Nov 19, 2020
The Education Foundation of Caldwell County’s Rolling Hotspot program sent 31 Wi-Fi-equipped school buses to church lots, public parks and other places in areas where internet access was unavailable or very limited. On Thursday the North Carolina Technology Association — a non-profit trade association geared towards advancing the technology sector in North Carolina — announced that the Education Foundation was announced as a winner in the annual NC TECH Awards, in the Use of Technology Awards in the category “Tech for Good.”
Ben Willis, director of the Education Foundation, said that it was an honor to even be nominated in a competition that included leading technology industry names, such as Lenovo, IBM and the SAS Institute, far outside the realm of education.
“When we saw our name on the list, we were thinking, ‘There’s no way we’ll be able to win,’ ” he said. “But it makes me feel like we’re doing what we need to be doing … to be recognized alongside so many elite companies.”
Willis credited Executive Director Pat Triplett and Assistant Director Kathy McAteer with leading the initial grant-writing process that funded the Rolling Hotspot program, and said that support from Caldwell County Schools and partner Google made it possible.
“I can’t say thanks enough to Google for what they do for our community,” he said. “We couldn’t have done this project without them. All of our corporate and community sponsors are the reason we’re able to help.”
Each school bus was outfitted with a kit capable of broadcasting an internet signal that anyone within 300 feet could use, thanks to technology installed by Aerolina, a Charleston-based internet company.
Most of those school buses now are back in regular service carrying students to and from school, but the Education Foundation is looking for ways to continue the spirit of the program. Willis has been working with municipal governments in Caldwell County and letting them use the kits to amplify public Wi-Fi signals.
“Our focus is always students and teachers, but this is a way that we can continue using these devices to help families, students and the community at large,” he said.
By GARRETT STELL