July, 2013

  • Windows Chip In Campaign Helps YouthSpark Partner Year Up to Bridge Opportunity Divide

    By Karen Bergin, Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs

    We launched Microsoft YouthSpark last September to address the opportunity divide – the gap between those who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. As we approach back to school season, the opportunity divide becomes very visible, especially around access to technology. Some students are fortunate enough to have family who can send them off to school with a new PC. Others are not.

    That’s why we’re partnering with Windows to take its Chip In program one step further with a new “Buy One, Give One” offer. The Chip In campaign is a crowdsourcing program to help students and parents purchase a new Windows PC or tablet for school by inviting friends and family to “chip in” funding. With the new “Buy One, Give One” offer, for each student who fulfills his or her PC funding amount between now and September 1, Windows and Microsoft Citizenship will donate one PC to students in the Chicago location of Year Up, one of our YouthSpark nonprofit partners.


    Year Up’s mission is to “close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.”

    You can learn more on the Windows Experience blog and on the Windows Chip In site.



  • Good Read: Celebrating Malala Day

    By Karen Bergin, Director of Citizenship and Public Affairs

    Did you know that one out of every four adults worldwide is functionality illiterate? This represents 793 million people. Addressing illiteracy around the world is a huge challenge because it is often the most silent. Microsoft Citizenship and Public Affairs General Manager, Lori Harnick, posted a blog today on Microsoft on the Issues about the global literacy challenge and Microsoft’s commitment to address it on several levels through YouthSpark as well as through its involvement on Literacy for Life, a voluntary collaboration between Microsoft and organizations such as UNESCO, USAID, World Vision, the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank.

    Also, today, in partnership with the United Nations, Microsoft is celebrating the UN Youth Takeover Day and Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday – Malala Day, to honor the young woman from Pakistan who was terrorized for speaking out for girls’ education.

    You can read more on the Microsoft on the Issues blog here.

    Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Malala Yousafzai, the young education rights campaigner from Pakistan. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe


  • Free YouthSpark Summer Camps for Kids – Sign Up Today

    By Elisa Willman, Senior Marketing Communications Manager, Microsoft Citizenship

    It’s summer vacation. My eight year old has already been to the zoo, the park, the beach and the mall. She has started her summer reading program, built forts, organized play-dates and watched one too many episodes of Phineas & Pherb. But, in a few short days, she has gone from enjoying carefree days and lounging in her PJs until 10 a.m. to picking fights with her brother and announcing she is bored…by 8 a.m.

    Enter YouthSpark Summer Camps. During the summer, Microsoft retail stores across the country become interactive, hands-on technology classrooms where children learn by doing. The camps, designed for kids age 8-13, offer everything from video game design to digital photography to movie making to storytelling. And I haven’t even mentioned the best part. The two-hour camps are free!

    As a busy mom who embraces the idea of lazy summer days, but also wants to be sure to include some educational opportunities in the summer fun, I couldn’t pass up the Digital Movie Madness camp at my local Microsoft store. Leala was happy to take on the world of movie making and to learn how to create a story, write a script, and shoot and edit her own film and I was excited to have her engaged in a learning activity.

    The other moms I talked to (caregivers stay in store during the camps), chose the camp for similar reasons. Eela Nair, whose two daughters participated, said that it was unique to find something like the YouthSpark Summer Camps. “Every summer, they participate in sports camps. We were looking for something with a tech and science component. There just aren’t that many opportunities out there like this.” Though the Nair family lives more than 30 minutes from the Microsoft store, Eela said the drive was worth it. “You don’t mind travelling for your kids if you know it’s going to be valuable.”

    From left to right: Arshisha, Anjinee, Leala

    The YouthSpark Summer Camps are taught by enthusiastic Microsoft employees who make learning technology fun. They provided a comprehensive handbook with valuable resources and also guided the campers through a series of activities to prepare to them as film makers. However, the real fun started when they set the students loose with cameras in the store. It was amazing to watch how comfortable they were with the technology and hearing the creative plots they were developing. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard my daughter and her group enacting a scene taking place at a Microsoft store, on Jupiter.

