April, 2013

  • And The Windows 8 Apps for Social Good Winners Are…

    In November we launched the Windows 8 Apps for Social Good contest. You voted for your favorite app, and our judges voted for theirs. It was great to see the variety of social good apps submitted to the contest – nutrition, health care, emergency response, and more. The judges had a hard time selecting the winners because of the quality and usefulness of the apps.

    You can find the winning apps and all the other fantastic entries in the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 stores or on the contest page.

    Without further ado, here are the winners:

    The People’s Choice award winner is a Windows 8 app, YumvY, a cooking companion to help you prepare nutritious, healthy meals at home with the goal of addressing the obesity epidemic and related diseases like diabetes. Sari Louis from Reston, Virginia started coding at age six when his parents bought his older brother an Atari computer that came with a programming book for GW-Basic, and is passionate about using technology to improve health.

    “Cooking at home is one of the sure ways to eat healthy and fight the growing health epidemic facing us today,” says Sari. “The reason I entered the contest is to let people know that cooking can be easy and fast…and fun on top of that.” With the $10,000 prize, he plans to include nutritional information to accompany the recipes so people can make more informed choices about what to cook.

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    The judge-selected winner in the Windows 8 app category is Eatfindr, a simple way to locate healthy restaurants while also allowing you to filter based on dietary requirements such as allergies. Cameron Preston, Ludo Antonov, and Hayder Casey worked tirelessly on the app after Cameron heard about the contest from friends. A team of great innovators, all have appreciated putting their development skills toward the greater purpose of social good.

    Cameron says, “I get the most out of meshing my tech skills with my passion for better food systems.” He’ll use his $15,000 prize to build the app into a more social and educational user experience, expand to different platforms, and market to reach more users and gain more reviews.

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    Health Center was the judge-selected Windows Phone 8 app winner. It lets you look up your medications and find them at a reduced cost. Lance Siedman from Las Vegas started programming at age 13 on a Windows 98. He credits his parents’ gift of Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 for teaching him to build apps on the Windows platform. One project close to his heart was using the Microsoft Speech SDK to develop speech commands that enable his autistic brother to use a computer without anxiety.

    Lance shares inspiration for other app developers thinking about doing social good: “If just one person could benefit, isn’t that what making apps and this contest is all about? If you have the capability to make a change or offer someone something, do it.” He plans to use his $15,000 prize to connect the app to a wearable device to provide medication reminders, potential interaction risks, and alerts for when to refill prescriptions.

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    Visit the contest page to see all of the great apps that were created for social good. Download them, use them, and share them with your friends.

  • YouthSpark Star of the Week: We Day Backstage Reporters

    There were crowds of youth flanking all the main entrances into Key Arena. They wore matching shirts, face paint, with neon signs propped over their shoulders that read “WE are the change!” and “Spencer West we love you!”

    The energy of 15,000 young people poured into the Seattle stadium on March 27, 2013 for the first-ever US We Day, a youth event focused around social issues and community service. As a co-title sponsor, Microsoft helped bring the event to the U.S. as part of its YouthSpark initiative, which aims to create opportunities for young people around the globe.

    Three young people were nominated by their schools to experience and report on a special backstage peak of We Day. Gabrielle, Delaney, and Keilon acted as Microsoft YouthSpark Reporters and had special access to roam the arena, interview celebrities, and even speak on stage about their experience.

    They share below their first-person accounts of their We Day experiences.

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    From left to right: Gabby, We Day host Munro Chambers, Delaney and Keilon on the YouthSpark stage.

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    YouthSpark Reporters at Microsoft’s VIP suite.

    YouthSpark Reporter Gabrielle:

    “We all have the same goal of a better, safer community.”

    Each speaker and performer at We Day had a message or a cause they represented. One of the most inspiring speakers to me was Molly Burke, who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of four. She shares her story and obstacles to inspire youth to view everyone equally, whether they suffer from mental illness or physical impairment.

    For Burke, it was bullying in schools. Martin Luther King III stated that his goal was to “address issues on poverty, race, and violence.” Nine-year-old Robby Novak, the YouTube sensation known as Kid President, said that he wishes to change the world by “feeding people.” Despite Novak’s fragile bone condition (known as osteogenesis imperfect) he strives to inspire other young kids that they can change the world.

    Seeing numerous celebrities, including surprise guest Macklemore, Grammy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, speak about their dedication to social change showed me that we all have the same goal of a better, safer community.

    The We Day theme is “We inspire the change.” Free The Children founder, Craig Kielburger has it exactly right: it is the youth of today that inspire the change. Initiatives such as Microsoft YouthSpark and Free The Children’s We Act program provide these unparalleled experiences for youth to get a jump start on the change they wish to see in the world.

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    Keilon at dress rehearsal at Key Arena, the day before We Day.

    YouthSpark Reporter Keilon:

    “I was humbled, to say the least.”

    My name is Keilon. I was one of three privileged young adults chosen as Microsoft YouthSpark Reporters at We Day. I was nominated by one of my teachers due to my active role in my community and neighborhood.

