Ten students in the information technology program from three different Globe University/Minnesota School Business campuses, along with Executive IT Program Chair Tom Polinceusz and IT Program Chair Tunji Akanbi got to tour the CenturyLink downtown facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Steve Bernard, major account manager for CenturyLink, worked with Tom to get the tour organized. Built in the 1930s, the building at one time was considered the tallest building in Minneapolis and through the years housed the telecommunication companies that supported the area.
The tour itself consisted of only three of the 26 floors of the building, but these floors housed the nitty gritty and ecstasy of networking wonderment. In the basement, all the cables used for powering the internet and phone services to businesses in the area are fed into the building. The cables are then run to the additional floors and split into smaller groups depending on what they did.
“Seeing all the cables that were done by hand and just the sheer number of them along a wall was just mind blowing,” said IT student Kim Hennen. They also got to see the numerous switches where they all connected. This was the brain of the building.
The students also got to see the massive backup generators, which Tom likened to “diesel engines on trains.” When the power goes out, the generators kick in to keep things running smoothly. “I never really thought about what it takes to run the internet and now maybe I will think twice before complaining when something goes down,” added Hennen.
The last leg of the tour consisted of hands-on involvement with fiber optic cables and ended up being the highlight of the tour. Students were given the chance to splice their own fiber optic cable. The technicians explained how the equipment worked and demonstrated the process, then let the students try. It is a very delicate and precise process using equipment costing upwards of $20,000. “We got to cut, clean and splice the wires. We learned that they have to be really clean if you want the light to reflect perfectly,” reflected IT student Jeremy Primus.
On the tour, the students got the chance to see equipment that many do not get to see due to the security and sensitive nature of the work. “It was an amazing opportunity for the students to work hands-on with the equipment and gain this valuable experience outside the classroom,” said Tom. “In the classroom they get to learn about the different cables and now they get to work with those cables.”