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THURSDAY, NOV. 14, 2013

Nonprofit says 72 percent of schools lack broadband speeds needed to fully use the Internet;

Rural broadband towerRural broadband towerElliston Elementary School in rural Montana is "on the wrong side of the new digital divide in this country," Lyndsey Layton writes for The Washington Post. Although they have laptops and whiteboards, the connection isn't fast enough for the teachers and students to utilize the many facets of technology such as videos, music, graphics and interactive programs. Rural schools aren't the only ones lacking adequate broadband.

According to Education Superhighway, a nonprofit dedicated to improving digital access in schools, 72 percent of public schools—in the country, suburbs and cities—do not have adequate broadband speeds to fully access the Internet.

"Wiring schools has brought the Internet to the principal's office or maybe a teacher's desk," said Evan Marwell, the chief executive of the group. "But we need to move this technology into the learning process, and that means 55 million students." President Obama proposed that all public schools get high-speed broadband and wireless Internet within the next five years, Layton writes. He said, "In a country where we expect free wi-fi with our coffee, why shouldn't we have it in our schools?"

Under Obama's plan, the Department of Education would train teachers in technology implementation for classroom instruction. It could be funded by increasing E-rate, the extra charge the government added to telephone bills in 1997. E-rate also gives schools and libraries 20 percent to 90 percent discounts on telecommunication costs. The program has already helped bring schools up to date; at the start, 14 percent of schools had Internet access, and now 99 percent have it, according to the Obama administration, Layton writes.

But schools still need faster broadband to support multiple new devices like tablets and smartphones and education applications."There are amazing learning opportunities, ability to have access to engaging digital content, ability to connect to experts and learners around the country through the smart use of technology," said Richard Culatta, director of the Education Department's Office of Educational Technology.

Broadband improvements will become even more important with the addition of the Common Core academic standards in reading and math for grades K-12—which 45 states and the District of Columbia will implement—that will require the administration of online exams. "The primary issue is bandwidth," Jacqueline King of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, said. Plans to improve the situation include increasing the E-rate budget and keeping a closer eye on what exactly schools spend the money on. "Some experts say that federal government should consider a one-time investment to bring adequate broadband capacity to all schools," Layton writes. That could cost $11 billion. (Read more)

Written by Melissa Landon Posted at 11/14/2013 02:19:00 PM

Date: 10-07-2013

Company's technology-driven event shows the future of manufacturing...

For the next two weeks, Mazak Corp. will welcome more than 2,000 industry professionals at its North American Technology Center in Florence during its Discover 2013 event.

The event will offer technical seminars and industry-specific metalworking demonstrations and showcase a wide array of Mazak’s new machine models.

Chris Webster, an apprentice at Mazak in Florence, makes adjustments to a turret. The facility will be the site of Discover 2013.Patrick Reddy/The Kentucky Enquirer file photo Chris Webster, an apprentice at Mazak in Florence, makes adjustments to a turret. The facility will be the site of Discover 2013.Patrick Reddy/The Kentucky Enquirer file photo Mazak frequently hosts industry events, but company president Brian Papke said it has raised the bar this year to provide an enhanced experience for attendees.

“It’s no longer practical to just have an open house,” Papke said. “The time of people is so much more valuable that, in order to have an event like this, it has to be technology-driven. All companies are not at our level yet, but they are going to have to be to compete, so in a sense we are representing what manufacturing will be.”

Mazak has continued to expand and invest in manufacturing technology that has established it as an industry leader and an efficient machine tool builder that provides high-quality, reliable products.

The world-class facility in Florence produces more than 100 models of turning centers, multi-tasking machines and vertical machining centers.

A total of 37 new machines will be on display in the technology center during the event, including a cell of five developed specifically for a customer.

“All of these machines are new in some way,” Papke said. “Some are dramatically new models and others have been reconfigured with options and accessories that make them come up to a higher level of productivity.”

The production area will also display 11 new models designed for the current expansion of that facility, as well as seven other models in various stages of development.

Mazak is also working with its VIP partners to go beyond just showcasing its products.

“It adds another dimension of technology to some of the things we do,” Papke said. “We are in the final stages of putting this show together and the technology is incredible. Some is software and some is hardware, but the idea is to show customers a wide range of solutions, not just machines.”

Papke said there is a nationwide resurgence in the advanced manufacturing industry triggered by a number of factors. Mazak’s U.S. workforce alone has increased from 680 in late 2009 to 1,091, and 735 of those jobs are in Northern Kentucky.

“There are many companies that would like to reshore to the United States and there are some real advantages to manufacturing here,” Papke said. “The energy cost is reasonable compared to other countries and the long-term outlook for energy and the ability for us to reach energy independence is very bright. We also have moderate inflation, so it’s becoming more attractive to buy things here.”

Mazak utilizes a production-on-demand concept that allows it to make products in smaller quantities with short lead times, which provides a competitive advantage over foreign suppliers.

“We all would like to customize our products more and produce in lower quantities that match up to the needs of customers,” Papke said. “That is kind of a different idea from bringing things offshore where it’s not practical to buy things a few at a time because the freight costs and the labor costs are rising in those countries. This is the future of manufacturing.”

As a preview to Discover 2013, Mazak will host a Next Gener8n event for more than 200 Boone, Kenton and Grant county high school students and their parents Monday.

It is part of an ongoing effort to recruit a local workforce that will support the advanced manufacturing industry in Northern Kentucky in the future.

“We see it as our contribution to help employ people in the manufacturing industry,” Papke said.

The combination of growth within the industry and an aging workforce has left companies such as Mazak in desperate need of skilled workers. Mazak has partnered with manufacturers at the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park to determine why it is so difficult to fill jobs in the industry.

Mike Vogt, Mazak’s vice president of human resources, said the biggest revelation is that there are some long-held perceptions about the industry that are no longer accurate.

“We did some surveys and some focus groups with students and parents to try to learn why high school students were not considering careers in manufacturing,” Vogt said. “What we found is that manufacturing still has this old image of a dirty, dark, dangerous kind of work.”

Advanced manufacturing jobs today have evolved into highly-skilled, well-paid positions in facilities that are in clean, safe environments.

There are currently almost 700 unfilled advanced manufacturing jobs, with an average annual salary of $55,000, available in Northern Kentucky.

In three years, that number will jump to 2,500 and during the next decade more than 6,000 new advanced manufacturing jobs are expected to be available in the region.

By Mark Hansel
The Kentucky Enquirer

The shutdown is now clogging up the data economy. Thanks, Congress!


By Brian Fung, Published: October 3 at 9:48 am

Thanks to the government shutdown, nearly a dozen federal Web sites are offline and 19 of them are no longer being updated. But a less obvious casualty of the widespread furloughs are the online tools that automatically relay government data to the public. 

Federal agencies maintain hundreds of application programming interfaces, or APIs. Whenever you see an interactive map that's based on Census statistics or pollution data or other official information, that's often the result of a government data feed. These days, however, when a map or a program phones in to the feed for updates, it's often met with a "sorry, we're closed" message — just like the kind human visitors see when they visit 

Craig Isakow runs a Washington-area startup that helps offices, schools and other public buildings become Energy Star-recognized with the Environmental Protection Agency. Using the agency's API, Isakow submits characteristics about a building's size and energy usage, and the API returns a numerical score from 1-100 that can be read like a fuel-efficiency rating for cars. Last year, Isakow said, nearly a third of all such Energy Star scores were generated using the API; the rest were computed by logging in by hand.

Now both methods of performance certification are down as a result of federal furloughs. That means delays, lost revenue and greater uncertainty for Isakow's business, WegoWise. (MORE)




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