HPE Partners with Texas A&M to Create New Computer Engineering Center
Fri, 07/19/2019 - 14:27
Hewlett Packard Enterprises has donated $10.5 million in research equipment for a state-of-the-art computer engineering school at Texas A&M University, according to a recent announcement from the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. The building will be a hub for students and university researchers to experiment with new ways to collect, analyze and distribute Big Data, as well as conduct new experiments with nanoengineering and other groundbreaking technology research.
“Researchers can now develop next-generation computer chips for more powerful but energy-efficient computing, integrated photonic devices and microsensors for biosensing/medical applications or better autonomous vehicles, or flexible electronic devices and micro/nanofluidic systems for continuous health monitoring or point of care diagnosis in remote settings,” said Dr. Arum Han, director of the AggieFab Nanofabrication Facility at Texas A&M.
Partnerships between universities and technology companies have become a useful endeavor for both parties, as companies look to prepare graduating students for the positions companies will need them to fill. HPE executives expect students who take advantage of the new research building will come away with the valuable experience needed to not only be good employees but also effective change-makers in a future driven by data.
“Looking ahead, the ability to make sense of the massive amounts of data generated in academic, public and private sector settings will change not only how we do business, but also how we live,” said Mark Potter, the Houston-based chief technology officer of HPE and director of Hewlett Packard Labs. “Our success at evaluating the world around us and making breakthroughs we never thought possible hinges on our ability to apply technology.”
University officials are enthusiastic to see what students will accomplish with the technology donated by HPE, and what future projects have in store for the institution’s legacy.
“The students who come here are inspired by generations of successful Aggie alumni and expect to work hard,” said Stan Williams, TEES Hewlett Packard Enterprise Center for Computer Architecture research director. “This is the ideal environment to do something completely new in computing, untethered from legacy notions, and I am excited by the opportunities that I see.”
That’s one area where AI can make a difference, as a 2018 Learning House report emphasizes. “Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education” identifies student acquisition, learning and instruction, student affairs, and institutional efficiency as areas where AI solutions could substantially benefit universities.
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more attainable in every sector of the economy, and higher education is no exception,” the report’s authors state. “AI opens up the possibility for higher education services to become scalable at an unprecedented rate, both inside and outside the classroom.”
AI Chatbots Answer FAQs to Alleviate Burden on Campus Staff
Learning House defines AI systems as being responsive, decisive, adaptive and independent. These qualities are what make AI so promising as institutions struggle to remake themselves for the modern age in the face of competition, public scrutiny, demographic shifts and budget constraints.
Could AI be the magic solution to all these challenges? Maybe not — but then again, why not? As we’re starting to see, AI facilitates many of the improvements that campus leaders seek: personalized instruction, timely and targeted academic interventions, efficiencies that allow faculty to devote more time to meaningful engagement with learners.
Consider chatbots, which I’d argue are firmly past the early adoption stage. Chatbots already proved their worth in a variety of administrative tasks, such as answering FAQs from prospective students.
Pounce’s effectiveness is hard to argue with. It answered 99 percent of students’ questions, earned a four- or five-star rating from 80 percent of users and helped to decrease summer melt by more than 21 percent — all without putting an additional burden on staff.
AI Supports Personalized Learning Aims of Higher Education Leaders
Emerging AI applications step in to help faculty, assisting with grading, leveraging facial recognition software to help instructors understand when students are truly engaged (or not) in the classroom and monitoring students’ online discussion boards to assess and improve interactions.
Other applications help institutions personalize student services, moving us closer to the highly individualized experience that colleges would love to give every student, if resources were unlimited.
One tool, Stellic, was created by Carnegie Mellon University undergrads who saw room to improve their own degree-planning experience. It reimagines degree planning as a data-driven, customized support that helps students and their advisers manage the academic journey in real time.
On a larger scale, AI can support institutional efficiencies. Stellic, for example, can help planners more accurately determine demand for specific courses, which translates to a better student experience and more accurate financial forecasting.
That’s a great example of a case where AI can help leaders refine all levels of operations, in ways that satisfy multiple stakeholders.
Ensanian: Prior to this project, we had 23 outdoor access points spaced throughout campus. A lot of those coincided with new construction that was happening on campus, and most were located outside of our main campus area.
We’d really been wanting to increase the coverage, because there’s plenty of opportunity for learning, teaching and studying outdoors. Wireless networks are becoming more and more of an expectation from everyone on campus, which is another good reason that we wanted to extend beyond the insides of our buildings.
EDTECH: What was the timeline for the project?
Ensanian: The early talks began late in 2017. In the IT department, we were talking about where exactly we wanted to see this increased coverage. We made a decision to contract out a lot of the work and the design. We just didn’t have the bandwidth or the manpower to do it in-house.
We’d already had a working partnership with CDW, so we reached out to them. In the spring of 2018, CDW performed a site survey of the whole campus. The original proposal came out to 122 APs.
The next chunk of the process went from May through September of 2018. It involved going through the proposal, running it by our campus architect, working on some unique solutions with CDW and reviewing other items, such as our existing outside plant, data closets and all sorts of details.
Some of the proposed AP placements were more remote and would get minimal use, and the initial cost to do the whole campus came way over budget. So, we had to pare that down. We have a main pedestrian spine that flows from the east to the west, so we decided to focus on that main area. Forty access points would cover the heart of our central campus.
By October 2018, we had a final proposal set, and the installation took place from November through February.
EDTECH: Who was involved with the project?
Ensanian: It takes a lot of people to pull off a big project like this. CDW and all of their subcontractors, and then on campus, we partnered with our facilities department, campus architect, electricians, plumbers, housing staff, auxiliary staff, other people on my IT team — everyone from our CIO down to our wired team.
Our project manager helped manage all these different contacts, and our wireless network manager gave great input and insight into the direction of the project. We all did a great job of supporting one another.
EDTECH: If a colleague from another university approached you for advice on a project like this, what would you say?
Ensanian: Success on a project like this depends on many partnerships; involve them in the planning process as early as you can. Do as much of your own internal prep work as you can ahead of time — stuff like locating your data closets, finding your switch ports, scoping out your cable paths. Is your outdoor plant properly documented and reliable? Getting all that stuff situated before the actual kickoff helps greatly.
Getting different eyes on each part of the solution helps. There’s a lot of moving parts with a project like this, and it’s easy for one person to overlook a small but important detail.
Future-proof where you can. We tried to use larger conduits on some new installs, in case in the future we wanted to add extra antenna cables. Take real caution of where and how you’re mounting APs so that they’re easily accessible in the future for servicing.
Finally, keep the big picture in mind. Remember that pulling off any big project like this successfully requires a lot of planning, a lot of design coordination, redesign, tweaking. A project like this isn’t going to get completed in a couple of months, so budget that, be honest with yourself and realize that if you’re going to do this properly and successfully, it takes time.
Jacquelyn Bengfort is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. A social anthropologist by training, she writes on topics from education to the military, gender to fictional post-apocalyptic worldscapes.
Across industries, many organizations have found that they’re able to achieve benefits such as cost savings, enhanced agility and improved business continuity by integrating their private clouds with public cloud resources in a hybrid model. A hybrid approach can provide a best-of-both-worlds experience, allowing organizations to place workloads where they are best suited, or to take advantage of additional capacity in the public cloud during periods of peak resource demand.
Just as investing in quality football equipment can give athletes a leg up over rival institutions, the technology components of an esports arena can help players come out on top in a match.
One of the most important components for a high-quality esports arena is the central processing unit inside of each gaming computer.
“Keeping the processor, or CPU, up-to-date with cutting-edge technology is essential to maintaining the integrity of esports matches,” according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports. “Processors that are unable to keep up with the proper frame rate, the game’s running speed, can put a player at a big disadvantage.”
It “is one of the most important components in any computer, and what you could consider the brains of your system,” according to an expert in the esports community. “The power of your gaming computer’s CPU will have a direct correlation with overall gaming performance.”
Generally, the graphics processing unit will do most of the heavy lifting, acting as the source for players’ frame rates, which determines how smoothly and clearly the game shows up on the monitor. However, without a strong CPU, the quality of the GPU will be inconsequential.