    At We Day, I was overwhelmed by the level of energy in the arena from the moment I stepped in. As a YouthSpark Reporter, I got to be anywhere and everywhere at the event so I didn’t miss a beat. The day was PACKED with motivational speaking, thrilling performances, and just the right amount of controlled chaos to keep the crowed excited.

    Being backstage was an amazing experience. Seeing how a production of this scale operated from the inside was mind blowing. Everything was on a schedule. Backstage was hectic, wild and frantic. And yet when it was time to be on stage everything went so smoothly, and flowed flawlessly.

    I met people who I never in my wildest dreams thought I would even see in real life. I was humbled, to say the least. Pete Carroll and Martin Luther King III were two of the most sincere, genuinely motivating people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Shaking Mr. Carroll’s hand and hearing Mr. King’s words were experiences that will stick with me forever:

    “If your passion is to be a street sweeper, you sweep streets the way Beethoven composed music. You sweep streets the way Rafael painted pictures. You sweep streets the way Muhammad Ali boxed. It’s not about what you do but how well you do it.” -Martin Luther King III

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    Delaney captures a photo of her and Gabrielle at We Day on her new Windows Phone from Microsoft YouthSpark.

    YouthSpark Reporter Delaney:

    “I knew giving up was not an option.”

    My journey to We Day started back in the fall of 2012, when an incredible organization called Free The Children made a visit to my high school. Craig Kielburger, the founder of it all, aimed to inspire us to take action to make a change for our communities and the world through social activism. To add fuel to our fiery excitement, he told us of We Day; an inspirational event bringing together youth engaged in changing the world through music and motivational speeches. His empowering words sparked a movement in my town, and the youth of the area soon took action.

    I earned my ticket to We Day by taking part in “253 Scares Hunger”, an event on Halloween where kids and teens from all across the Seattle/Tacoma area trick or treated for non-perishable food items. Over 300 youth turned out for the event and together we collected over 10,000 pounds of food in just one night. This huge undertaking directly benefited over 3,000 people in need, and it benefited us teens as well. I personally felt truly accomplished with the haul we brought in, and hearing how many people we helped acted as a driving force to work even harder to better my community.

    Not long before We Day, my advisor told me of a special opportunity to be a YouthSpark Reporter. When I found out I was selected, I was nearly shaking with excitement at the thought of meeting stars such as Jennifer Hudson and Martin Sheen. I couldn’t wait to go backstage and see the whole event inside and out. I was in awe at the list of famous celebrities that were to attend. Yet when I was finally there, I found myself the most impacted by a man I had previously never heard of: Spencer West.

    Spencer was a true inspiration to me. To raise awareness of Free The Children’s sustainable water campaign, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro - on his hands! Spencer had his legs amputated at age five due to a genetic disorder, but did that stop him? Certainly not. His story forced me to recognize that I have no good excuses. I realized that I could reach my goals no matter the obstacle; I just have to work hard and stay motivated.

    Thanks to this experience with Microsoft YouthSpark, my motivation to succeed soared even higher. Many highlights of the day helped to affirm my passion for both journalism and photography. As a YouthSpark Reporter, I was humbled to meet and interview Martin Luther King III, meet celebrities I had idolized for years like Monique Coleman and Munro Chambers, and take part in a real press conference like I had always dreamed. I kept pinching myself out of sheer disbelief.

    This experience was like no other; it was priceless. Without it, I might have given up on my passions. But after my day as a Microsoft YouthSpark reporter, I knew giving up was not an option. I learned that the road to success is always bumpy, and those who truly wish to achieve it must hold on tight.

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    To learn more about YouthSpark programs and initiatives, check out http://spr.ly/YSH to see the 30+ free programs we have for youth ages 6-24, worldwide.

  • 800 Kids on a Computer Science Field Trip at Microsoft: A Glimpse into the Future

    By Jane Broom, Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs

    Yesterday was one of those great days where I felt inspired, energized and hopeful about the future of young people in our community. I can’t help wonder where the lives of more than 800 high school students I met today at the annual Microsoft TEALS Field Trip will take them. Will that amazing kid from Rainier Beach High School– the one with the twinkle in his eye and mischievous grin – become the next Bill Gates? Will that confident, compassionate girl from Lake Washington STEM High School someday start her own gaming company that inspires thousands of girls to pursue computer science careers? Perhaps one of them will combine a love of computer science with a love of teaching and become a high school computer science teacher who sparks passion in his or her students – just like TEALS founder Kevin Wang has done?

    Kevin Wang, founder of TEALS, taking the stage.

    TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) is a Microsoft YouthSpark program that brings technology professionals and curriculum to high schools, providing the students I met yesterday and many more around the country with access to high-quality computer science courses. As part of the curricula, the TEALS students come to the Microsoft campus in Redmond where they interact with professionals, hear about interesting developments in the field, and learn about local colleges, jobs and other resources, including programs at Microsoft.

    Bing talking to students at the Opportunity Fair.

