In a bid to close the digital divide, a group of Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) students has secured a for mobile hotspots for students who otherwise lack internet access.

The idea for the project came from a writing class this winter where students were asked to think of a “wicked problem” on campus and create a solution. According to Oregon Tech, wicked problems are those that are complex due to a variety of factors – including incomplete information, too many stakeholders, contradictions, or changing requirements.

“Creating opportunities like the design thinking and wicked problem assignment provides students with authentic learning experience to innovate, critically think, collaborate, solve problems, and make a difference beyond the classroom,” explained Oregon Tech Assistant Professor Amber Lancaster, who taught the class where the idea was developed.

A group of seniors – including Renewable Energy Engineering, Communication Students, and Professional Writing majors – developed the project.

“Our team’s original intention was to address technology issues across the Klamath Falls campus,” Professional Writing major Erin Miller said. “After hearing from student, staff, and faculty stakeholders, we determined that mobile hotspots were a feasible means for addressing the most commonly heard complaint: unreliable on-campus internet connectivity and unaffordable internet plans off-campus.”

The team proposed establishing a mobile hotspot program that supports and expands the Professional Writing program’s mobile usability lab and supports a diverse student population within the Communication and Professional Writing programs. The project is intended to address technology access and equity barriers to learning primarily for students who live off campus and cannot afford internet service. The team was able to secure a $11,700 equipment grant from the Oregon Tech Foundation.

“With the mobile hotspot pilot project, we hope to provide students and faculty with a reliable internet source for those that cannot afford internet connectivity or for those faculty who perform field work in locations with spotty internet signals,” Miller said.

With the grant funding, the program will support 15 Oregon Tech students each term with loanable mobile hotspots for students who can’t afford internet service, who reside outside the service area, or who may not be able to fully utilize campus resources if they are employed off-campus and their work schedules conflict with Learning Resource Center and other facility operating hours. If the pilot project is a success, the team hopes to expand across the university.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs