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Success as Surface Pros Take Over the Classroom

Back in September we featured a piece here on the blog that highlighted the use of the Surface Pro tablet in schools. All 700 students and faculty at Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, MA were all going to receive a Surface Pro as part of the school’s 1:1 computing initiative. Microsoft caught up with the school (and with St. Patrick’s College in London – another school who implemented the use of the Surface Pro) to see just how the transition is going. Check out a recap here and watch the videos below. With these success stories, it looks like this trend will continue on in many more schools.

Pat’s Old-school Art with Microsoft Paint

Let’s throw it back to 1995 when Microsoft 95 was the newest technology in the market, and new computer users were fascinated with Microsoft Paint. Though far less complicated than today’s high-tech art programs, Paint provided many with hours of entertainment.

Artist, Pat Hines

Artist, Pat Hines

Pat Hines, a Boston-based artist, has stayed true to Microsoft’s roots, creating custom works of art with only Microsoft Paint. Until recently, his artwork has consisted of cityscapes and portraits, but he’s currently working on pieces that have more of a narrative. Stay tuned and you’ll see his most recent project, a horror-themed comic book.

Boston Cityscape - One of Hines' first pieces

Boston Cityscape – One of Hines’ first pieces

So how does one get started in something like this? For Pat, a bit of boredom while working as an overnight security guard coupled with a lack of interest in Solitaire and Free Cell led to his fascination. He began using Paint about 10 years ago during his off-time as a security guard. After much experimentation, he developed his own style and technique and learned the ins and outs of the program. He also learned that a single pixel can make a notable difference in his artwork. Averaging about 3 hours a day per piece, it takes him around 3 weeks to create a realistic piece and about a week to create a more cartoony-looking piece.

Hines' Paint rendition of Bill Gates

Hines’ Paint rendition of Bill Gates

Though the art world has become quite advanced, it’s the simplicity of Paint that continues to draw him to it. “Paint’s simplicity and limitations are what I enjoy the most about it. I like the idea that you don’t need an expensive program or materials to create something that’s nice to look at,” explained Pat. In fact, Pat has tried his hand at other programs like Photoshop and Illustrator; he’s even used Fresh Paint on the Surface tablet and bought a stylus. However, he always gravitates back to the old-school mouse and Paint.

The cover for Hines' upcoming comic book

The cover for Hines’ upcoming comic book

So what does this 31-year-old local artist hope to do with his unique talent? While he’d love to turn his hobby into a paying side job, he dreams of teaching art in an elementary setting. He also continues to put his Emerson College film degree to use by writing screenplays and creating storyboards for commercials and short films in his spare time. If you would like to learn more or receive a quote for a custom painting, contact Pat at pat@patspaintings.com. You can also show your support by liking Pat’s new Facebook page and viewing more of his art on his website.

Another one of Hines' Paint masterpieces

Another one of Hines’ Paint masterpieces

A Closer Look at Root Cause’s Social Innovation Forum

Guest post written by Susan Musinsky

Back in December, Root Cause celebrated 10 years of innovation at their Winter Reception. They also announced the 2014 Social Innovators and Impact Entrepreneurs, both part of the Social Innovation Forum (SIF). Below Susan Musinsky, Executive Director of the SIF, shares a bit more about the program and what they have accomplished. Thanks to Susan and Root Cause for the exemplary work they continue to do to improve our community!

Root Cause logoThe Social Innovation Forum was founded in 2003 as a program of Root Cause to accelerate progress on critical social issues facing Greater Boston. The December event brought together our diverse community of non-profit leaders and funders, and celebrated the unique venture philanthropy model we have built together.

Over the past 10 years we have welcomed 59 non-profit organizations into our portfolio, and more recently, 11 Impact Entrepreneurs whose businesses have a core social purpose. We have truly woven together a unique fabric and created opportunities for promising non-profit organizations, as well as local funders and supporters to find and assist these groups with their next-stage growth.

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Take Jon Feinman, Founder and Executive Director of Inner City Weightlifting. Two years ago, Jon and ICW were welcomed into the Social Innovation Forum community. Jon received consulting and coaching, meetings with our in-kind providers, and connections throughout our community, including Aimee Sprung, Microsoft New England Research and Development Center’s Civic Engagement Manager. Aimee invited Jon and the young men in his program to come into Microsoft and conduct personal training sessions with employees. Aimee was intrigued by the potential dual benefits of the program.  Now nearly a year into the training, Aimee states “I’m so impressed by the students in Inner City Weightlifting and what our staff is able to both give and gain from them.  It’s all about the students building relationships and getting exposure to the outside world.  It’s been rewarding to be a part of that process.”

The Social Innovation Forum has collected data and published a report card on our work—each $1 invested in the Social Innovation Forum corresponds to $3 increase in budget in our social innovators within 24 months. What that really means is capacity building for organizations, the creation of a unique community with lots of caring people, and a mechanism to drive social change forward.  Our process really can have an impact. We are looking forward to our next 10 years, and to deepening our partnership with Microsoft as we move along this exciting road.

Dreams for the New Year

New Years is all about resolutions, dreams, and new opportunities. At the Community Art Center (CAC) in Cambridge 128 youth ages 5-19 spent 2013 participating in the School Age Child Care or Teen Media Programs. On all but 14 days last year the CAC extended their network of social and emotional support programs to these kids, offering academic help, mental health counseling, transportation services, and up to three meals a day. And I can’t forget to mention their outstanding Do It Your Damn Self! (DIYDS!) Film Festival that Microsoft New England hosted and featured here on the blog.

But that was last year. The CAC has even bigger dreams for 2014. And to broadcast these the world, the children of CAC crafted a poem entitled “The Perfect World.” In this poem Isis, Jahmayah, Seira, Sergio, MarcKenzy, Gio, Nekoh, Elijah, Erin, Shannon, Jeovany and Catherine shared what their dream world would look like. Listen to the poem as read by Ashley in the video below. They dream for peace, equality, better education, no crime, delicious food, and so much more.

The dedicated staff at the CAC will continue to help these children achieve their dreams and beyond this year. They will continue, as their mission says, “to cultivate an engaged community of youth whose powerful artistic voices transform their lives, their neighborhoods, and their worlds.” Be on the lookout for the public art that 14 CAC youth have been commissioned to create in and around Kendall Square. To learn more about the CAC check out their website and consider donating here.

Teach an Apprenticeship and Change a Student’s Future with Citizen Schools

This week our spotlight is on Citizen Schools, one of our favorite nonprofits that started locally (right in Charlestown) before expanding their programs nationally. Their mission is simple: expand the learning day at middle schools in low-income communities by connecting a team of adults with students. They mobilize a second shift of afternoon educators to provide academic support, leadership development, and “apprenticeships” – hands-on projects taught by volunteers from local businesses and organizations. Volunteers help children connect what they learn in school to the real world and get excited about opportunities for their futures.

And Citizen Schools has a proven track record. Evaluations show better attendance, better grades, new skills, and transformed aspirations of students who participate in their programs. Evaluations also reveal that high school graduation rates increase by 20% and odds of earning a college degree triple. We should also mention that interest in pursuing STEM careers also more than doubles in schools utilizing Citizen Schools programs. That’s what we like to hear!

Citizen Schools is closing the opportunity gap – ensuring that low-income students benefit from the same enrichment opportunities as children in upper-income families. However, their work requires the mobilization of an army of volunteer teachers – everyday professionals just like you! Volunteers receive up-front training, weekly lesson-plan assistance, and are paired with a trained Citizen Schools educator for on-going in-class support. Citizen Schools is currently recruiting in Massachusetts for their spring apprenticeships. Serving over 1,400 students in 6 middle schools in Boston and Chelsea, they need your help! Want to help change a child’s life in just 10 afternoons? Click here to learn more about these apprenticeships and help spread the word!

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The Foundry: Driving Innovation, Design & Opportunity

 

The Foundry invites college development and design students to Microsoft New England for an internship based on four key principles.

  • Learn: Work with the latest tools and tactics needed to design and develop apps for Windows and Windows Phone.
  • Collaborate: Team up with other engineers and designers to bring an app to life.
  • Build: Sync student ideas and concepts with state-of-the-art development techniques to create an app from the ground up.
  • Launch: Ship an app to the Store by the end of your internship.

 

In its second year, the Foundry at Microsoft New England hosted 40 college students on its campus this past summer. The students worked in teams of five to build a range of apps for Microsoft’s newest platforms. Each team worked closely with their coaches, two Microsoft engineers paired with each team to help solve programs and connect with others at Microsoft.  Using agile and other current development practices, interns get tons of experience designing the user experience, writing code, costing features, presenting their work, and (occasionally) debugging problems.  By the end of the internship, interns have experienced a complete ship cycle from start to ship.   These Foundry 2013 apps are now available for download to your Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone devices.

 

WeeCoder

Meet Codey! WeeCoder’s main character

In light of the Computer Science Education week, we want to introduce WeeCoder, built at Foundry 2013. Computer science provides a foundation for so many career paths and WeeCoder is a fun way to introduce basic coding concepts to children. WeeCoder is an engaging educational game built to introduce children, ages 3-11, to sequential thought, looping, and conditions in a comfortable environment. Explore the planets of the Solar System with Codey as he travels from planet to planet.  Program his movements through 80+ unique levels to unlock mini puzzle games, a photo op with Codey, and more. WeeCoder is available to download to your Windows 8.1 device now.

 

Learn to code with WeeCoder!

Learn to code with WeeCoder!

Loved visiting the planets with Codey? Share your picture with Codey on your favorite social networks!

