Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Y-ZONE is Connecting Families with CBRS – Episode 500 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Margaret Kaufer, President of the New York-based STEM Alliance, and Bob Cacase, Commissioner of Information Technology for the City of Yonkers. During the conversation, the three talk about Y-ZONE, a partnership between several community groups working to connect households in Yonkers. They discuss origins of the partnership, performance of the CBRS technology the network relies on, and some technical details of their particular build. They also get into the nitty gritty of real world costs associated with building CBRS networks, and how they overcome obstacles they have faced regarding adoption by the community.
This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
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Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Margaret Kaufer (00:07):
They're personally given the device. It's not mailed to them. They come to distribution events. And so there's a live person. Those distribution events are housed in places that are familiar to them. So all of these features are what get at, having a confidence in participating in this resource.
Christopher Mitchell (00:24):
Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in St. Paul, Minnesota. And if things go to plan, this is episode 500. It's gonna be an exciting, fun episode. I'm I'm really thrilled about the project and the guests we have on today. but it's been a heck of a ride for 500 episodes, and we're, we're starting to work on the next 500 today, even <laugh>. So let me start the show by welcoming Margaret Kaufer, the president of the STEM Alliance. Welcome to the show.
Margaret Kaufer (00:58):
Thanks so much. I'm happy to be here, and I'm thrilled to be part of 500.
Christopher Mitchell (01:02):
Yes, yes. It's it's it's very exciting. I was kind of thinking we might do a massive blow up for 512, just to be a little geeky about it. And <laugh>
Margaret Kaufer (01:11):
That does make perfect sense.
Christopher Mitchell (01:13):
Yes. For, for our audience. I, I hope that that would go over well. but yeah, 500 is a, it's a wonderful milestone. And Margaret, we met at the net inclusion event. So I wanna thank N D I A for having that wonderful event and putting us in contact with each other. let me introduce Bob Cacase, the Commissioner of Information Technology for the City of Yonkers. Welcome.
Bob Cacase (01:35):
Thanks and thanks for having me, on.
Christopher Mitchell (01:37):
Yes. And I, I know that the two of you are very involved in this project, the, the Y Zone project. and so I'm gonna ask Margaret to tell us a little bit about your organization and then I'll ask Bob to introduce the Y Zone probably. Cause I feel like people probably know what the city of Yonkers is, <laugh>. So less explanation required.
Margaret Kaufer (01:54):
<laugh>, we certainly hope, although I gotta tell you, I've learned a lot along my path and have been thrilled to have the city of Yonkers as a partner. But going back to the STEM Alliance at its core you know, we're a nonprofit in Westchester County, New York, which is just north of the city. And we work to create a network of STEM learning opportunities across all ages. We're looking to bridge systemic gaps in STEM education. And most recently, since the since the pandemic, we have had a very large scale effort in Westchester County to bridge the digital divide. We call that project digital equity now. And at its core, it provides a device, a hotspot, and 15 hours of tech education to any lower moderate income community member who's struggling, struggling with digital distress.
Christopher Mitchell (02:38):
Excellent. Briefly on that, do people sign up at the library? How do people find out about it and sign up for it?
Margaret Kaufer (02:42):
Our program, you had mentioned N D I A, national Digital Inclusion Alliance, when we came into this work around digital equity and bridging the digital divide. At the start of the pandemic, early in March or spring of 2020, we immediately connected with N D I A and we looked for referrals to conversation partners who were doing great work. And our model is actually based off of Tech Goes Home out of Boston. So one of the things I like to say is we don't need to reinvent the wheel. There's a lot of great ideas out there, and a, and an organization like N D I A is built to connect people in order to scale work and get to work very quickly. So our model, much like Tech Goes Home, is that we source devices. We know the curriculum content that is needed by our clients.