“The CPU has to feed information to the graphics card and the CPU can be a limiting factor in gaming if the CPU cannot keep up,” writes Talha Amjad in Segment Next.
How to Choose the Best Processor for Gaming Competition Arenas
When it comes to picking the best gaming CPU, one of the most important aspects is the number of cores in the unit.
CPU cores receive programing information, interpret it and then send out instructions to different parts of the computer in a processing sequence necessary to keep games going.
While simpler games, such as Minecraft, may only require one core, common esports games typically require multiple cores to handle the fast-paced nature of competitive play.
Additionally, schools may want to broadcast live events through their players’ computers. Having a multi-core processor makes this possible without impacting the computer’s performance.
“We’re seeing increased demand for premium processors because there’s an insatiable desire for computing power from this gaming audience,” Steve Shakespeare, EMEA enterprise solutions director at Intel, told TechRadar. “Not only do they want to play a great game, which in and of itself is intensive on the CPU, intensive on graphics as well, but they also maybe want to record that, they want to stream it onto Twitch, they want to have a real-time conversation with people.”
Current CPUs for gaming vary in the number of cores, but four- or six-core gaming CPUs are the most prevalent for esports competitions, according to an HP blog post.
“Current dual-core processors can bottleneck your graphics card and cause your gaming performance to suffer unless your GPU is also an older and less powerful version,” notes Jolene Dobbin, writing for HP Tech Takes. “Quad-core CPUs are also more affordable, better performing and less laggy than earlier versions.”
What Competitive Gaming CPUs Are Available for Higher Education?
According to The Verge, the top-performing CPUs will have:
Turbo-boost frequency above 3.5 gigahertz
At least four cores
Base clock speed of at least 2.2GHz
Level 3 cache of 8 megabytes or more
It’s important to note, however, that the newest processor for gaming on the market may not necessarily be the best choice for a collegiate esports arena, especially if the institution plans to build several competitive gaming stations.
For example, the University of Washington, which opened its state-of-the-art esports arena in April, added 40 high-end computers to the space. Costs would have added up quickly if administrators had chosen to buy the most expensive gaming CPU for each machine. Instead, university administrators chose computers equipped with Intel’s i7-8700K Core processors, a 2018 model that still offers the processing power teams need to compete at the elite level.
Some universities may be tempted to buy CPUs with the greatest number of cores. However, depending on the games esports teams are playing, this may be an unnecessary waste of resources.
“If a game is only programmed to use three or four cores then having eight cores won’t increase your performance,” according to The Verge. “To maximize your budget, you should check your game specifications to make sure you’re not overspending on CPU without gaining any benefit.”
Finally, when trying to find the best CPU for gaming, it’s important to think about the demands of future games.
“You need to balance the needs of current titles with the potential demands of future titles,” Joshua Pann, a college esports specialist for HP, told EdTech.
Ultimately, student esports athletes will determine how well a university’s esports team performs. However, supporting players with the right gaming equipment not only will help students achieve their best, but also will showcase for prospective students the institution’s commitment to gaming.
Campus Hackathons Prepare Students for Tech and Coding Careers
Fri, 07/12/2019 - 10:55
Higher education institutions are finding that hackathons — events inviting students to participate in science, technology, engineering and math challenges — are a great way to connect coding to real-world problems that students care about solving.
“Hackathons naturally encourage small communities to form in which students learn from each other and work together to build sophisticated projects in a single weekend,” Joshua Eckroth, an assistant professor of computer science at Stetson University, said in a statement, according to Campus Technology.
Hackathons will vary depending on an institution’s size, resources and culture, but a few fundamentals can help any college get these popular events up and running.
Experts recommend that colleges start planning six weeks out and include students in decision-making for themes and other details.
“Students are tuned in to the needs of their peers and have the motivation to spend the time needed to plan an incredible event,” according to Major League Hacking, the official league for these events. “Student organizers also have the ability to learn a lot about fundraising, management, logistics and marketing through the process of planning a hackathon.”
Partner with Third Parties to Expand Hackathon Resources
Partnering with tech companies is another route to hosting a hackathon.
This helps institutions offset costs and share planning, while facilitating connections between students and prospective employers. Because hackathons spur interest in the technical skills many companies are looking for, both large and small organizations often support these kinds of events.
