Louisa County schools finds solution to WOW students with WiFi internet access

Local News

LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — With schools out for the remainder of the academic year, there’s been challenges for some rural communities in Virginia that lack adequate access to broadband internet coverage.

Louisa schools Superintendent Doug Straley knows this problem is not unique to his county.

“Internet access is not a new problem to rural communities and certainly Louisa is not immune to those issues,” he told 8News.

Straley’s team was up for the task of finding a unique solution to the problem during the pandemic.

“We kinda came up with this idea kicking ideas around, brainstorming,” said Louisa County Schools Director of CTE Steam and Innovation Kenneth Bouwens.

Earlier this month, Louisa County schools piloted a program called, “Wireless on Wheels,” also called “WOW.”

It’s a WiFi hotspot powered by three solar panels and built on a trailer hitch. The prototype of the project is parked in a grocery store parking lot just down the road from the county’s middle and high schools.

Bouwens says he often sees three or four cars parked in the WiFi range using the new tool, estimating the connection can reach a 300-foot radius.

“It’s not meant to stream HD video or download movies,” said Bouwens. “But if you’re trying to upload or download assignments or go on the internet for research or content or anything like that its perfect. And its all the speed and capacity we need.”

So far, Louisa schools says it has detected at least 200 unique users. The team now wants to build a fleet of 10 more wireless trailers for around the county.

“We just need to be creative and think of different solutions to provide services to our students,” Bouwens said.

Superintendent Straley said this technology is likely here to stay.

“We can continue to use this beyond this pandemic,” Straley said. “We can use it once we go back to school. We can continue to use this in our communities to help our students.”

In addition to an entire fleet of WOW hotspots, Louisa County schools told 8News its also working on blueprints for the project to share with other rural counties in Virginia.

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