    Computer science is what drives the technological innovation that now underpins the global economy. It is one of the fastest growing, lucrative and rewarding fields that a student can pursue. Yet, very few schools around the nation offer it as a course. For instance, of the 770 public and private high schools in the state of Washington, only 35 offer the AP course in computer science.

    800 students from all over the Puget Sound area came to Microsoft for the TEALS field trip.

    The scarcity of these courses has an even greater impact on students of color. Of the 542 Washington students who took the AP computer science exam last year, less than 25 were Hispanic, African-American or Native-American.

    But we are on the verge of important change. The energy, diversity, curiosity and smarts that I saw in the students yesterday can’t be ignored. They will demand more and more of these high-quality, relevant opportunities. Incredible TEALS volunteers are catalyzing change inside high schools and helping to rapidly build access to these courses. They are proving that it can be done in all kinds of schools. The Washington State Legislature is doing its part, too. It recently passed legislation to make computer science count as a math or science graduation requirement.

    To me, there is nothing more rewarding than supporting young people in pursuit of their potential. Yesterday’s TEALS field trip was one of those days that made us at Microsoft proud to have played a part. Watch the videos below to hear some of the students’ stories and understand why I ended the day feeling so excited and hopeful for the future.

     

  • Microsoft Supports ‘Girls in ICT Day’

    By Alethea Lodge-Clarke, Public-Private Partnerships Manager, International Organizations, Microsoft

    Women and girls are extremely underrepresented in science and technology in the developing and developed world. In the United States, only 18% of computer science degrees are earned by women and only 22% of software engineers at technology companies are women. While information and communications technology (ICT) play an important role in the empowerment of women around the world, women in developed and developing countries face challenges to training and access, which often limits their ability to reach their full professional potential.

    In an effort to encourage more women to consider careers in ICTs, Microsoft is supporting the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for its annual Girls in ICT Day on April 25. Girls in ICT Day brings together girls, young women and university students to attend events hosted by ICT companies, NGOs and government agencies around the world. This year, Microsoft is participating in technical workshops that teach skills such as coding, web design, and mobile app development.

    Microsoft shares ITU’s belief that to achieve greater equality and education for women in ICTs they need greater access to opportunities. Globally, Microsoft has been involved in several projects to empower women, improve their access to technology and spark interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. For example, DigiGirlz, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, provides high school girls with the opportunity to learn careers in technology by interacting with Microsoft employees and receiving computer and technology training. Microsoft is using a similar model of engagement for a soon to be launched portal for North African Women as a part of our company’s 4Afrika Initiative.

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    High school student Lizzie Yoo details her DigiGirlz experience in “Diary of a DigiGirl”. The 4Afrika Initiative focuses on three critical areas of development for the continent – world class skills, access and innovation.

    Microsoft Research is also committed to bridging the gender gap in computing careers. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2018 there will be 1.4 million open technology and computer science jobs in the United States, but only 29% of the applicants will be women. To help grow the next generation of women in computing careers, Microsoft Research focuses on four key actions to help bridge the gender gap:

    • Reaching middle and high school girls with tools and programs
    • Partnering with key organizations and top academic institutions to actively engage undergraduates and post-graduates in the field of computer science
    • Raising awareness of the importance of events and mentorships
    • Providing opportunities in computing

    To learn more about the effort, watch the Women in Computing Careers at Microsoft Video Series, the Bridging the Gender Gap Video or click here to view the brochure.

    In addition, Microsoft in partnership with ITU, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UN Women recently released a white paper on getting girls interested in STEM education and careers with a series of recommendations. The whitepaper, “Girls in STEM and ICT Careers: The Path toward Gender Equality,” explores potential solutions to the global challenge of increasing the number of girls interested in STEM subjects.

    To improve representation of women in this field, the STEM paper recommends four areas of focus:
    • ICT access and skills
    • Relevance to their lives
    • Empowerment
    • Combating stereotypes about women and girls in science
       
    clip_image006 The STEM whitepaper also emphasizes that to overcome these challenges, there is no single solution. But if academia, private enterprise, government and NGOs all work together to change cultural perceptions of STEM subjects and provide ample and inspirational learning opportunities, we should start to see women finally represented more equally in such critical academic and professional fields.

    Through our partnerships and programs with organizations like ITU, Microsoft hopes to make an impact on women and girls in providing them with the opportunities and necessary skills needed to be successful in a career in ICT.
  • 2013 United Way Spirit of America and Summit Awards

    Congratulations to science and technology company 3M for winning the 2013 United Way Spirit of America® award for philanthropy, volunteer engagement and community impact!

    Microsoft also received two Summit awards from United Way for our community impact and volunteer engagement. The awards program recognizes outstanding United Way Global Corporate Leaders.

    “At Microsoft we really do believe that our strongest asset is our people. We are deeply honored to receive two United Way ‘Spirit of America’ awards which highlight the real impact of our employees in the local communities in which they live and work.”

    -Lori Harnick, General Manager, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft

    Read the full press release on United Way's site.

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