Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Karen Bergin, Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs
Microsoft’s Chief People Officer Lisa Brummel recently reflected upon the energy and passion Microsoft employees dedicate to helping people less fortunate in communities at home and around the world. This dedication to giving is core to Microsoft’s culture and, even as some employees move on, it remains central to their lives.
Through its Integral Fellows Awards program, the Microsoft Alumni Foundation honors those alumni who’ve gone on to make a meaningful difference in the daily lives of others through philanthropy and nonprofit work. At its fifth annual celebration this past November 1, the foundation announced the 2013 fellows.
A mix of Microsoft alumni and current Microsoft executives attended the 5th annual Reunion with a Purpose. From left to right: Jeff Raikes, Brad Smith, Ida Cole, Hadi Partovi, Marylou Brannan, Suzi LeVine, and Lisa Brummel. Photo by Randell Walton Photography
“As a member of the Microsoft alumni community, I witness firsthand the energy, business savvy, and creativity that my peers bring to the philanthropy world,” said Jeff Raikes, chairman of the board, Microsoft Alumni Foundation, and CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This year’s Integral Fellows Award winners, Ida Cole of Seattle Theatre Group, and Hadi Partovi of Code.org, represent some of the best examples of Microsoft alumni tackling big problems and striving to make a difference in the world.”
Ida Cole, who served as director of international products and marketing and vice president of applications at Microsoft, created the Seattle Theatre Group with the vision of saving a beloved historic landmark. Eventually, she transformed the theater into the largest cultural institution in King County and a model for cultural innovation other cities emulate.
Once general manager for Microsoft, Hadi Partovi now leads the charge to create a strong, widely implemented computer science curriculum as founder and chief executive officer of Code.org. With 10,000 schools interested in a 21st century computer science curriculum and 25,000 software engineers who have volunteered to help create one, Hadi advances towards his vision to give all American students the opportunity to write their own code.
Code.org’s dedication to growing computer science education is shared by Microsoft. This past October 14 we joined Code.org in announcing a nationwide campaign urging schools, teachers, and parents across the country to participate in the “Hour of Code” initiative. Held during Computer Science Education Week (December 9 – 15), this initiative will help introduce more than 10 million students to computer programming and the exciting careers of the future.
“Five years ago we introduced the Integral Fellows Award to recognize and support the alumni whose post-Microsoft pursuits are dedicated to improving their communities, whether on a local scale or global,” said Marylou Brannan, Microsoft Alumni Foundation executive director. “It is a joy to gather together at our annual ‘Reunion with a Purpose’ with the award winners and nominees, fellow alumni and friends to reaffirm our commitment to changing lives and making a positive difference in the world.”
By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Community Affairs
Australian Imagine Cup grant winners Team Confufish (from left to right) Kenneth Wong, Matt Moss, Brad Lorge, and Nick Darvey
Today we are announcing the 2013 Imagine Cup Grants winners – a part of Imagine Cup, a Microsoft YouthSpark program. I’ve been very proud to be involved in the Imagine Cup Grants program since its inception as part of our commitment to providing opportunities to youth through YouthSpark. For the past three years, these grants have helped young people realize their vision of bringing their technology enabled projects to life.
We are excited to share these five, inspiring grant-winning teams who participated in the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in Russia earlier this year. Their ideas were the best and brightest examples of how technology can be used to address challenging problems. Without further ado, the winners are Team OHS from Taiwan, Team Confufish from Australia, Team RUOK from Ireland and Team Dora from Slovenia.
In addition to cash awards, grant recipients will receive a tailored package of support including software, access to resources such as mentorship and training from Microsoft to aid in the development of their project. Our goal is to help these bright young minds create a business or nonprofit organization that will ultimately bring the benefits of their solutions to their community or the world.
The Imagine Cup blog today provides more details about the winning teams and information about additional changes to the Imagine Cup competition that include new challenges that map to the software development lifecycle, and better prepare competitors for work experiences beyond the event.
By Bernard Bergan, Guest Contributor
Over the past five years, I have been serving all over the world for the United States Army as a communications sergeant in First Special Forces Group Airborne, 3rd Battalion. Serving in the Army has taught me the value of teamwork, selfless service and a commitment to excellence. It also has allowed me to see up close how technology connects us all. While in Afghanistan, I used Skype as my primary tool for keeping in contact with friends and family.
Now, I am in the processing of starting a new journey as I consider opportunities to work at Microsoft. I’m one of the first people to complete the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy – a training program provided by the company to help active duty service members transition out of the military into technology careers. This week, I officially completed the 16-week program where I obtained certification required to be a software tester, and was proud to stand next to 21 other service members as we were recognized in a special ceremony attended by Senator Patty Murray. Now, I have a path beyond my service to the military in yet another field I am passionate about. Transitioning to a job at Microsoft, the very company that made it possible for me to connect with my loved ones while in the military, is more than amazing; it is surreal.
My experience in the program has been very positive but it did not come without its challenges as I learned the new language of code. My introduction to C sharp, Visual Studios and the .Net framework was fast and furious. The support offered by Microsoft employees who came down to our classroom and provided training sessions via Skype was tremendous in helping us problem solve. It also reminded us that learning to understand software engineering is a simple process. Hearing from industry professionals helped ease my concerns and they also provided many more resources available through Microsoft.
