Connections to the Internet Program

Division of Advanced Networking

Infrastructure and Research, Room 1175

National Science Foundation

4201 Wilson Blvd.

Arlington, VA 22230

Tel: (703) 306-1949

eMail: anir-info@nsf.gov

Web: http://www.nsf.gov/home/grants.htm

If you’ve got an innovative idea for a project to connect your schools to the internet, you might be able to get it partially funded through this National Science Foundation program.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) was established in 1950 by the National Science Foundation Act “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.”

The organization’s educational mission is “to ensure the vitality of science and technology in the United States,” and the foundation believes that “stimulating quality education in science, mathematics, engineering and technology is vitally important to ensure economic success in a global economy that is characterized by increasing technological sophistication.”

In 1998, the NSF’s division of Education and Human Resources contributed $626,564 in total awards to various schools. In keeping with its commitment to support technology in education, the NSF’s Advanced Networking Infrastructure and Research (ANIR) division has developed the “Connections to the Internet” grant program to support innovative technologies for internet access in education.

The “Connections to the Internet” program announcement emphasizes that “only highly innovative approaches that have the potential to accelerate network development at similar institutions will be considered for funding.”

According to the announcement, this can include “distributed high performance computing, remote visualization and imaging, and telecollaboration,” as well as other non-traditional means of accessing the internet.

Part of the abstract from one of last year’s grant-winning K-12 proposals offers a good idea of the sort of innovative technology the NSF is looking for: “[This award] provides partial support for 24 months to connect the elementary school and middle school using microwave technology. The wireless link will connect to a high school, which has a fiber connection to the internet.”

The program has three connections categories: K-12 institutions, libraries, and museums; higher education institutions; and research institutions.

Proposing institutions are normally required to share program costs when receiving grant funding, usually at a level equal to or greater than that of the total NSF support.

Grant proposals must include:

• Specifications as to who will be considered qualified users of the new program and how access will be made available (for example, a K-12 institution might say that all students and staff in the school are qualified users, and access will be provided through computers grouped in the media center).

• The supported costs of an institution’s connection to the internet, including acquisition and maintenance of hardware and software, installation and regular fees for a communications channel, or acquisition fees and monthly charges from an external service provider.

• A clear cost breakdown of items supported by grant funds and items that represent institutional cost-sharing.

• An explanation of how internet access will be provided to the proposing institution (such as local area network, terminal servers, etc.). It is the responsibility of the proposing institution to provide local access for qualified users.

• Appropriate general information about the institution to enhance understanding of the proposed internet connection project.

• Clear answers to the topics specified in the evaluation criteria given in section IV. E of the program announcement (available at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1998/nsf98102/nsf98102.htm).

Proposals may be submitted by any U.S. educational institution or consortium of such institutions, as appropriate. A two-year, non-renewable grant of approximately $15,000 normally will be awarded to successful proposers. In the case of a consortium of institutions, larger awards may be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

The NSF provides an extensive Grant Policy Manual outlining policies and procedures that apply to all NSF awards (http://www.nsf.gov:80/bfa/cpo/gpm95/start.htm).

Additionally, if an organization is approved for an award and has never previously received one, the Division of Grants and Agreements will request some organizational, management, and financial information from the submitting organization. These requirements are described in Chapter V of the Grant Policy Manual.

The NSF requires proposers to submit their proposals through FastLane, the NSF’s system for electronic submission and review. FastLane also features an extensive record of previous winning grant proposals, which school districts may find invaluable in gaining an understanding of what it takes to create a successful grant proposal.

Instructions on how to use Fast Lane can be found at NSF’s FastLane Home Page (http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov). All evaluations of proposals will be conducted by a review panel or an individual reviewer from ANIR.

The preliminary deadline for the next set of K-12 proposals is January 31, 2000, and the final deadline is July 31, 2000.