We develop inventory systems for distributing the the curriculum content and those devices. But we don't know every low income resident in the county. Our partners do. It's just that our partners are serving them for different reasons. For example, we might work with an organization that does nonprofit excuse me, mental health support for people who are in that same low income bracket. And they probably always kind of knew that their clients had digital distress issues, but didn't know how to meet those needs. And kind of always danced around it, like, oh, we have to give them a flyer, or we need to call them to reach them. So there was always an awareness that this problem existed, but nobody had the capacity to fix it. And so same thing, we come alongside nonprofits, community-based organizations, and even cities in this case to say, we have the systems, you have the contact and the relationship with the clients. And then we coordinate and form learning cohorts through those partners.
Christopher Mitchell (04:23):
Excellent. It's very much what we like to see in cities <laugh> regarding all of that, not reinventing the wheel in terms of how people work together. now I think Bob maybe just a, a brief sense of what Yonkers is like for people that haven't seen lost in Yonkers <laugh>. I'm sure that's a reference that gets old for you,
Bob Cacase (04:43):
<laugh>. It does. It does. Sure.
Christopher Mitchell (04:45):
But also the Y Zone would be wonderful. Then as you roll into that too,
Bob Cacase (04:48):
We are the third largest city in New York State. We're located immediately above the Bronx. So we buttress up against New York City. The population is buried in our school district, which is about 26,000 students. 90% of them are on free and reduced lunch in other parts of the city. We neighbor, Scarsdale and Bronxville, and some of the homes sell in Yonkers for north of $2 million. So it really runs the gamut. What the Why Zone is, is an effort that was really created by the County Association in Meg. They called me and said, there's a potential of getting a National Science Foundation grant to do this broadband work that we in the city knew was, was a priority for us. The reason we knew it is I've got a background prior to my role here in the private sector, in the cable television industry. So I go all the way back with broadband to right at the creation of it.
Frankly, in the beginning of the covid, those 26,000 students, we found out that about 2100 of them had no computer or no broadband in the home. So we scrambled, we did as best as we could, but the timeliness of what Meg and the County Association brought to us was, was remarkable, frankly, because it's exactly what we need. So the Y Zone is a partnership, the city, obviously the STEM Alliance, the County Association, Fordham University, sort of a branch of the school district called Yonkers Partners in Education, which is a private mentoring organization and then a private low income housing developing group. Again, notfor profit called West HA joined right at the end. And this group, we, we selected a zip code to transmit a CBRS signal with CBRS call it wifi and steroids. It, it goes further out than, than a C B R S, than a wifi signal to a grouping that's in the low income section of Yonkers. And we knew that this product would have some appeal. What Meg brought to this, though, and the STEM Alliance brings to this, is the ability to go out and find these people and get them trained. Because just having a, even in this case, a free broadband offer doesn't mean enough to people who really have never tried broadband, might be insecure trying broadband. And, and it's this digital equity question that, that we're all dealing with. We think we're addressing it.
Christopher Mitchell (07:42):
Yeah. I like, I like to say that when I get a postcard for something that's free, I generally recycle it <laugh>, and most people do that. So you absolutely need those trusted partners. I just wanted to, I think you, you credited a lot of people involved with it. I think also US Ignite was involved with that national Science Foundation grant correct. And and it's worth noting that, that that's not the only money that you used. I think you paired that with, with other funding as well to, to make this project work. Right.
Bob Cacase (08:10):
We did the Schmidt Futures, put some money in the city, put some money in I, I know STEM Alliance put some money in. So it, it's, it's a, it's really a team effort.
Christopher Mitchell (08:23):
so I, I wanted to dive in on the C B R S in particular. And I think the first question is is kind of, how's it going?
Margaret Kaufer (08:33):
I can speak just in a narrative and a qualitative we were anticipating that there would be people after distributions who would come back with the devices and say, kind of, this isn't working for me. or it's inconsistent. And because we understand that this is a shared spectrum. And so one of the things that is US Ignite is asking us to test, we're one of seven sites nationally, and ours is the one that is actually trying to connect the most people. So there are two towers. One is not yet active, but each tower is intended to serve up to 250 households. And this is very different than using CBAs in, in smaller settings. That is a pretty large goal. And, and we are not familiar with and many other applications on that scale. So we are trying to test how far does that shared spectrum go?
