’s like me learning how to build a car – just so I can drive it.

People recognize that a hybrid network (wired-wireless) is probably the best way to go to reach some people in remote locations. But in the same breathe people recognize the impact of weather and other forces on wireless technology. (There are a few folks from Alaska here.)

Attendees are interested in broadband use. Libraries are key players – both in use and deployment. People have been creative with white spaces and e-rate.

FCC Chair Pai spoke on the first day. He announced a new program to get spectrum to tribal areas…

One new policy I’m particularly excited about will give Tribes priority access to spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. This band is the largest contiguous block of spectrum below 3 GHz in the United States. But today, this valuable spectrum currently isn’t used in most of the Western United States. That’s partly because technological advances have rendered the band’s original intended uses outdated, and partly because arcane rules have left it dramatically underused. So this summer, the FCC took action. We removed obsolete restrictions on this band, allowing greater flexibility in how the spectrum can be used. But here’s the big news you’ll want to know about: We’re giving rural Indian tribes an exclusive window to obtain this spectrum to serve rural Tribal lands. That’s right. Before any commercial auction of this spectrum, Tribes can obtain this spectrum for free. This is the first time in the FCC’s history that we have ever given Tribal entities what we call a “priority window” to obtain spectrum for wireless broadband. I’m proud that it is happening under my watch, and I hope that Tribes will take advantage of it.

Head of Dep of Education Betsy DeVos spoke about the value of broadband and importance of government getting out of the way of better broadband.  Many other government officials in the room proudly spoke about the support they have given to get broadband and broadband programming onto tribal lands. For example the Institute for Museums and Library Services has awarded over $60 million in 15 years for grants invested in library tribal services – for online archiving, digital inclusion, online storytelling.

I learned about MLab – a cool tool to help track and map broadband use and services.

And I tried to talk up the Minnesota Broadband model. Here are the presentations…

GigaZone Gaming Championship Set for November 2

So excited to see this grow – and to let you know that they will be talking about the GigaZone Gaming as part of our Digital Showcase for the Fall Broadband Conference (Oct 8-10)

Largest Esports Stadium Style Gaming Event in Northern Minnesota with over $5,000 in cash and prizes

(Bemidji, MN) (September 23, 2019) – The 4th annual GigaZone Gaming Championship is set for Saturday, November 2 at the Sanford Center George W. Neilson Convention Center. The event features free gaming on various console and arcade games, numerous tournaments, virtual reality, door prizes, and more.  All the fun is free.  Over 3,500 attended the event last year.

This one of a kind regional gaming event showcases Paul Bunyan Communications’ IT and web development team which custom built and integrated much of the online technology and leverages the speed of the GigaZone one of the largest rural all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the country. The entire event is run off a single residential GigaZone Internet connection.

This year’s main stage tournament will feature Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate on the esports stadium style stage in the GigaZone Championship Arena.  In addition to the main stage, there will be tournaments of Overwatch, Fortnite, Mario Kart 8, Madden 20, Magic the Gathering Booster Drafts, and more.  Registration for all tournaments will start at the Sanford Center November 2 at 10 a.m. and go until full.

“There is a large gaming community in our area and GigaZone Gaming Championship not only showcases some of the region’s best gamers but it gives everyone a chance to get in on the action!” said Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications CEO/General Manager

“Our cooperative continues to expand one of the largest rural fiber gigabit networks in the country and that brings many advantages to our members.  The GigaZone provides extreme speed and low latency which are critical for the best online gaming experience and the GigaZone Gaming Championship showcases just that,” added Leo Anderson, Paul Bunyan Communications Technology Experience Manager.

“There is no other gaming event like it anywhere I’ve seen. It’s unique to our area and we are very proud of our team for making it happen. There is no catch, everyone and anyone gets to game for free!” added Brian Bissonette, Paul Bunyan Communications Marketing Supervisor.

This Paul Bunyan Communications event includes the talents of many local partners including NLFX, Accidently Cool Games, Northern Amusement, the Sanford Center, as well as support from several regional and national partners.

For more information on the GigaZone Gaming Championship visit www.gigazonegaming.com


Opportunity: start a Girls Who Code Club in your area

I saw this opportunity in the MN State Library Services newsletter. I’m not sure if it’s only for libraries but if you’re not a library, this is a really good opportunity to partner with one…

State Library Services is partnering with Girls Who Code (GWC) this year to bring free computer science learning opportunities to your community. Girls Who Code Clubs are free after-school programs for girls in grades 3-5 or 6-12. Participants will join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models and use computer science to change the world. Please note, this program targets, but is not limited to, girls. Participants not only learn hard coding skills and computational thinking, but they’ll also learn project management skills, collaboration, bravery, resilience, how to positively impact their community, and so much more.

When you start a GWC Club, you’ll gain access to free resources, flexible plug-and-play curriculum, funding opportunities, ongoing support, alumni opportunities for your young learners, and more! There’s no computer science experience needed to get started; GWC is there for you every step of the way. Apply now with the brief Clubs Application through our partnership, or learn more about the program at the next live 30-minute webinar! Webinars are scheduled weekly Sept. through Nov. 2019.

FCC Should Assess Making Off-School-Premises Access Eligible for Additional Federal Support

Federal funding is the reason than so many schools and libraries have adequate access. It’s a boon to those communities. But there’s still a huge gap between students with access as home and students without it.

