October, 2012

  • NASA Joined Skype in the Classroom Taking Kids on New Educational Adventures

    This blog was originally posted 3 October by Andrew Schmidt on Skype's Big Blog

    When I was a kid, I had some very big dreams. My imagination would run wild with all the possibilities of answering the question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" On any given day, I would have given you wildly different answers: I wanted to be a firefighter, an astronaut, a ship captain, a writer, amongst many, many others. One of the reasons I love my job is because Skype in the Classroom allows students to experience first-hand what these careers are really like from professionals doing them every day.

     In celebration of World Teacher's Day on Friday, we're taking one more step to help make kids' dreams become more of a reality. We're excited to announce that we're adding six fantastic organizations to Skype in the Classroom: NASA's Digital Learning Network™, The National Museum of   the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, British Council, Woodland Trust, VerbalizeIt, Action Aid, Education through Expedition and Choose2Matter. These organizations will join our many existing affiliates to help enrich the educational experiences of teachers and students worldwide.

    Claire Jordan, Learning Officer for the National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, said, "Skype provides a brilliant way of making contact with schools all over the world that otherwise wouldn't know that we offer interesting workshops." 

    "The reach of the Royal Navy is global and there is a real interest in its history throughout the world. However, despite this interest, the geographical constraints mean that the vast majority of schools (even those in Great Britain) will never get a chance to actually visit us. To be able to bring our collections to more people and give the opportunity to learn more about the National Museum of the Royal Navy or HMS Victory via Skype is great."

    As one example of how these organizations will participate in Skype in the classroom, NASA's Digital Learning Center will feature various projects where students can learn how to prepare a space vehicle for liftoff, help scientists and engineers explore the basic principles of matter and design their own spacesuit mission patch. Participating classrooms will also discover what it is like to live and work in space as well as be introduced to basic robotics.

    These new organizations will join more than 38,000 teachers already working together on 2,000 live global educational projects. Teachers can take advantage of these valuable resources by signing up for free on the Skype in the Classroom website.  Once registered, educators will be able to explore the Skype in the Classroom collaboration spaces, access a variety of content from these organizations, learn about new and exciting ways to utilize Skype video calling in their schools, and connect their students with a global selection of guest experts. 

     Please visit the Skype in the Classroom website for more information.

  • YouthSpark Profile: James Pinto

    This is the first in a series of YouthSpark profiles where we highlight young people in Asia who are dedicated to changing the world through technology, and inspiring others along the way.

    NAME: JAMES PINTO
    TWITTER: @JDPIN2
    COUNTRY: SINGAPORE
    OCCUPATION: CO-FOUNDER of Vortics Communications

     Bio
    James Pinto first got his start in technology entrepreneurship through participating in the 2008 Imagine Cup competition — he was the project lead in the eventual winning team for developing an environmental monitoring robotic system that provides data in real time. The innovative idea inspired James to do more to create a sustainable working environment by co-founding Vortics Communications, a turnkey solutions provider that helps organizations improve workplace safety management. His entrepreneurial spirit and efforts to improve workplace safety management have been recognized, with James being named as the Shell Livewire Most Promising Entrepreneur in 2011.

    Tell us one exciting thing that you have been working on in the past 3 – 6 months.
    My focus has always been on using technology to bring about positive change, focusing on occupational safety and health issues. At Vortics we are looking to expand our portfolio into providing safety and health for elderly care through the development of GridICE, a battery-free wireless personal alert system designed to facilitate independent living for the elderly and those with physical ailments.

    What are some of the challenges facing youth today that concern you the most?
    Technology is evolving at such a rapid rate that it might prove to be a challenge to keep up with the changes. As an entrepreneur, I am always keen to get a better sense of how new technologies have impacted the lives of young people — and how we can develop innovative solutions to keep them engaged and believing they can make the world better.

