Students plan wi-fi blueprint for school buildings

Arsheen Hasolkar, 16, Shayenne Galiste, 17, Julz Baldwin, 17, Tomais Williamson, 17,  and Andrew Ting, 17, compare their ...
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF

Arsheen Hasolkar, 16, Shayenne Galiste, 17, Julz Baldwin, 17, Tomais Williamson, 17, and Andrew Ting, 17, compare their signal strengths. They were part of a 25 strong group of students from NPGHS and NPBHS.

A group of New Plymouth students have been testing wi-fi signals with an eye to making a plan for installing a wireless network.

About 25 Year 12 and 13 students have been taking part in Project Wi-Finding, a three-day workshop on testing wi-fi connectivity, run by Massey University and Primo Wireless.  

The students placed wi-fi hotspots throughout Hatherly House at New Plymouth Boys' High School, which has no wi-fi, and then went through the rooms with their laptops, with software checking the signal strength in different areas.

Arsheen Hasolkar, 16, Shayenne Galiste, 17, mark down the signal strength in their area.
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF

Arsheen Hasolkar, 16, Shayenne Galiste, 17, mark down the signal strength in their area.

They will then decide where to best locate the hotspots and design wireless coverage for the building.

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Arsheen Hasolkar, 16, was testing the signal from the upstairs router in the dorm room below, and said it was all right where she was standing.

Julz Baldwin, and Tomais Williamson, both 17, mark down their findings.
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF

Julz Baldwin, and Tomais Williamson, both 17, mark down their findings.

They were measuring the signal strength on the dBm (DeciBels below 1 Millowatt) scale, which ranges from -30, which is the maximum achievable but rare, to -90, which is usually unusable.

Their cut-off point was -67, Arsheen said.

"It's -63 but if we walk two steps down it goes down to -71 which is not acceptable."

Dr Faraz Hasan, senior lecturer of communication engineering and networks at Massey University, said the students had been taught the tools and methods for analysing wireless networks on the first day which were then put into practice on day two.

Julz Baldwin, 17, said he found the process "pretty easy".

"We're checking that the signal strength is enough to maintain connection.

"It would be a lot harder without the software."​

Dr Fakhrul Alam, senior lecturer in computer engineering at Massey University, said the students "are having a whole lot of fun".

He said if the signal isn't strong enough, "they come back, assess why, and maybe move the hotspots a little bit".

"This is the biggest exercise because this building's complicated."

Jason Holton, part owner and operations manager for Primo Wireless, works in the field and said the students were "picking it up really well". 

​The students will be visiting Primo Wireless on Wednesday.

Hasan said the project, which was funded by Curious Minds and Internet NZ,  was motivated by the fact that there are few regions in New Zealand with strong connectivity.  

"It's a nationwide issue."

Moving forward, the country needed more people working in the field, he said.

"The best way to do it is to show them how fun it is and that's what we're trying to do."

 - Stuff

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