Each May students from all over Maine converge on the University of Maine as it hosts a summer student conference as part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) 1:1 program. Last year, for the 13th year, over one thousand middle school and high school students, armed with their mobile devices and laptops, descended on Orono, ME to learn about technology through a host of fun activities.
In 2016 the MLTI theme was blending storytelling with electronic gaming. Donn Fendler, a Rye, NY native, was the conference speaker and he told the students about when he was 12-years-old, being lost on Maine’s Mt. Katahdin for nine days. As he recounted his tale, the connected students created the imagery via Minecraft on the auditorium’s 70-foot screen. This topic of storytelling and gaming was woven throughout the day’s topics including 3D graphics in game development and movie production.
With that many kids doing that many network-intensive activities on their wireless devices, there needed to be strong and stable Wi-Fi infrastructure for which the University leverages Cisco products.
University of Maine System Network Architect Garry Peirce along with other Networkmaine staff deployed 26 of the Cisco Aironet 3802 Series Access Points throughout the Collins Center for the Arts Concert Hall. (See image below)
“We were able to cover the entire area very well creating small cells, by placing APs under the seats” he explained.
Although there is plenty of conference planning, Peirce and his team had to set up the network infrastructure quickly—in just one day prior to the conference. That meant that there was little time to test and only one shot for the network to run properly. This isn’t the first time that the team used Cisco products, so the team wasn’t worried.
“We were confident that the Cisco products could handle this without a lot of testing,” Peirce said. “The hot-off-the-presses APs were a wrinkle, but they worked well. The 2016 MLTI conference was by far the most seamless wireless service in the conference’s history enabled through the use of Cisco switching, 3802 AC2 capable APs, with Connected Mobile Experience (CMX) handling authentication and Umbrella service for some generic content control.”
Peirce said that these features were leveraged to maintain smooth network access in the hall and across campus throughout the day.
“At the beginning of the conference, the students provide some information to login to the network and then at the end of the day we use that information to raffle prizes – including scholarships ” he said. “This is also done highlight to students that they are logging into a network aware of their device’s presence, so they should practice being good network citizens.”
Peirce said that one of the good things about this conference, and the Cisco partnership, is that it allows the University to test equipment and see how it runs under both controlled and chaotic circumstances.
This May, the conference will once again be ready for the students—powered by Cisco.