    “We get them thinking about what happens behind the scenes and about how things are made,” said Jared Hauser, the Microsoft employee who taught the course. “They then put their creativity to work with Movie Maker – learning how to edit and create transitions and sound-effects. They also use PowerPoint to create simple animations. It’s amazing what was created with just a few simple tools. An animated space background for a movie set on Jupiter? No problem.”

    From left to right: Christopher, Tyler, and Jared

    Leala had so much fun at the Digital Movie Madness Camp that I don’t think she even realized how much she was learning. She may not be the next Sofia Coppola (yet!), but she left camp excited about the possibilities and with a new comfort level in working with Microsoft technology. Success!

    At the same time, across town at another Microsoft store, a dozen campers were learning how to code video games at the YouthSpark Game Masters Camp. They used Kodu Game Lab, a free game-design tool that enables kids to easily build their own video games within minutes by dragging and dropping images and simple icon. Based on our awesome experience with the Movie Madness Camp, we’ll be signing up for Game Masters next!

    It’s not too late to register for a YouthSpark Summer Camp near you. There are spots available in most stores. Find out more.

  • Microsoft Congratulates Winners of the Third Annual National STEM Video Game Challenge

    By Caroline Curtin, Policy Counsel, Microsoft U.S. Government Affairs

    Yesterday was an exciting day for 16 talented young game designers from across the country as the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media announced the middle school and high school student winners of the 2013 National STEM Video Game Challenge. Microsoft is pleased to support this initiative for the third year in a row. Inspired by President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate Campaign,” the competition aims to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) among students in grades 5-12 by tapping into their enthusiasm for playing and making video games.

    Nearly 4,000 middle school and high school students submitted video games to the Challenge this year. While many students chose to create games using platforms such as Kodu, many students chose to learn to code manually and use more complicated programs, such as Unity, a professional grade game design software package.

    Last year's National STEM Challenge Winners at the Award Ceremony in Washington, DC.

    The number of entries and sophistication of the games are not the only record-breaking aspects of the 2013 Challenge – this year, the Challenge also invested a significant amount of time and effort to expand the impact in several key areas:

    • This year’s top original video games and game design concepts were selected in 14 categories and 68 percent of games had an educational component. Though this is not a requirement and it is not a factor in the judging process, we are pleased to see that so many students have chosen to integrate educational material into their game designs.
    • One-third of the games were submitted by girls, demonstrating success of the Challenge’s efforts to increase the participation of girls in the competition.
    • Over 56 percent of competitors designed their game with a teacher as his or her mentor. One entrant noted how his teacher related the design process to his STEM subject material.

    Microsoft congratulates all the STEM Video Game Challenge participants on their innovative and exciting game designs. We are proud to help empower young people to imagine and realize their full potential as part of our YouthSpark initiative, including supporting efforts like these to encourage interest in STEM education across the country.

    The complete list of 2013 STEM Challenge winners can be found here.


  • Microsoft Brings Smart Buildings to Seattle

    By Dan Sytman, Senior Public Relations Manager, Citizenship & Public Affairs

    Microsoft Senior Director Bill Mitchel has a great post today about using Microsoft technology to reduce buildings’ carbon footprints while making those buildings cost less to operate. Bill, who works in Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector Division, helped organized an announcement by Microsoft Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard, Seattle Mayor Mike McGuinn, representatives from the University of Washington, the US Commerce Department and others, about the “High Performance Buildings Pilot Project.” Mayor McGinn’s office describes the project as a “partnership between the City of Seattle, Microsoft and the Seattle 2030 District, aimed at reducing power consumption through real-time data analysis of Seattle buildings.”

      Today at the UW School of Medicine: (From left) Brian Geller, Executive Director, Seattle 2030 District, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, Microsoft Chief Sustainability Officer Rob Bernard

    Today at the UW School of Medicine: (From left) Brian Geller, Executive Director, Seattle 2030 District, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Microsoft Chief Sustainability Officer Rob Bernard

    This pilot was inspired by one that we implemented on Microsoft’s Redmond campus. As Bill writes, “It used Big Data to achieve energy savings of 10 percent, which we anticipate will be surpassed by the Seattle pilot with energy and maintenance savings between 10 and 25 percent.” We’re looking forward to seeing the program work on an even wider scale – across over two million square feet of commercial real estate in downtown Seattle.

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