We, right now, I believe we have 175 people active on the tower that is active. We have not had people coming back to us and saying, this isn't doing what we want it to do. We have the occasional person who's not in what we call a heat map. We would've anticipated that they were on the edge of the shadow of this reach. we even have had one device that malfunctioned, but the test has been surprisingly strong. I will let Bob give a little bit more detail on the technical side. I will add one other cautionary note. We respect people's privacy. I cannot tell you what they're doing. So I cannot speak to how heavy the demand is of the households that we're serving. But I can tell you that qualitative and quantitatively to date, we have not had complaints about the service. It's, it's actually been very successful.
Bob Cacase (10:16):
It's, it surprised me too, you know, it being a wireless technology, I was a little skeptical. And, you know, we've been through storms, we've been through, you know, the winter months in, in New York and it's helped. It's, it's really, frankly, quite good.
Christopher Mitchell (10:36):
When we are talking about CBRS there's obviously a different experience based on how much of the spectrum is available. do you have a sense of how much spectrum you're able to grab? Cause I think you're guaranteed what, 10 megahertz and then if there's more available, you could potentially grab it for some period of time.
Bob Cacase (10:54):
Yes, potentially. And we haven't gone over the 10 megahertz.
Christopher Mitchell (10:57):
Okay. So that is a remarkable then results given you have challenging building materials, I'm sure, I mean, we've, we've heard from some other folks that they're a little disappointed with it, but you are, you're delivering usable speeds to everyone. And, and the benefit of this is you don't have to do any customer premise equipment, right? You just hand a person, a modem, they take it home with them and they're able to use that. And, and that turns for people who are curious, that turns like what you might think of as a C B R S signal into a wifi signal inside the home. Right?
Bob Cacase (11:28):
Exactly. Exactly. And, and no, you're right. It, it's, my background before I got here was in cable television and the installation in the home is an adventure <laugh>, you know, and here, here, it's not, it, it's, they take the device, they go home, they aim it properly, and you know, and, and it goes, they go to work.
Margaret Kaufer (11:48):
And, and that really cannot be overlooked because we have to talk about when you said you're like, if I a free card for something, I'd probably throw it out. You were pointing to one example of what prevents people from engaging in, in digital opportunity, right? We call the why zone a digital opportunity zone. And one aspect of the opportunity is just to have internet access. Well, what are the other obstacles? What are the things that create what I have coined analog inertia. Why would somebody who's in an analog existence in a world that is predominantly digital, not move outta that analog track? And the fact of the matter is there, there are several obstacles and one could just be the technology intimidates me. Well, this is not an intimidating application. This can be activated with we don't go into people's apartments. They manage it on their own.
Christopher Mitchell (12:33):
Right. You just, you hand 'em a device and then go home and try it. If you don't like it, bring it back. And so it's kind of like a no threatening kind of deal.
Margaret Kaufer (12:40):
Right. Although that does go back to what Bob was referring to, which is our very strong built-in outreach piece. So we do have a very light website that people can contact us through. They do get our email address that contacts through us through, they're personally given the device. It's not mailed to them. They come to distribution events. And so there's a live person. Those distribution events are housed in places that are familiar to them. So all of these features are what get at having a confidence in participating in this resource, let alone that we also distribute alongside offering 15 hours of tech education and a free device. And we have actually had people who come to a distribution say that they want the education and the Chromebook as well. And when we say, okay, well this device is ready activate that the class will be in two weeks. They say, no, no, no, I don't want, I don't want the internet until I have the device in the class.
Christopher Mitchell (13:35):
Yeah. I mean, I think that's a, it's a smart move. given I I, I, I've said this many times for people who listen to the show regularly. I'm so sorry for those people who <laugh> come back week after week for my voice. there's so much fraud out there that those of us who have been used to it for, you know, 10, 15, 20, 30 years, like we're used to it and just ignore the background radiation. But it's definitely threatening for people who are, who are new to it. So the people who are taking advantage of this, are they mostly in apartment buildings single family homes? Is there a mix? How does that break down?
