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President’s Report, September 2023

Robot farm by DALL-E, Adobe Firefly, Burn-E

Welcome to the end of summer, the beginning of school, and the middle of ragweed season at 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


michael pipkin havoc brewing tech talk
Michael Pipkin, Havoc Brewing, Tech Talk


We had a great time in August at Havoc Brewing where Michael Pipkin explained the Science of Brewing.  Michael filled his talk with models of sugar, ‘hops tea’, and barley in various stages of fermentation.   It was great education because we learned a lot and was really enjoyable at the same time.  I wrote an article which expanded on some of Michael’s points, and includes links to the video of the event.

Artificial Intelligence

We have been talking about AI at dinner, at Board meetings, in work meetings, and over drinks.  Will AI be the downfall of civilization, or your favorite app? Will AI be a tool for every worker, or will it steal our jobs? Is AI a ‘glorified tape recorder,’ or humanity’s greatest invention?

Wouldn’t it be good to get some expert answers?

Thanks to the helpful folks at Innovate Carolina, we have an expert on AI giving our Tech Talk September 14, 5 pm, at 79°West

William Ammerman is a leading authority on AI. He is an award-winning author and retired media executive with over 30 years of industry experience. He is a board advisor and angel investor focused on early-stage digital media ventures. He is an Adjunct at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, where he teaches a course on emerging technologies. His book, The Invisible Brand: Marketing in the Age of Automation, Big Data, and Machine Learning (McGraw-Hill), won the 2019 Marketing & Sales Book of the Year and was recognized with a Gold Medal by the Nonfiction Authors Association. He is a popular keynote speaker and guest lecturer at major industry groups and universities worldwide.

More information about Tech Talks is on our website here.

Digital Inclusion Plan

Grant Opportunities

The Chatham County Digital Inclusion Plan was a topic at the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.  Brenton Hart (middle, below) presented the Plan and answered questions about it. 

North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. Brenton Hart (middle, below)
North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. Brenton Hart (middle, below)

As mentioned in the last newsletter, County government is seeking grants and issuing grants based on the Plan.  The first one is the Digital Champion Grant.  Innovate Chatham has expressed interest in helping to establish free public WiFi stations in the County.  If you have an idea where these are most needed let us know.

Digital Inclusion Plan: Access

Last month I shared the remaining strategies for Availability in the Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan, which we took the lead in crafting last year.  The plan is in the final stages of approval.

This month, I would like to share the ones for Access.   Access allows people who are in areas with available internet service to actually use the internet by paying for the service and having devices that can access the internet.

Goal 4

Goal 4 aims to tap into existing programs that provide discounted internet for low-income people.  This is the ACP program (and an older one, called Lifeline).  This can get people who are smart and patient enough to wade through the bureaucracy a discount of $30 a month, which sometimes means the monthly internet bill is paid.  If you want to know more, go here for help and more information before attempting the Federal website.

Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 4
Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 4







Goal 5

Goal 5.1 aims to get devices into the hands of people who cannot afford them.  Innovate Chatham partners with Kramden Institute to provide computers to families of Chatham school children who do not have one.  Kramden refurbishes donated computers and there are other programs like this in NC.  We would like to get one started in Chatham, also.

Goal 5.3 aims to provide more free public access to computers with internet.  The Chatham Libraries have access now.  We would like to add more locations.

With Goal 5.4, we hope to use the Chatham County School system to make sure that every child has access to the internet for education.

Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 5
Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 5



Goal 6

Goal 6 is about providing free WiFi at more public locations and help people find these locations.  This is related to the Digital Equity Champions grant mentioned earlier.

Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 6
Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 6



Goal 7

Finally, Goal 7 aims to provide wireless hotspot devices to residents in need, via the school and library systems.

Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 7
Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Goal 7

This concludes the Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan goals about Access.  I hope you can see the multiple ways that we hope to help our neighbors in Chatham flourish through technology.  Next month, I will share the Goals on Adoption.

STEM Education

STEM Club at Pittsboro Boys and Girls Club included Don Kallgren introducing the kids to Legos with gears and motors.  By all accounts the kids had a wonderful time.   We will start back up with STEM Club there once school is back in full swing.

Burney plans to help kick off a computer programming club at Jordan Matthews High School.  Hopefully more news next month.

Miscellaneous Tech Notes

I posted this on Facebook, but I will include here in case you missed it.

I am excited about the introduction of AI for education.  Let me know what you think about my opinion.  It’s evolving.

One of the reasons for banning AI tools in school is that AI would allow students to cheat.  AI-detection tools were created to help fix this.  Now, one of the main AI players admits this isn’t possible.

“While some (including OpenAI) have released tools that purport to detect AI-generated content, none of these have proven to reliably distinguish between AI-generated and human-generated content.”

So, banning AI will not work.  Kids with resources will use AI and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. 

I am told that AI chatbots like ChatGPT are not allowed on Chromebooks for Chatham Schools now.  I’m afraid that this disadvantages kids who lack access to non-school computers.

Teachers must adapt their assignments, include AI use in the assignments, and raise expectations on the results.  Kids will have to learn how AI is useful and not always correct.  With information growing along with easier access, critical thinking skills are more important than ever.

[Having a critical eye on information was not taught in my generation.  We think there is a lot of misinformation now, but in retrospect, we were just as misinformed then, if not worse.] 

There are many ways teachers and students can use AI to improve learning by taking some of the tedious load from teachers, providing more individualization for students, and making working practices closer to the evolving world outside school.

Here is an article that contains suggestions for how to use AI in education.  You ought to try out the suggestions.  It’s very educational. 🙂

OpenAI Creates ChatGPT Guide for Teachers, Admits AI Text Detectors Don’t Work –

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
-STEM Club – we need volunteers to help in the Fall, maybe this summer
-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. [Not available this year due to nonparticipation of NC disctrict 9.]
-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



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