 

 Start coding with Codey today!

 

 

Welcome to the New Microsoft New England

The new and improved Microsoft New England website has arrived! From its animated backgrounds and vibrant colors to its fresh look and integrated content, the new website represents all that is Microsoft New England.

The website now provides one home for both Research and Development and Sales and Marketing while also providing easy access to the Microsoft products, marketplace, and support site. As Microsoft has solidified its presence in New England, it was only fitting to create a unified site indicative of the energetic, innovative, and unique people behind the brand.

It has never been easier to learn about the different teams and the inspiring individuals who comprise them. The new site goes beyond boring descriptions and gives visitors a glimpse into life at Microsoft. On the “teams and people” page you can even follow Matt, Program Manager and gym nut on the Docs team, through a day in his life from biking to work in the morning to building the newest features for Word and other programs during the day.

But fear not! The revamped look does not mean drastic or confusing changes that will complicate your visit to the website. It’s even more user-friendly than ever before. There is a page or section for everything, including events, careers, internships, the Foundry, Women’s Leadership Forum, and community involvement among others.  Looking for information? You will find it! But don’t take my word for it. Go explore the new website for yourself!

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Xbox One: It’s Here!

The wait is over…almost! The Xbox One launches this Thursday, November 22, and we’re celebrating with a midnight launch party at the Microsoft Store on November 21.

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Come celebrate the Xbox One launch!

Come by the Microsoft Store at the Shops at Prudential starting at 10pm (but you better get there early – you know this is big!) to see the newest system showcased. Our Xbox One pros will be demoing the latest games like Ryse, Forza, Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, and Killer Instinct. Even better are the giveaways that you know will be taking place. The first 50 people in line will receive an exclusive prize, so make sure you’re not late!

There will also be entertainment and plenty of gamers to share in the excitement. Worried you’re not going to be in the Boston area for this epic celebration? No need to worry – midnight launch parties are taking place at Microsoft stores across the country. Find the store closest to you and bring all of your friends. We’ll see you at the front of the line!

The Future of Music

Just how many new technologies can come out of 24 hours of music hacking? At Music Hack Day Boston, the largest music hackathon in the world, sixty game-changing music hacks were conceived and actualized. That’s 60 new innovations that may be the next big thing to change the face of music!

Music Hack Day 1

Hacker at work! Photo Credit: Michelle Ackerman

Music Hack Day 2

Demo time! Photo credit: Michelle Ackerman

Hosted by the Echo Nest at the NERD Center this past weekend, Music Hack Day Boston attracted over 200 hackers, some who brought their own hack ideas and others who provided the skills that would bring those ideas to life. Most hackers joined creative forces, as the event was focused on collaboration and innovation rather than competition and prizes. But don’t worry – while prizes weren’t the end goal of the hackathon, there were plenty given out to deserving teams!

Music Hack Day 3

Hackers Hacking! Photo Credit: Michelle Ackerman

Hackers arrived on Saturday morning eager to share ideas and get to work. Following opening remarks by Paul Lamere, Director of Developer Platform at Echo Nest, sponsoring organizations gave short presentations on the their technologies and what was available for the hackers to use in their projects. Next came Project Pitches where brave hackers shared ideas and then Tech Deep Dives where sponsors gave in depth details of their technology’s capabilities. Many attendees chose to ditch the Tech Deep Dives in favor of getting a head start on the actual hacking! And hack they did, many working through the night and right up until the 2.5 hour demo session the next day.

The demo session is where everything came together. The creativity, passion, and talent combined to produce some awesome new music hacks. Check out this year’s hacks as well as more pictures here and here. Let us know what your favorite hack was!

$1.4 Million Up for Grabs at MassChallenge 2013 Awards Ceremony

128 showcasing startups. 26 live pitches. 1000+ attendees. 1 hilarious emcee. 1 winner of a $1.4 million prize.

This is what the 2013 MassChallenge Awards Ceremony on October 30 has in store for us! MassChallenge expert judges, faced with over 1,200 entrants from around the world, selected 26 finalists (full list here) who will have one last chance to pitch their high-impact startup at the awards ceremony and win over $1.4 million to invest in their business.

Actor, writer, and correspondent for the Daily Show, Aasif Mandvi, will be the master of ceremonies to a crowd of investors, entrepreneurs, executives, philanthropists, press, and startup enthusiasts. He will be joined by keynote speaker George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic. The duo will be there to congratulate not only the $1.4 winner but also three additional winners of the CASIS Prize for Technology in Space ($400,000), the John W. Henry Prize for Social Impact ($25-50,000), and the Perkins Assistive Technology Prize ($25,000).

The ceremony, to be held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from 6-9 pm on Wednesday, October 30, promises to be an evening of inspiration and celebration, and there is still time to purchase tickets! Who’s going to take the prize? Stay tuned to find out!