Margaret Kaufer (14:08):
The vast majority are in multi dwelling units.
Christopher Mitchell (14:11):
So again, that's just usually challenging structures. And then for for people who aren't aware, any of those structures are older than like 1980, they're probably extremely difficult to just drill a hole in because of the hazardous materials. No, that's right. So a device that you can hand to people is pretty attractive while you're, we're figuring the rest of it out. If that doesn't scale over time,
Margaret Kaufer (14:32):
That is exactly correct.
Christopher Mitchell (14:35):
So one of the things I'm deeply curious about, cause I tried to cost this out for St. Paul, trying to get a sense of what we thought the costs were likely to be. Can you give us a sense of of what each of the the antenna like sites cost and then like what the devices are, are been costing in a real world environment?
Bob Cacase (14:51):
Sure, sure. The antenna sites were approximately $200,000 each. The devices range, the ones we're using are approximately $400 a device. So they're not, you know, insignificant costs.
Christopher Mitchell (15:08):
So are you expecting like a four or five year lifetime on 'em, what, what was a, what's a reasonable estimate?
Bob Cacase (15:13):
Yeah, that is a reasonable estimate. I, I think the towers themselves probably a little longer, but the devices, as with any technology, there'll be next generation things that come with this technology, but it's a Motorola package. And they did, they did say five years.
Margaret Kaufer (15:29):
So, Bob, can you explain a little bit further the kind of really creative approach that you took to the back haul and what the back haul costs are? Because these systems, for those who don't know the tower itself needs to still receive its signal from somewhere. sure. Can you explain kind of what the city's, you know, innovative approach to acquiring the spectrum and, and why that was, you know, so functional for you?
Bob Cacase (15:54):
Well, the spectrum came because it, you know, it's free, it's free spectrum that all. What we did is we, we, we have a relationship with Crown Castle. They service pretty much all of our school buildings and all of our city buildings. And we approach them, and they were gracious about this. They provided a low cost. It, it, it's a gig internet into, no, it's actually a three gig internet into the transmit towers. And then they connected the two at no cost. So we are able to transmit out of both towers are a relatively low cost per month. I, I believe that the number is around $1,500. It's, it's not, you know, it's not an extraordinary cost. Again, as Meg said before, and what's interesting to me, and, and you mentioned it, Chris, the she shared spectrum. I was concerned, and to some extent still are, but we're not seeing it in, in the, what is the diminution of signal, you know, if everybody's on at the same time, we were told by Motorola that it could go as low as eight megabits. We haven't seen that. We haven't seen that. And you know, it, eight, the other side of this is eight megabits is still pretty good, you know, but in today's world, it's not even broadband level. But, but we're not seeing that, you know, we're seeing people happily, you know, doing their, their work, their business, their social element of it, that, you know, we're not getting calls saying, ah, this thing stinks. And, you know, it, it cuts out.
Christopher Mitchell (17:32):
Do you have a sense of what your, your throughput is on a normal day for per user? We
Bob Cacase (17:38):
Don't, we don't, we can take it at various times, and I know Meg's group has been doing this, Anne has been doing this take a slice of say, you know, 20 minutes, we know how many people are on and we know the throughput, so then we can do the simple division. But it, we, we, we thought we might be able to do this in the aggregate or on a look back basis. The technology, at least the reporting element of the technology's not there yet. We're
Margaret Kaufer (18:02):
Only just starting to gather that now because we realized as we got familiar with Motorolas dashboard, what exactly questions like that were gonna be relevant. And the dashboard is not currently set up to provide those statistics in a, in a retroactive fashion. So we literally need to manually go in and capture it at certain at certain, you know, track points. So that's what we're gonna start doing to, to see what we can gather.