Prior to Microsoft’s program, there were no seamless training programs available for soon-to-be veterans who wanted to work in tech. Any career transition is difficult but, for those of us in the military, there are unique challenges. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state assists with this process by providing training while being able to maintain my financial stability. The guarantee of a job placement within Microsoft or through one of its partners was an incredible opportunity with a major impact on my family.
The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy has been an extremely rewarding experience. Learning to code has been a challenging journey worth the effort. My experience in this program has reminded me that stepping out of one’s comfort zone and following a different path will always have its challenges. However, if you believe in what you’re doing, and you have a big enough answer to why you’re doing it, in the end it will all come together.
By Lori Forte Harnick, general manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs
Today is a good day to remember that it takes just one person to have a positive impact on another person’s life.
Today is #GivingTuesday and as part of our ongoing YouthSpark initiative, we’re rallying support for young people around the world.
Would you like to make a difference in a young person’s life? If so, we’d like to help.
Starting at 9 a.m. Pacific Time today, Microsoft will match donations — dollar for dollar — that are made to nonprofit organizations serving the needs of youth at GlobalGiving.org/YouthSpark/Heroes. We’re also offering Microsoft Store shoppers a $25 donation gift card with any purchase.
How can you change a young person’s life? How can you help them get the education they need? Open doors to new opportunities? Spark their passion to discover and create and change the world for others?
Find out today at GlobalGiving.org/YouthSpark/Heroes and let us help…let us double the impact you can make today in a young person’s life.
By Elisa Willman, Senior Manager MarComm, Microsoft Citizenship
Tom Blank and Mike Sinclair have found the perfect way to use their professional skills to benefit others. By day, they work as Microsoft engineers. By night, they teach teens how to build really cool robots.
Tom and Mike are volunteer mentors for XBOT Robotics, a nonprofit organization that teaches kids from the South Seattle area to build robots and then gives them the chance to compete against other kids from around the Pacific Northwest and the world. In the process, the mentors hope to kindle in their students an interest in science, technology, engineering and math that will lead to college and valuable careers. Along the way, the kids develop social skills, such as collaboration and sportsmanship that can benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Every Tuesday and Thursday evening and Saturday morning, 30 to 45 students meet in a Microsoft conference room in Redmond with their volunteer mentors, who teach them programming, mechanical design and electronics. They participate in a variety of activities and exercises throughout the year, culminating in the FIRST Robotics Challenge, a competition that gives teams just a few weeks to build 120-pound robots that can carry out specified tasks and then pits those robots against each other.
It’s a lot of fun for both the kids and the adults, but the mentors say they stay involved with the program for something bigger: the chance to make a permanent impact on young people’s lives. “The best part is the privilege of seeing the students grow up,” Tom says. “You teach them, see them develop, write their college references, and help them launch.”
As part of the Microsoft YouthSpark initiative and our Employee Giving Program, we’re featuring Tom and Mike’s story among 30 Microsoft employee Giving Heroes who are helping young people overcome a number of challenges and capture new opportunities. For Tom and Mike’s work, XBOT Robotics will receive a $1,000 grant. A major source of XBOT's funding is our Giving Program, which donates $17 for each hour an employee volunteers. “This money is a significant part of the lifeblood that keeps our organization going,” Tom says. Highlighting their story also gives them a chance to raise even more money through the upcoming #GivingTuesday campaign.
Most of the students who participate in XBOT Robotics teams are from the Franklin High School area in South Seattle. It’s a school that serves 95 percent students of color and where 65 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Half of all XBOT students come from homes where English is the second language. The robotics program has played a role in helping many students become the first members of their families to attend college. Tom says it was especially rewarding to see one such student accept a full-ride scholarship to Stanford recently. Students involved with XBOT have also accepted scholarships to the University of Washington, MIT and many other prestigious schools.
Each year, the specifics of the FIRST Robotics Challenge change. No team knows the exact challenges and constraints their robots will face until the first week of January, when FIRST Robotics reveals the challenges and rules of the year’s competition. From that point, teams have six weeks to design, build and test their robots. Recent years’ competitions have required robots to throw Frisbees accurately, climb a pole, shoot basketballs, kick a soccer ball, pick up and strategically place inner tubes, and a variety of other challenges. They also have to be able to withstand potential hazards such as collisions with walls or other robots. It can be tough to keep control of a brand-new 120-pound robot. Though Mike, Tom, and the other mentors are happy to provide guidance and advice, the students are ultimately responsible for the design and construction of their robots.
This process gives the students experience with the kind of real-world challenges they’ll face if they choose to pursue a STEM career. The classroom setting doesn’t always adequately prepare students for the deadlines, budget constraints and workflow issues that engineers face daily in their careers. “When they go away to college they’ll be ready to understand schedules and timing and deadlines far better,” Tom says.
Meet other Giving Heroes by following #youthspark, #givinghero and #msftgiving on Microsoft Facebook and Twitter. We're showcasing inspiring employees making a difference for youth leading into #GivingTuesday.
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