Posted: June 4, 2021

Darren Clapper, Ag IT Systems Administrator, put pen to paper recently to provide a personal account of technological improvements and advancements made in recent years at the Ag Progress Days site.

I have been involved with providing network and Wi-Fi support to the Ag Progress Days/Timber show for nine years. The network infrastructure is used by APD, Timber show, Pasto Agricultural Museum, and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.

Historically, the site had little or no cell signal making cell phones useless. Internet access was achieved by strategically placed Windstream DSL connections which at the time only offered 3 megabits per second (mbps) and didn’t not encompass the entire site. GetWireless was also used to beam a wireless signal from the top of a mountain to the Ag Choice building which was also slow and limited in coverage.

Discussions began in 2015 to pilot a Wi-Fi solution leveraging Comcast broadband with a significant boost in speed. The pilot began in 2016: it was only used in a few buildings and was successful. The entire site was connected with a fiber optic backbone allowing indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi access points to be installed and configured to cover the majority of the site. Ultimately, this solution replaced the older obsolete technologies previously used.

The fiberoptic backbone and fast, reliable, internet benefited the vendors at Timber show allowing them to leverage Wi-Fi to securely process credit cards, utilize Wi-Fi calling giving them cell phone service, being connected to customers, and their home office while at the show. Presenters have also benefited by the network which now accommodates streaming presentations, digital displays, and even local and state media broadcasts from the site.

I am a country boy, born and raised in Central Pennsylvania. I have family and friends who own or work on farms and in the timber industry. I get a real sense of satisfaction and fulfillment to be able to be a part of the convergence of these industries with technology. Cisco VoIP phones have replaced the old phone system at the site. WeatherStem has a weather station onsite now that is able to gather moisture and temperature readings from wireless probes in the soil. Penn State Extension used the network to provide educational programming with Oculus virtual reality (VR) goggles. Shaver’s Creek uses streaming video to monitor a hawk’s nest wirelessly. There are a host of food vendors that are now able to accept credit card payments. These are just a few examples of how Ag IT has been able to utilize modern networking gear and best practices to open a myriad of possibilities.

The network and capabilities expand as newer technologies arrive. Ag IT utilizes network monitoring to identify and track potential issues proactively. Network switching and firewalling allow us to maintain security on the network. Industry leaders such as Aruba & Juniper have used the site as a case study to show the capabilities of their equipment.

Information Technologies


401 Ag Administration Building
State College, PA 16802