Christopher Mitchell (18:29):
I think the, the key question then is is this worth it? <laugh>, you know, and, and, and more important than that, how do you know you know people aren't complaining and that's terrific. but like have you collected any, any stories that, that make you make other cities say, wow, we gotta make sure that we're doing something like this.
Bob Cacase (18:47):
In the big picture, when you say, is it worth it? The answer is absolutely yes. I was at a conference in Albany, a couple of me and I were on different panels, and I actually said to an audience, the mayor of Yonkers goal is to have a hundred percent of the people in Yonkers on broadband in the next year and a half. And I said, and I know what I'm saying, it won't be a hundred percent, but that's the goal. So the big question is yes, you know, the answer to the big question is yes. When you go into the, the economics of whether or not this is the most economical way to get broadband to the home, and, and we, we sort of look at the infrastructure $30 a month for this kind of of service. That answer we haven't answered yet. Our group, the Y zone is studying it because at the end of this year, we want these customers, these people to continue to have broadband one way or another. Like we would never wanna take it away from them. So give us a couple more months on that one and we'll have an answer. But to, to simply say, was this worth it? Yeah, it was absolutely worth
Margaret Kaufer (19:56):
It. There's kind of a variety of reasons of why that's worth it too. To Bob's point, like, we, you don't know until, you know, and so you have to go through this process to know. but the other thing I would say is that we wrote this grant in November, let me get my year right November of 2020, right? Bob, right? It was, it was due December 31st, I think, of 2020. the topography of digital equity funding at a federal level. the awareness, the responsibility, the different ways that people are now gonna be able to access what is now become widely understood to be a right of all individuals, which is equal access to high speed internet. That has changed so much from the moment when we wrote this grant. And so I think that this experiment can now not be understood absent the new opportunities like affordable connectivity program that are coming forward. Yonkers for the most part is going to be a place where affordable connectivity, also known as a c p, will probably be a very effective program. there may be other environments where more rural conditions where waiting for the, the actual infrastructure to arrive. This may be a very helpful solution. And we hope to prove that for those places, if not for Yonkers.
Christopher Mitchell (21:17):
Right. I, I mean, it looks to me like this is the sort of thing that the, the primary benefit is that ability to do it quickly, right? To get out, to get people something. In the longer term, the costs seem pretty substantial given the, the amortization of a few years. you know, I mean if I, if I did my numbers correctly in the calculator, cause I don't trust my head while I'm using my mouth. <laugh>, you looking at, you know, it's $200,000 per tower for 250 families, like $800 $400 for the device in the home. So $1,200. I mean, I think that over time you would expect that you could deliver much faster results at a lower cost per housing unit with a structured approach and using in building wiring. But it's just that, that takes a long time to get around to making that happen. so am I wrong in, in that line of thinking?
Bob Cacase (22:10):
No, you're right. Now line of thinking, one of the things that is on our sort of agenda is talking to the characters that already have made those investments in the community and partnering with them. Because the big learning here to me is how we get pe, how we reach people who have been reached. And, and, and if you think about it, we've got a cable company here, ts who has had a 1495 service in the marketplace for years. They promoted a little bit in the schools. We have Verizon who's got a similar service that, you know, in 1495 is, is not a lot of money, but to some people it's some money. And going into this experience, I thought that was a major barrier. And I still think it's a bit of a barrier, but what I've learned is it's not the major barrier. The major barrier is the, the lack of trust in this community.
And I think in all communities of big business, of government, of, as you said earlier, Chris, free things, what Meg's, what I've learned, a a and she uses the term di digital navigators. I love that term. What I've learned is that this needs to be a community endeavor, you know, so that we can get past that mistrust and just get the product in people's hands because we now know from what ACP is showing us. And as Meg said, that landscape has changed so dramatically in the last 18 months that everybody could have broadband if they want it, they really can. You know, and that's what we've gotta get out.