I have three kids. I work full time. I have lots of volunteer gigs. If I had to take them to the library to get homework done we would all be less productive citizens. So I was pleased to see the US Government Accountability Office ask the FCC to look at federal support for home broadband access for students.

Here’s their recommendation…

Recommendation: The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission should determine and execute a methodology for collecting and analyzing data—such as conducting a new pilot program regarding off-premises wireless access or analyzing other data—to assess the potential benefits, costs, and challenges of making off-premises wireless access eligible for E-rate program support, and publish the results of this analysis. (Recommendation 1)

More recommendations are promised once the that step is completed. They also post an easy chart that outlines the downsides of having to leave home for access.

Finding sufficient funding available, FCC directs USAC to fully fund E-rate funding requests

From the FCC

In this Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces that there is sufficient funding available to fully meet the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) estimated demand for category one and category two requests for E-Rate supported services for funding year 2019.1 On April 1, 2019, USAC submitted a demand estimate for the E-Rate program for funding year 2019.2 It estimates the total demand for funding year 2019 will be $2.896 billion, which includes estimated demand for category one services of $1.91 billion and of $985 million for category two services.3 The Bureau announced that the E-Rate program funding cap for funding year 2019 is $4.15 billion.4 Additionally, according to USAC projections, $1 billion in unused funds from previous years is available for use in E-Rate funding year 2019.5 The Chief of the Bureau is delegated authority to determine the proportion of unused funds needed to meet category one demand and to direct USAC to use any remaining funds to provide category two support.6 In light of the current funding cap of $4.15 billion and available carry forward funding of $1 billion, there is sufficient funding to fully fund all category one and category two funding requests. We therefore direct USAC to fully fund eligible category one and category two requests, using the $1 billion in E-Rate funds unused from previous years, and any additional funds needed under the current cap to fully meet demand for such services.

A quick reminder for those of us less steeped in e-rate, category one services include telecommunications, telecommunications services and Internet access. Category two services include internal connections, basic maintenance of internal connections and managed internal broadband services.

Strut Your Stuff Tour in Swift County – hybrid welding classes, 4H app, STEM for kids and more!

We ended the Blandin Broadband tour this week in Kerkhoven, in Swift County. It was fun to hear about new projects such as a free, 4-week welding class. The class is half online and half in person but they graduated 13 people, who are likely to have better jobs soon. Another project that caught my eye was a 4H App that they will be using at the county fair. Parents in the room nearly cheered to hear that there will be one organized place for schedules and updates and winning announcements. I foresee more 4H groups adopting that app as soon as it’s available.

You can learn all about those projects below. Unfortunately the video I took didn’t save. (Using Facebook Live to archive works about 90 percent of the time in my experience.)

4H App

We have Facebook and email to reach out to families. It’s OK but not great so we thought an App that’s a one-stop-shop at the Fair would be helpful. It’s a great way to connect and maybe save on printing.

We reached out to Iowa Extension to help. We are piloting the app for the U of M.

The response from 4H parents in the crowd indicates that this will be well used!! And folks are excited in the easier cleanup and knowing that there will “be enough copies” since apparently they run out. They can push our notifications.

There should be sufficient broadband on the county fairground to work. About 300 kids in Swift County are in 4H.

The cost to use the app software is $600 every 2 years. Then there’s the cost to be in Apple/Windows App stores.

CNH Weld Training

Used Tooling U via Ridgewater to offer free classes over 4 weekends. CNH donated welding equipment.

We got 20 applicants- 14 were certified. The students found it easy to use. We had PCs for People computers for people to use; but we didn’t need them. The hardest part was timing – it ended on prom weekend. The instructor was great.

We didn’t have firm requirements for students. We need to be on the same page with requirements. Age range was about 19-55.

There are a lot of companies in the area that need welders.

We would do this program again – but we’d need grant support because it is expensive. Final budget was about $40,000 – or $3000/graduate.

A traveling welder can make $60-70 an hour!

Community Websites

6 communities that previously didn’t have adequate websites.

All sites will be a part of a County website but can use their own URL.

It’s a wizard developed site but includes community calendar and e-commerce options. We can do reports using ESRI access.

We have encouraged community champions – often the mayor. SO we can customize based on any special ideas that make sense for an individual community.

Working on community marketing plans based on storytelling.

Digital Marketing for Business

Matching businesses with a consultant to help with all aspects of tech needs.
Currently working with the newspaper. The program is going well so far. She asks questions that we wouldn’t know to ask. We plan to work with the consultant for 4 hours.

There isn’t an hourly limit on consulting but they worked on a list of deliverables.
There are so many businesses that would benefit from this type of service, we just need to know how to convince them.

PCs for People

We have 28 families signed up for computers. We were going to align the computers with girls who had gone through horse training program that works on self improvement.

So now we might work on home empowerment program to match computers with new homeowners/renter and help new owners use the computers to access county pages and census.

We are still hoping to get something done this summer – but it’s difficult to work with schools in the summer.

STEM Camp for Kids

Camp is happening now. Partnered with Community Ed. Working with National Investors Hall of Fame. Kids love it. We surpassed the expectation for students.

There was a fee to use the curriculum. Teachers are paid. Everyone loves it! School opened up free space and we had some volunteers.

Total cost was about $5000

The challenge moving forward with broadband adoption programs is keeping the momentum. The key is creating programs that interest people.