    If you had the ability to create one change in the world, what would that be and how can technology help you achieve this change?
    I believe in the potential of technology for social change, and I will continue to focus on improving health and safety standards, as well as promoting a greater awareness of sustainable value among organizations. My ultimate aim is to help create an ideal environment that allows people to work, live and play safely.

    I aspire to... become the best in what I do, and to make a positive impact on my community.

    Learn more about Microsoft's Citizenship efforts.

  • Microsoft Singapore Supports Nonprofit’s Efforts to Raise Breast Cancer Awareness

    Every October, in conjunction with its annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) campaign, the Singapore-based Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) organises a series of nationwide activities aimed at highlighting the importance of regular breast screening and early detection of cancer.

    Set up in 1997, BCF is a non-profit organisation with the mission of eradicating breast cancer as a life-threatening disease. To achieve this, it spreads awareness and education through talks, seminars, exhibitions and publications, and advocates early detection through regular screening. Support and volunteer programmes are organised for survivors, their families and advocates through counselling, healing through art activities and other empowerment programmes.

    BCF is one of the few breast cancer advocacy groups in the world with a Men’s Support League to emphasise men’s roles in society’s fight against this affliction.

    This year, Microsoft Singapore has stepped up its efforts to support BCF’s ongoing initiatives by selecting the nonprofit organisation as one of six beneficiaries of the company’s new Dollar Matching Programme. Through this programme, Microsoft will match the donated sum made by its Singapore employees to one of the six preferred charities (up to SGD500 per employee).

    “By launching our dollar matching programme for employee donations in Singapore, our employees can be even more supportive of BCF. As an organisation, we believe it is important to support the causes our employees care about,” said Yun Seong Yong, General Manager, Microsoft Asia Pacific Operations Centre.

    The fundraising drive for BCF is coordinated by Ammado, one of Microsoft’s global nonprofit partners. For every minimum sum of SGD5 donated, Microsoft Singapore employees will be given a pink ribbon collar pin as part of the BCAM campaign's appreciation effort.

    Microsoft Singapore is optimistic that the fundraising efforts of its employees will help BCF realise its objectives and continue to enrich the lives of breast cancer survivors such as Annie Cheah, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998.

    Early detection, the right treatment and strong support shown by her husband enabled Ms Cheah to make a full recovery from the disease. Today, she is a hospital counsellor who plays an active role in raising public awareness for breast cancer, while her husband supports the BCF's activities as a committee member.

    “It is important that our message cuts across ethnicity, age group and gender,” said Mrs Noor Quek, President, BCF. “Breast Cancer is now not only a woman’s issue, but one that affects men, families and society at large. It is through the generous support of our corporate sponsors like Microsoft that we are able to develop a greater reach in terms of our awareness building."

  • Microsoft Employees Raise $1 Billion for Communities around the World

    Microsoft Corp. recently commemorated its 30th Employee Giving Campaign with an announcement that US employees have raised $1 billion in cash since 1983 for more than 31,000 nonprofits and community organizations around the world. Many of these organizations, like World Vision International and UNICEF, have operations and projects outside of the US, impacting communities in more than a hundred countries worldwide.

    “I’m incredibly proud of our employees and this is truly a time to celebrate, not just because we’ve raised a record amount of funds, but because together with our nonprofit partners we have impacted and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people,” said CEO Steve Ballmer.

    Microsoft Employee Giving Program

    Each year, Microsoft matches US employee volunteer time at $17 per hour and dollar-for-dollar charitable contributions to all eligible nonprofits up to a total of $12,000 per employee. When the Microsoft giving program began in 1983, approximately 200 employees raised $17,000 for nonprofits. Today, more than 35,000 employees participate, which is approximately 65% of Microsoft’s total US workforce, and the company predicts its employees will raise more than $100 million in 2012 for nonprofits around the world.

    “From its earliest days, Microsoft employees have been involved in their communities and have helped contribute to their vitality and growth,” added Microsoft Chairman and Founder Bill Gates. “Thirty years and $1 billion later, that impact can be felt around the world.”

