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Max’s Minute – August 2020

Max Davis-Johnson, CIO, Office of Information Technology (OIT) at Boise State University, discusses how OIT prepped classrooms this summer to provide faculty and students flexible options for engagement with one another, two rapid-development projects to help with COVID contact tracking on campus, improvements to the Boise State research and high-performance computing cluster, and other technology updates.

Find details on these and other technology initiatives here on the Boise State OIT website.

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Video Transcript: Max's Minute - August 2020

Hi, this is Max Davis-Johnson, Boise State Office of Information Technology. I’m standing outside here the second day of classes for the fall semester. This semester is going to be unlike any that we’ve ever experienced before.

I’ve talked before about some of the things that we’re doing over the summer to get ready. Just to summarize quickly: we’ve put in over 3,000 pieces of new technology in over 200 classroom spaces and we’ve laid over two miles of cable connecting all these things.

And that’s been a tremendous effort, but it was a very collaborative effort. Not only within OIT where we had the Network team, obviously the Classroom Support and Audio-Visual teams, the Technical Support team, the Learning Technology Solutions (LTS) team that provided training and documentation on how to use all this–so it was a huge collaborative effort within OIT.

But it was also this huge collaborative effort all across campus working directly with Extra Mile Arena, working with the Morrison Center, where we have put classrooms. Working with the Student Union where we have put classrooms.

Working all across campus with Facilities to help upgrade everything that we’ve done here. Working with Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to make sure this is part of the training that they’re providing to all the faculty and instructors on campus.

It’s been a huge collaborative effort getting ready for this semester which is unlike any that we’ve had before. But not only will it benefit this semester, it will benefit us for years to come–the investment in technology that we’ve done now.

It gives us tremendous ability to flip classes, do hybrid classes, to do remote classes, to do live streaming classes. It has changed the game for what we can do here at Boise State.

Community Health Check Apps

To help get ready for this semester, our Web and Mobile Application Development team has done a lot of work. We’ve developed a COVID Contact-Tracing app that our Public Health Office will use. We’ve also worked closely with a vendor to integrate and configure a symptom-tracking app.

Basically, we’re asking everybody on campus, students included, to fill it out. It’s a little survey you respond to every day with a health check by giving your symptoms. Then it tells you you’re good to come to campus, or wait a minute, maybe you should stay home today. Then it will allow us to contact the Public Health Office and they will contact you and follow up if needed.

New High-Performance Computing Cluster Coming This Fall

We’ve talked in the past about our third generation high-performance computing cluster which at the time we called “R3.” We’ve now renamed it, it’s now called “Borah.” It has almost 2,000 computing cores available to it. Our prior R2 had about 600. These are faster cores than even in R2. It’s got like a cadrillion-gazillion calculations a second that it can do. And there will be a real number coming out once we run some more tests.

But it’s currently all put together. We’re in the middle of testing it, configuring it. Remember it is housed at Idaho National Labs (INL) in Idaho Falls. We do have 100 gigabit connectivity through IRON that connects us to that. So it will be just like it’s here on campus.

So beginning in October, Borah will have general availability to the rest of campus. There will be more formal announcements coming here soon in September with specific dates and the specific floating point calculations the system will be capable of.

Multi-Factor Authentication

And one more item too that we’re going to be rolling out, or expanding use of here near the end of September, is multi-factor authentication. Right now we’re just requiring it for VPN access. But moving forward we will be asking you, if you’re coming in from off campus, we’ll be asking you to go through it. And basically you connect on campus, it sends a message to your phone, literally just pop a button, and you’re good to go.

Anyway, some things to look forward to.

In the immortal words of Bill S Preston Esquire, “Be excellent to each other.”

Until next time, bye.

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Max’s Minute is produced by the Office of Information Technology at Boise State University.