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Faculty members from four colleges at Oklahoma State University are teaming up to pilot the use of a novel educational tool for technology literacy.

OSU faculty to pilot program for technology literacy

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Media Contact: Alisa Boswell-Gore | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-7115 |

Oklahoma State University faculty from the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, College of Education and Human Sciences, Ferguson College of Agriculture and Spears School of Business are teaming up to pilot the use of a novel educational tool for technology literacy.

According to the National Science Foundation, “communities in the U.S. and around the world are entering a new era of transformation in which residents and their surrounding environments are increasingly connected through rapidly-changing intelligent technologies.”

But with this transformation comes significant challenges, which is why NSF created the Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC) Program “to accelerate the creation of the scientific and engineering foundations that will enable smart and connected communities to bring about new levels of economic opportunity and growth, safety and security, health and wellness, accessibility and inclusivity, and overall quality of life.”

The well-being and productivity of rural communities are reduced by lower levels of technology availability and adoption. This divide has far-reaching implications, such as reduced educational and job opportunities, increased food insecurity and diminished healthcare options for rural citizens, all of which contributes to the ongoing decline of rural communities. 

Led by John O’Hara, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, the OSU research team will partner with the rural community of Frederick and nearby areas to pilot the use of the novel educational tool called Productivity Enhancing Technology Experience (PETE) Kits.

Pete-Kits are combinations of low-cost devices, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, RFID, microprocessors and sensors that combine with cloud connectivity to expose and train high school students on new technologies and their applications in a hands-on way. This research will answer whether Pete-Kits can raise rural awareness and literacy of smart and connected technologies, impart skills to rural citizenry in the use of these technologies and enhance productivity of the rural community.

NSF has awarded a $150,000 grant for this Rural Renewal Initiative program. Co-principal investigators for the project include Sabit Ekin (electrical and computer engineering), Julie Angle (science education), Brian Whitacre (agricultural economics) and Matthew Rutherford (entrepreneurship).

“I’m so pleased with our team, our community partners, the Rural Renewal Initiative and NSF, all of whom enabled this unique and timely research opportunity,” O’Hara said. “I think I speak for everyone in recognizing that we can go beyond the usual calls for improved rural technology infrastructure. We have a lot of work to do, but I am excited about this work, because it is about meaningful and lasting benefits for our cherished rural communities.”

Whitacre will lead a graduate student in evaluating the economic impact the Pete-Kits could have in Frederick and its surrounding areas. This will include assessing how the devices might affect local productivity and opportunities for entrepreneurship or remote work. 

“I am proud to be a part of this exciting project that will demonstrate how rural communities can benefit from smart and connected technologies,” Whitacre said. “It is a great fit for OSU’s commitment to improving the quality of lives for rural residents.”

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