CSUMB’s tech center brings wireless imagination to Monterey.
Thursday, June 1, 2006
The first step in harnessing the power of wireless technology, says Arlene Krebs of CSU Monterey Bay’s Wireless Education and Technology Center (WeTEC), is to grasp its possibilities—or as she says, “to understand what new technologies are capable of.”
Such capabilities will be spotlighted at this week’s Wireless Community and Mobile User Conference hosted by WeTEC and the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG).
And the capabilities are cool.
Case studies in point: One panel on mobile education will show how Central Coast youngsters use wireless technology to steer a remote-controlled underwater submarine called “ROVing Otter.” The ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle), which can dive 100 feet, allows students to study a living kelp forest in Whaler’s Cove off Point Lobos from their classrooms. Later, attendees will travel virtually across town to CSUMB, where students respond when prompted to different questions posed by their professors via handheld wireless Classroom Performance Systems (CPS). By using the CPS, the professor can analyze individual students’ performance and tailor added instruction according to need.
Of course, the possibilities extend well beyond education, into government, industry and beyond. One lecture will explore solutions developed by a team from the Naval Postgraduate School that allowed them to establish wireless networks in post-Katrina New Orleans, solutions that linked lifesaving first responders and aid groups to hurricane victims. Other talks will analyze wireless technology’s role in enriching information access (through citywide broadband initiatives), economic development (by empowering small business), and basic quality of life (through Internet access for the disadvantaged and health care applications), among other topics.
Krebs says these possibilities are promising, but they’re
not everything. “Technologies are just a tool,” she says.
“What they are capable of is made possible by our
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The fact that the conference is happening locally (and features a number of local case studies) isn’t coincidence. Part of WeTEC’s mission—meeting a national need in education and industry for reliable information concerning technology deployment, applications, assessments and issues—is to bring national and regional leaders together.
Because of WeTEC, CSUMB ranks behind only one other public university in the country on Intel’s list of top wireless campuses. Given WeTEC’s track record, it’s no surprise that, in its third year, the conference is gaining momentum. This year’s program has drawn tech experts from AT&T and Cisco, Stanford and UCLA, Monterey County and Canada. Its featured panel Thursday morning will extend its expertise to a wide audience through a live webcast.
Krebs, a New York transplant who completed doctoral studies in culture and communications at NYU, is proud of the conference’s singularity.
“It’s unique because it melds education, business and government people,” she says, “no other conference has all three. I hope what comes out are partnerships and alliances—and a commitment to pull together and merge our resources to link the Central Coast.”
Underneath this seemingly modest hope, however, simmers an uncompromising drive to help the Central Coast adapt by motivating local leaders to embrace technology.
“The goal is that our county leaders understand these technologies and how they can be put to work for education, public safety, research, communication among government agencies, economic development and health,” she says.
Given the fact that WeTEC was originally founded with a Congressional appropriation championed by Central Coast Rep. Sam Farr, Krebs has reason to be confident that leaders will catch on. AMBAG, which co-sponsors the conference, is already committed, according to Executive Director Nick Papadakis.
“My agency did a study a couple of years ago and looked at small businesses on the Central Coast,” Papadakis says. “We found out they don’t have access to broadband [Internet]. We have rural areas—fiber will never get there or it will be many years from now. That’s just one example why wireless is so important.
“If [improvements] don’t happen all those people will stay
behind and the region will suffer. We have to educate our
“THE MOBILE USER,” a three-part program on the mobile user, mobility and community, and mobility and public policy, will be webcast live from the Steinbeck Forum at The Monterey Conference Center, 1 Portola Plaza, Monterey, 8:30-10am, Thursday, June 1. $70, includes breakfast. for a schedule of events and more, visit http://wetec.csumb.edu.