Christopher Mitchell (23:50):
And that, that does lead me to the question then of you know, the technology is something that I like to talk about. I, I feel confident talking about it, but what, what is the biggest challenge if you ignore the, the, the technology you've solved that problem more or less for most people that you're targeting? so Meg, what, what is the main challenge that you're facing in terms of, of, of making sure that everyone in Yonkers has internet access?
Margaret Kaufer (24:13):
So it's exactly what I was talking about, which is what we call analog inertia. And it's the idea that if you have some high-tier things that you're dealing with, housing, food, regular job access, then while 1495 or even free internet might feel like a good thing if you don't know, if you don't have any use for the internet or don't see how that's gonna serve you in a long term, or you just simply really don't know how to use it, you've never, you've already been growing and living in an inequitable condition where you've never been given access to tech devices, you're simply not going to move from this kind of analog pace into a digital world. And so what that takes is the, the whole theory of inertia, right, is you need a force that's stronger to push you back over into this other track.
What are those forces? It is absolutely working with trusted partners a hundred percent. It is absolutely making the technology less intimidating, which is classes that are at the right level. And so we have very, very basic classes, we call them on-ramp. These are for folks who don't know how to connect to wifi. people who don't know how to create an email address, don't know how to attach something to an email. Very, very core skills that can help them basically become a competent enough user. Because like most skills, the second biggest barrier is practice. And so then what you have to have is one-to-one computing device ownership. Every person in the home needs their own device. And there's a lot of reasons for that. One, you want the highest level of ability to practice. That's one-to-one. I don't wanna wait for my partner or wait for my child to be done with the device that's gonna deter my ability to practice.
but then the other thing too is there's also cultural things, right? So whether or not maybe women in a particular household should be using a device, well, we wanna just take that away and say that we are giving everybody their own device. And then there's you know, maybe a potential barrier like that is not, is not present. So then there's also really increasing the knowledge of the community-based and nonprofit organizations about digital distress. And the fact that digital inequity not having equal access to these opportunities is a super social determinant of things like health access to social services, completing the census, et cetera, et cetera. Banking being a banked individual ability to develop job skills, ability to apply for a job. So if we can help these nonprofit organizations who have the relationship start to use tools to identify people who have the distress and to know how to refer them through our digital navigator services, that's how we're decreasing the barriers. And this is absolutely critical work. I don't know if that your party to a recent study that came out about two weeks ago indicating that there was a very strong correlation between negative covid outcomes and whether or not the family or the individual had internet access. It's a correlation, not a causation, but it cannot be ignored,
Christopher Mitchell (27:20):
Right? No, they studied, I mean, we, we actually did an article about it on muny networks.org cuz it was so striking and you said negative covid outcomes. But to be clear, across all the communities, all of the, the income groups, rural, urban people that had broadband died at a much lower rate and
Margaret Kaufer (27:36):
People did not have broadband.
Christopher Mitchell (27:38):
Right? That's what I meant to say. Well, no, the people, people that people who had broadband survived at a higher rate. People who did not have broadband died at a higher rate in way in a, in a, in a correlation that was striking, considering all of the other correlations that they were looking for and found. But the strongest correlation was broadband service. And that was a remarkable finding.
Margaret Kaufer (27:57):
It's disturbing, it's just flat out disturbing, right? And but we know the problem now and we have ways to solve it. And so our goal as, as at the STEM Alliance is to perfect, improve, constantly reflect, be a part of best practices learned by other N D I A partners and other people that we're in conversation with to solve the problem, the digital divide in Westchester and working with to understand what the city of Yonkers has committed to. I can tell you that I am not aware of anywhere else in New York state that has made that level of commitment. And you can't, well, Bob may say like, we might not reach a hundred percent. Well, guess what? You absolutely can't get there if you don't articulate the goal. And Mayor Spanos commitment to that Bob's office's commitment to that, partnering with organizations like Westchester County Association, one of our oldest business organizations in Westchester County to defend that message time and time again, that's how we're gonna get there.
