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NCShare broadband initiative targeting STEM education lands NSF funding September 18, 2022

Davidson College, Duke University and North Carolina Central University (NCCU), in collaboration with MCNC, today announced that the newly-created North Carolina Shared Research & Education collaborative infrastructure (NCShare) has received two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants totaling approximately $1.4 million to provide high-speed research network capacity, support high-performance computing, and boost STEM education to at least eight minority-serving, smaller, or mid-sized institutions of higher education throughout North Carolina.

The first NSF award (Abstract #2201525 for CC* Regional: NCShare Science DMZ) is for $984,868 and spans two years in order to establish a parallel science network infrastructure to interconnect campus researchers to external sites with a speed and style of connectivity that is typically only available at large research universities. Rather than each participant needing to build their own science network infrastructure, this project builds a shared, regionally-based network operating on MCNC’s existing state-wide research and education network. The result is expected to lower costs, require fewer campus support personnel, and provide fast and unrestricted data movement to multiple institutions. This virtualized approach increases accessibility of high-speed data-driven research by democratizing access to advanced cyberinfrastructure, enhancing research productivity, promoting collaboration, and reducing the time required for scientific discoveries at participating minority-serving and smaller institutions. Duke University Chief Information Officer (CIO) Tracy Futhey is the principal investigator (PI) for the project supported by co-PIs Davidson College CIO Kevin Davis, NCCU CIO Leah Kraus and Director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute Deepak Kumar, and MCNC President and CEO Tracy Doaks.

“The NCShare partnership is an important step towards addressing historical IT infrastructure inequities at minority-serving institutions such as North Carolina Central University and preparing a diverse STEM/high computing workforce of the future,” said Deepak Kumar, Ph.D., who also serves as interim associate provost and dean of Research and Sponsored Programs at NCCU. “The proposed infrastructure will foster collaborative and multidisciplinary research in areas such as big data and high-performance computing in genomics, drug discovery, clinical care and public health.”

The second NSF award (Abstract #2201105 for CC* Compute: NCShare Compute as a Service) is for $397,557 and also is a two-year grant that dovetails the work above but focuses on creating a shared computing environment supporting a common set of software and services, with priority use by Davidson, NCCU, and other North Carolina minority-serving and smaller institutions. The project leverages MCNC’s high-speed, high-bandwidth network and Duke’s already mature capability in automated provisioning, software containerization and advanced networking, which will accelerate implementation and make computation and powerful software environments quickly available to researchers, educators and students in the region.

As a result, faculty at participating institutions will benefit from having access to tools and services that ease the delivery of customized computing systems to meet their research needs and enable easy access to powerful tools for students. By starting from a common base environment and then supporting customizations that can meet the specific research and education demands of participating institutions, this project provides hands-on opportunities for students to use advanced science capabilities and software environments. Charley Kneifel, Chief Technology Officer at Duke’s Office of Information Technology, is the PI for the project supported by co-PIs Duke’s Tracy Futhey, NCCU’s Leah Kraus and Davidson’s Kevin Davis.

“North Carolina Central University is proud to partner with Davidson College and Duke University to enhance the overall academic experience and intellectual climate for our respective community members,” said David H. Jackson, Jr., NCCU provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Through making our data infrastructure and software access more robust, this collaboration will assist us in fulfilling our Eagle Promise with innovative research opportunities that prepare our students to graduate on time with leadership skills, global relevance, and employment or acceptance to graduate and professional schools.”

“NCShare’s assistance to current and future faculty and students with teaching, learning and research will be especially important to Davidson and other small North Carolina colleges and universities like us,” said Shelley Rigger, interim vice president for academic affairs at Davidson College. “We don’t have the resources or the demand to invest in technology at this level for ourselves alone. The funding provided by the NSF enables us to partner with North Carolina institutions as we invest in high-power computing to turbocharge undergraduate research.”

MCNC owns and operates the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), one of America’s longest-running regional research and education networks, providing high-performance networking services for education, research, libraries, health care, public safety, and other community anchor institutions throughout state. This network is the fundamental broadband infrastructure for more than 850 of these institutions (including all public K-20 education) in North Carolina.

“This is a big moment,” said MCNC’s Tracy Doaks. “Our incredible minority and smaller institutions of higher education throughout North Carolina play a key role in our state’s overarching digital equity and inclusion plans; they are hubs for innovation and economic opportunity in their communities. For over 40 years MCNC has been a trusted collaborator offering technology solutions and advanced networking to connect North Carolina. We are pleased to continue our long tradition of supporting important efforts such as this one.”