    A Passion for Giving Globally

    Outside the U.S., each employee receives a minimum of three paid days a year to volunteer in their community. Microsoft employees donate volunteer hours, donate and raise money and lend their skills to local and international nonprofits year-round.

    A range of volunteer activities throughout Asia have helped support many non-profit and community organizations, including the following:

    • Microsoft Hong Kong introduced its volunteer management system (VMS), a service that helps non-governmental organisations (NGOs) streamline operations to better serve the community.
    • In Korea, Microsoft volunteers accompanied young children from the Amsa Rehabilitation Center on a trip to enjoy the natural environment of Namhansansung.
    • Microsoft New Zealand employees and contractors volunteered in the inaugural Carbon4Good 100 Tonne Challenge and helped plant 4,800 trees across the country.
    • During the 2011 floods in Thailand, Microsoft staff supported relief efforts by organizing volunteer sessions and developed software to provide more information surrounding the crisis.
    • Microsoft Vietnam employees volunteered in a charity programme, donating food and basic necessities to children at the Village of Hope Centre in Danang City.

    “Year over year, Microsoft employees have increased their generosity of time, talent and resources, which has led to the continuous growth of the Give Campaign during the past three decades,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel. “As our campaign has grown, we’ve been honored to stand alongside a long list of nonprofit partners and support their invaluable service to communities around the world.”

    Microsoft Total Giving by the Numbers

    Since 1983, Microsoft and its employees have provided more than $6.5 billion in cash, services and software to nonprofits around the world through localized, company-sponsored giving and volunteer campaigns. This includes in-kind donations.

  • Imagine Cup Journey Doesn’t End After Worldwide Finals

    Now in its 11th year, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is the premier student technology competition that encourages students to form a team and build an application, with the opportunity to win cash prizes and travel. More than 350 students from 75 countries traveled to Sydney, Australia, for the 2012 Worldwide Finals in July.

    Proving the journey doesn’t end after the Worldwide Finals, over 40 teams submitted applications for the Imagine Cup Grant program. The caliber of applications was impressive, and we strongly believe each team that submitted an application has the potential to change the world through their innovative solutions.

    In its second year, the Imagine Cup grants is a three-year, $3 million competitive programme that enables Imagine Cup participants to take their innovative projects to market as the next step in their business development. Imagine Cup and the grants are part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark program, which is the company’s commitment to
    reach 300 million youths in the next three years through technology, training and experiences that empower them to imagine and realize their full potential. Last year, students from Croatia, Ecuador, Jordan and the United States won the grants and received funding and other support in the first year of the grants program.

    Among the 2012 applicants, the 13 teams selected as finalists received the highest marks based on a combination of criteria: impact & viability, team quality & motivation, solution design & motivation and problem definition. The winning grant applicants will be announced in December 2012 at the Social Innovation Summit in the Silicon Valley, and awarded with a grant package in the form of cash, software, resources and other on the ground support to help them establish a nonprofit or for-profit organization to bring their idea to reality.

    After many hours of review and much consideration, the Imagine Cup team is pleased to announce the 2012 grant finalists:

    1. Team Cipher256 (Kampala, Uganda)
    2. Team FlashFood (Tempe, AZ – United States of America)
    3. Team Greenway (Hannover, Germany)
    4. Team IQube (Timisoara, Romania)
    5. Team Italian Ingenium (Milan, Italy)
    6. Team Novitat (Bangkok, Thailand)
    7. Team Osmosis (Ljublijana, Slovenia)
    8. Team quadSquad (Donets’k, Ukraine)
    9. Team Reimagine (Mexico City, Mexico)
    10. Team StethoCloud (Melbourne, Australia)
    11. Team Symbiosis (Thessaloniki, Greece)
    12. Team Vivid (Cairo, Egypt)
    13. Team wi-GO (Covilhã, Portugal)

    Find more information on the projects developed by the 2012 Imagine Grant Final.

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