Christopher Mitchell (28:55):
Yeah. I, I would also just commend the city of Yonkers because I've gone on multiple rans recently, <laugh> about cities that are engaging in endless planning and not actually doing anything to figure out if it works. And I think, you know I don't know if you wanna, as we wrap up, if either Bob or Meg, if you want to talk about doubts that you had, you know, like you're out here, you're writing grants, you're trying to like, build support, but I'm sure that you're also in the back of your mind being like, I don't know, maybe this, this technology you talked about, the technology might not deliver, right? I mean, but you took the chance because we have to try things to figure out what works.
Bob Cacase (29:29):
The doubts were definitely there. The technology being the first what if, what if, you know, they rated this, that 250 concurrent users could use it, but they were wrong. It was a hundred, you know, and it was way off. Yeah.
Christopher Mitchell (29:41):
You were in the cable industry during the wifi craze, like 2005, 2006. Like yeah, I was, that's what happened,
Bob Cacase (29:47):
<laugh>, that's exactly what happened. So when, when you look at that, that's one element of it. The other element of it, frankly, was could we really penetrate the community the way we are? Because I tell this story all the time. I, when I started in the cable industry selling door to door, and this is all the way back in the seventies, believe it or not, I'm, I'm older than I,
Christopher Mitchell (30:12):
I would not have guessed that. Yes,
Bob Cacase (30:14):
<laugh>, thank you <laugh>. But I know that you could knock on 20 doors with $20 bills, and two or three of those people are not gonna take the $20 bills from you. They're simply not. Right. You know, so how are we gonna get into these communities? And Meg, show me that one boy that, that what they know how to do something that I haven't seen done before. And that is get into the community and get the community enthused about it because they're talking and others are signing up for the service that, you know, is, to me, it's a big piece of the puzzle.
Margaret Kaufer (30:51):
And, and I would say that the in terms of like, how did we do that? So obviously partnering, I mentioned that I do also wanna give a huge heads up to the Yonkers partners in education. NSF grants typically have a very large research component, and those young people participated in something called youth Participatory Action Research. So rather than kind of just doing pre and post surveys as our work, these young people have actually been part of the research team with researchers from Fordham University. And so they also became part of the outreach, right? Like the research itself became part of the outreach in a very subtle but important way. And then additionally, the other really, really key factor that we knew would kick in, and I would say it took effectively about two months. it would've been two months, January, we had a covid you know, push and, and so that, but effectively within two months, what you get after you get those first adopters, and this is like the standard curve of adoption, right? Of new technology, the first adopters, they're brave, but then what you get is word of mouth. So the peer-to-peer right now is really what's driving adoption. And and, and also that we have a waiting list now for the technology classes.
Christopher Mitchell (32:04):
And do you, the last question for real <laugh> is do you have people then that finish the class and then they're able to come back and get like additional questions answered as they develop them when they're messing around on their devices?
Margaret Kaufer (32:15):
Yes, and yes, I guess you can say although I will tell you that we haven't had a ton of that. so certainly as I mentioned, we have a, a, a very simple website and people can contact us through that. They also have an email address so that we're reachable that way. additionally we have we do offer effectively kind of office hours for people who have graduated from our classes. But interestingly, we haven't had a lot of traction. We don't have people coming with a ton of questions like, I can't get my device to do this, or I want my device to do that. it's, it's, it's something that we, the STEM Alliance wanna examine. If I had to say that's a growth point for us is folks who have completed our class, how do we ensure that they're continuing to learn or that they are getting questions answered when they hit a wall. So that's something I would say that we, we wanna continue to improve. I can only tell you we're not getting a lot of that.
Christopher Mitchell (33:07):
Excellent. Well thank you so much. Meg Cofer with the STEM Alliance, president of the STEM Alliance, and commissioner Bob Cocase. this is, this has been a wonderful 500th episode. We hit so many different themes, we've covered over those and just brought 'em all together. So really appreciate your time today. Great.
Margaret Kaufer (33:25):
Thank you. Thank
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