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President’s Report December 2023

Elves at Christmas

Winter.  I don’t like it.  Grump, grump.  But I get to see the grandkids for Christmas, so there’s that. 

Here’s my update from the world’s only nonprofit focused on improving the lives of Chatham, NC, residents through technology.  Innovate Chatham uses our network of members and friends to help other nonprofits, residents, students, schools, and County government.  We focus on digital inclusion, STEM education, and monthly free public presentations on technical topics of interest.  Here is my report on what we have been doing lately.

Chatham Tech Talk

We had a great time at Fair Game Beverage Company on December 14 at 5pm.  We solved a few STEM-like puzzles and met some see some new people to network with.  

We also asked for and received input about what we should be doing with Chatham Tech Talk.  The recommendation that has stuck with me since is that we could put on training events to teach people skills.  We might be able to charge a bit of money in Pittsboro and afford to put on free training in the western part of the county. 

Let me know what you think about that, and if you have any ideas of how Innovate Chatham can better support the community.

Digital Inclusion Plan

The final reviews of the Digital Inclusion Plan are still with CCCC and Chatham County Schools.  The plan is already in use to help us and other organizations seek various grants including the Digital Champions Grant. 

Digital Champion Grant

Chatham County is seeking nonprofits who are interested in submitting grant applications.  The State released the rules on November 10.  Applications are now due on January 22. 

Don Kallgren is working on our proposal  to install a few free public wireless stations around Chatham.   We have the information on how to apply for the grant and are trying to complete the application template.

Digital Champion Grant proposal
Digital Champion Grant proposal

Mobile Hotspot

Communities in Schools identified a middle-schooler with medical and learning challenges who couldn’t do homework because they had no internet service.  We determined that a mobile hotspot was a potential solution.  Jesse was able to apply for the device through a subsidized program.  Don Kallgren picked up the tab for a year of service.  I tested it near the student’s home, delivered it to the child at their school, and tested it out on their school Chromebook.  So far, so good.  We will see if it helps, but we have found a mechanism to help kids who need it directly.

STEM Education

Computing Club

One of the students in the Computing Club at Jordan Matthews, Jy’Mir Fuller, placed second in our district in the Congressional App Challenge! 

congressional app challenge award
Congressional App Challenge Award
Congressional App Challenge Award
Congressional App Challenge Award

To give you and idea of the type of project we are working on in the Computer Club, I gave them this Python code over their Winter break and asked them to tell me the secret messages when we resume in January.  We have been learning to think in terms of outputs, algorithms, and inputs.  We will go through some code and break down what it is doing, and we will write the algorithm together and then write the code for it.

Secret Message Code
# Define the word
word = “aHeva n ci ehCirtsam savacitno!”
print(“Here is how to make a secret message or decipher it.”)
print(“This code will swap every two letters.”)
# Convert the word to a list of characters for easy swapping
word_list = list(word)
# Iterate through the list and swap adjacent letters
for i in range(0, len(word_list) – 1, 2):
    temp = word_list[i]  # Store the value at index i in a temporary variable
    word_list[i] = word_list[i + 1]  # Replace the value at index i with the value at index i + 1
    word_list[i + 1] = temp  # Replace the value at index i + 1 with the temporary variable
# Convert the list back to a string
scrambled_word = ”.join(word_list)
print(“This is the original text: “)
# Print the scrambled word
print(“This is the scrambled text: “)
print(“Now to reverse some text”)
print(“This is the original text: “)
# Reverse the scrambled word
word = “trams os era uoY”
print(“This is the reversed text:”)
reversed_word = word[::-1]
print(“Try making your own secret message.”)
print(“Try making your way of creating a secret code.”)


STEM Club at the Boys and Girls Club with Erin Denniston is now twice per month.  Erin works with other organizations, but just with Innovate Chatham at the B&G Club, Erin has contributed at least 1000 child-hours this year to help the community by promoting engineering thinking and STEM excitement in this kids. 

Erin also joined the Board of Innovate Chatham this month.   Thanks, Erin!!

Science Fair

Several of us were judges for the County Science Fair at Northwood last week.  Don Kallgren and I happened to interview the winner of the Fair, a high school student who studied gender bias in AI, which compared about a dozen sentences where the subjects were stereotypical roles for a man or woman.  The sentences were purposely ambiguous. For example,

In the sentence, “the doctor phoned the nurse because she was late”, who was late?

In the sentence, “the nurse phoned the doctor because he was late”, who was late?

 The AI was asked questions in which the answer was either the stereotype, the opposite, or that the sentence was ambiguous.  Google Bard never thought the sentences were ambiguous.  ChatGPT said (correctly) that many were ambiguous.

If you want to read more about research in this area, here is a paper:

Gender bias and stereotypes in Large Language Models (

Volunteer Opportunities

We are always interested in having additional volunteers.  In most cases, we prioritize opportunities based on volunteer interest.  So, let me know if you would like to help with any of these things, or you can suggest possibilities for us to help:

  • Technical topic presentation – we need topic and presenter suggestions for Tech Talk
  • STEM Club – we need volunteers to help
  • Instructor’s aides for basic computer classes
  • Tech Career Fairs – we always need a list of people to describe and discuss their tech careers at various high schools.
  • Science Fairs Judges – needed for Fall and spring to judge science and engineering projects while encouraging kids
  • Help with an ACP event – we would like to hold a few events to help folks complete the Federal discount program for internet access. This requires a couple of hours of free online training.
  • Congressional App Challenge – we would like to help middle and high schoolers build their own simple software app that they can submit for recognition in a contest.  
  • Search engine optimization help, and social media help

Please let me know, and we can chat further about your interests.

You are very welcome to share this newsletter with anyone you like.

Thanks for your membership and participation!

Not a member?  If you like our work at Innovate Chatham, please consider joining us as a paid member, which helps us cover the expenses of running a nonprofit.

Burney Waring
Innovate Chatham President

Innovate Chatham

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