NMU-Intel Partnership Expands

Northern has relied on Intel products to power its notebook computers since the university launched its technology program in 2000. But the vendor relationship has recently expanded to include student internships at the corporation’s Oregon facility, on-campus testing of new products and direct access to Intel technical support.

Larry Averitt, a network validation engineer with Intel’s mobility group, was at last month’s distribution in the Superior Dome to help debug wireless issues unique to NMU. He is pictured to the right of Dave Maki (AdIT).

“In a lab, you can try to emulate situations with software, but that kind of testing will only give you pseudo reports,” Averitt said. “It’s important to get actual results with real-world usage. NMU provides a unique RF [Radio Frequency] environment for testing because of its network density and the sheer number of students accessing wireless at one time in the lecture halls, the Starbucks lounge or the Superior Dome.

“Because the university wants to implement the latest technology and make it available to NMU students, it worked closely with Intel to test the latest Wi-Fi technology on a select population before rolling it out to everyone on campus."

After the distribution, Averitt passed the debugging torch to NMU seniors Cory Perry and Joe Manier. They were the first NMU participants in the Intel Wireless Internship Program.

“I worked on some automation programming for Windows and learned various networking protocols and debugging techniques,” said Perry. “I learned a lot about how a corporation works and what programming in the real world is like with large and small teams. It was perfect for the dream career I have in mind as a 3D computer simulation engine designer. I also worked alongside some of the most knowledgeable people in computer networking and I must say a little rubbed off on me.“

The students were paid by Intel for their full-time summer training so that they could return to campus and serve as company contacts for tests of new wireless cards and drivers during the academic year. To help test the latest software, Maki said he plans to recruit voluntary groups of faculty, staff and students.

“We’ll have a Web site where they can sign up and we’ll send out mailings to let them know what new products are coming,” he said. “They’ll be able to drop out at any time, but we might add a fun competition to encourage them to find bugs in the software rather than work around them, ignore them or reboot. The person who finds the most bugs or gives the best description of problems will win an Intel-Lenovo laptop. We’ve always used Intel wireless cards, but we used to have to go through Lenovo for technical support. It’s nice to have direct access to Intel engineers through our partnership with the company.”

Maki added that all new notebook computers issued this fall are equipped with a wireless reporting tool. Users can activate it if they experience a problem and the tool will gather all information about the wireless card and e-mail it directly to Intel.


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Updated: September 26, 2008

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