A virtual information session is scheduled Oct. 20 for those interested in these projects and want to learn more.

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About NCShare
The North Carolina Shared Research and Education (NCShare) infrastructure provides access to networking, scientific and statistical computing services to minority-serving institutions and smaller to mid-sized institutions of higher education in North Carolina, encompassing both private and public institutions. The program establishes a parallel research network infrastructure (a Science DMZ) to interconnect campus researchers to external sites. NCShare is a shared, regionally-based network operating on MCNC’s existing state-wide research and education network, rather than as a separate infrastructure. The result is expected to lower costs, require fewer campus support personnel, and provide fast and unrestricted data movement to multiple institutions. NCShare is a joint effort established by Duke University, Davidson College, North Carolina Central University and MCNC. Additional information is available at www.ncshare.org.

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Georgia Tech to help expand research at HBCUs August 22, 2022

Georgia Tech’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) was recently awarded a $995,550 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enable network and research enhancements for nearby historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The NSF grant will fund at 100 percent a two-year project titled Promoting Research and Education at Small Colleges in the Atlanta University Center and at Tuskegee University Through Network Architecture Enhancements. Through this project, Georgia Tech, in collaboration with Southern Crossroads (SoX), will extend advanced networking services and cyberinfrastructure access to Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College, and Tuskegee University. The project includes a robust training and support program to ensure proper adoption and success for researchers and educators at participating institutions. The Atlanta University Consortium (AUC) Woodruff Library will benefit from network upgrades through the grant as well.

Cas D’Angelo, OIT associate vice president and chief operating officer, serves as principal investigator for the project. He also serves as president of SoX, a Georgia Tech affiliate organization that serves nonprofit education, research, and government entities with cyberinfrastructure and global high-performance connectivity.

“We started preparing a compelling proposal package that would demonstrate the need and value to the research community in early 2021,” said D’Angelo. “For years, we have been working to get institutions within the AUC — the oldest and largest contiguous consortium of African American higher education institutions in the U.S. — connected to the SoX regional network, given their proximity. This project provides us with that opportunity.”

This project will also lay the groundwork for expansion to other HBCUs.

The NSF has solicited proposals to support traditionally underserved institutions of higher education through partnerships with regional entities that have experience in high-performance research and education networking like Georgia Tech. Special emphasis has been placed on HBCUs, tribal colleges and universities, and other traditionally minority-serving institutions.

To learn more, visit sox.net.

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$10.5MM Federal Grant Awarded to MSU and Merit Network to Deliver Statewide Broadband Infrastructure June 27, 2022

Project to create Michigan Open Optical Network – Leveraging Innovation to Get High-Speed Technology (MOON-Light)

East Lansing, Mich., June 27, 2022 – Merit Network and Michigan State University are joint recipients of a $10.5 million National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program Grant that will connect Michigan’s many disparate Internet pathways.

This program, named the Michigan Open Optical Network – Leveraging Innovation to Get High-Speed Technology (MOON-Light), will help address critical infrastructure gaps by enabling technologically advanced, middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure across the state. It will allow interconnecting local Internet service providers (ISPs) to bring affordable, robust, high-speed broadband Internet to homes and businesses in Michigan’s underserved/unserved population areas.

“The MOON-Light initiative will have a transformational impact across the state in providing Internet access and is a true force-multiplier for upcoming ISP last-mile projects,” said Joseph Sawasky, president and CEO, Merit Network. “We are privileged to partner with Michigan State University and the MSU Quello Center on this initiative that is one of the first-of-its-kind in the nation. With non-profit and cooperative organizations working together with commercial ISPs, we are uniquely positioned to reduce costs and accelerate broadband projects for Michigan in model public-private partnerships. This project sets a strategic digital foundation for Michigan and will create a statewide ‘digital autobahn’. Our goal is to actually #FixTheDamnInternet for citizens and learners. We are incredibly thankful for the continuing trust that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has placed in our vision.”

“Closing the digital divide is essential to the future success of our state and our young people,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “When we partner together to solve our state’s most pressing challenges, we create a place that is full of opportunity – for all people and businesses. This partnership is a prime example of that and MSU is proud to play a role in this effort to connect Michigan.”

Letters of intent from several ISPs including Highline, Barger Creek and Northern Michigan University have already been signed to further the public-private collaboration of MOON-Light.

This project leverages funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), one of the earliest of the recent infrastructure programs. BIP was a precursor to theInfrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021.

As the State of Michigan continues to prepare for federally funded broadband investments, MSU and Merit proactively and independently applied for the NTIA grant to move things ahead faster. [Read the full announcement at Merit | News]

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