In 2018, GrizzHacks sponsored its third hackathon — its largest to date — and invited technology professionals to participate.
“Through the mentorship available over the whole weekend, attendees are able to work on ideas and projects they would otherwise never get a chance to tackle in classes,” Shriyash Jalukar, a co-director of GrizzHacks, wrote in a blog post. “By the end of the weekend, hackers come out feeling proud about what they built.”
In addition to contributing funding for the event, Microsoft also brought specific challenges, including a mobility hack and a financial management tool hack, which participants tackled to exercise their coding creativity.
Above all, remember that hackathons should focus on making coding fun for students of all backgrounds. With the right approach, even students with no experience in coding can be enticed by these STEM-oriented events.
This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.
Video games have changed immensely over the years, and so have the people who play them. Having been popular among young people for decades, video games are now a legitimate global phenomenon experiencing explosive growth. Studies show that overwhelming majorities of teenagers and young adults play video games, and various projections estimate that the esports industry will become a multibillion-dollar market in the near future.
Even that term — “esports” — may be unfamiliar to many midcareer education professionals, and some might be tempted to dismiss the activity as a fad or a waste of time. However, a growing number of high schools and colleges across the country are implementing their own on-campus esports programs to capitalize on student interest, increase students’ engagement and sense of belonging, and (in the case of colleges and universities) entice prospects to enroll.
“With the FCC approvals, Google can develop the gesture technology at a faster pace,” says Thadhani Jagdish, senior research analyst in the information and communications technology practice at Grand View Research, to eventually “transform an individual’s hand into a universal remote control.”
Microsoft Kinect Puts Content Control in Users’ Hands
Gesture technology is already being put into use in diverse applications, Jagdish notes. In South Africa’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, a coffee company installed a machine that analyzes travelers’ facial gestures and dispenses a cup of coffee if it detects someone yawning.
In recent years, organizations across industries have adopted hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), an approach to IT architecture that combines storage, computing and networking into a single system. Hyperconvergence has been described as “the best of both worlds” by some data center administrators and industry observers, who see the model as offering the elasticity and scalability of public cloud providers, alongside the control and security of an on-premises system.
Five years in the making, the report details each of the models of innovation: the platform facilitator, experiential curator, learning certifier and workforce.
University officials can take a quiz to see which model best fits their campuses to create an innovative culture that fits the changing demands of higher education.
“Rather than simply change the delivery model or launch new programs and supports, we wanted to help institutions understand the pace of labor market changes and student needs as we stand on the precipice of artificial intelligence-enabled, full-on digital competency-based learning,” write the report’s authors.
4 New Higher Education Models to Reach Generation Z Students
To evolve with the next generation of learners and ensure their graduates will be strong candidates for employment, higher education institutions need to change the way they approach education. Here are the four models Education Design Lab projects institutions will adopt in the future:
Platform facilitator: From online content to food orders, Generation Z has become accustomed to customizable consumption, and education may follow. Some universities may begin to offer a Netflix-style distribution of course materials, while others will be “content providers for those platforms, licensing courses, experiences, certificates and other services,” according to the report. Many university administrators are already considering the idea of building AI-enabled programs to distribute academic videos, according to a 2018 survey by Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite and University Business.
Experiential curator: Institutions that adopt this model will take advantage of advancing data analytics tools and videoconferencing to expand their academic offerings beyond the classroom walls, according to the report. Experiential curators will use “advances in assessment, the maturation of online and hybrid education and the increasingly connected globe to provide, measure and certify transformative experiences outside the classroom.”
Learning certifier: Universities embracing this model will pair mobile technology with data dashboards where students can accrue microcredentials, in some ways gamifying the higher education system, the report’s writers note. Experiences outside the classroom, including extracurricular activities and internships, can be collected and marked off within the dashboard to provide future employers with evidence of graduates’ education experience that could make them well-rounded employees.
Workforce integrator: Workforce integrators establish corporate partnerships to build curricula and offer extracurricular activities, such as hackathons, where students can build connections with future employers. These collaborations will also ensure students graduate with the skills need to fill jobs in specific fields.