Microsoft donates data center equipment, scholarship funds to Big Bend Community College

MOSES LAKE — Computer equipment valued at $60,000 has just arrived at Big Bend Community College, thanks to a recent donation by Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Datacenter Community Development team donated laptops, servers and other related fixtures to the college’s Computer Science program, which will be used to support students working towards a Systems Administration- Data Center Specialization certification. In total, Microsoft delivered 30 laptops, 75 servers, three server racks and 36 network devices to BBCC on Wednesday. Microsoft has also invested an additional $30,000 in scholarships for students in the program.

The donated computer equipment is approximately nine years newer than what students are currently using, which is a pretty big deal, said BBCC Computer Science Specialist Tom Willingham.

“Technology changes so fast, and when it gets old it is just not as useful,” he said. “So having this equipment donated really helps bring us up to speed.”

But Microsoft’s donation goes beyond just having newer equipment, especially for this current cohort of data center specialization students, because with the donation will come a very real-world application. Willingham explained that while all the laptops, servers and racks have been delivered, nothing is fully functional- at least not yet.

“The students are actually going to be responsible for administering the process of transitioning from the old equipment to the new equipment,” said Willingham. “They will have to determine what kind of hard drives they will need, what software to install and they will have to make all of the network connections to get this new equipment running. They are really excited about this.”

Providing students with a real-world application of what they have been learning in classes is a major goal for the Computer Science Department. After all, their main priority is preparing students for employment in one of the many data centers in the area and around the state.

“Students go through technical courses and work based learning which gives them direct connection with data centers so they can decide if that is what they really want to do,” said Willingham. “We also provide intensive professional prep and advising, such as mock interviews, throughout the program because the idea is for them to have everything they need to get an entry level job in a data center.”

He said the need for trained data center professionals has been growing over the past decade as the area has seen an increase in the number of data centers moving into Grant County.

“We have about eight major data centers in Quincy, a couple in Moses Lake, and all around the state so the demand is there,” said Willingham.

The Data Center Specialization training came to BBCC as a request from some of the larger data centers. They were looking for the college to help them create a training program that they could use to get people from our immediate communities trained and into their respective organizations, he explained.

“This whole program was driven by the data center industry here,” said Willingham. “It has in turn created such a great relationship between the data centers, our students, our community and the college- and a very unique relationship”

There are currently 31 students who are in the general Systems Administration program pursuing a data center specialization.

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