At Microsoft, we stand in awe of what humans dare to achieve and are motivated every day to empower others to do more and achieve more through technology and innovation.
To forward that mission, we were thrilled to take part in the 31st annual Tech Challenge at The Tech Museum in San Jose on April 29. This signature program of The Tech invites teams of students in grades 4-12 to use the engineering design process to solve a real-world problem.
This year’s challenge? Design and build a device that can survive a drop and deliver supplies — no batteries allowed. Students were tasked with building a device to survive a 10 foot drop and once landed, the device must deliver one U.S. penny onto a target located on a ramp.
Pat O’Connor, Microsoft General Manager of Silicon and Sensor Development, was honored to serve as a judge during the two-day showcase.
“We know these students — roughly 2,000 of them — are makers and doers, something that resonates deeply with the employee culture here at Microsoft,” he said.
The Tech Challenge participants spend months collaborating and become deeply engaged while using the engineering design process to solve a real-world problem. These students join a rich legacy of young innovators who step up to tackle a real-world challenge in true Silicon Valley style — with hard work, ingenuity, and a lot of fun.
Because we were especially inspired by these students, it was our pleasure to invite four of the winning teams to Microsoft for an afternoon with our Devices team on Friday, May 18. Students from Cupertino High School, San Mateo High School, The Branson School, and more spent the afternoon at the Microsoft Garage, tinkering with innovative Microsoft devices like the HoloLens and Kinect v2.
“I was so honored to take part in the Tech Challenge this year because of what the challenge means to the community. Microsoft, as always, was grateful to play a role,” Pat said. “Even more, it was our pleasure to invite these winning students to Microsoft directly, sharing our resources and technology with the future faces of tech.”
One such student is Jeremy Boetticher, Cupertino High School junior and two-time Tech Challenge winner. He and his team, Team Œufs, built a rubber band car in a box to deliver a penny to a target at the Tech Challenge.
“We just wanted to solve a problem. We wanted to challenge ourselves,” he said.
Jeremy plans to pursue a STEM career and is president of Tino 3D, Cupertino’s Computer Graphics Club. For those reasons, he said he most enjoyed our Kinect v2 body scanning demonstration with Swati Mehta, one of the original sensor designers of Kinect. Students took home thumbnails of their own 3D scans and will be sent their 3D models, printed by MakerBot 3D printers.
Another student we had the pleasure of meeting was Abby Stover, a sophomore at The Branson School. She and her Tech Challenge team, the Branson Bulls, built an innovative solution they titled “The Magic Carpet,” which used springs to propel a penny to the target.
“Before my visit to Microsoft, I never knew about all of the other amazing technology they have to offer. By far, the HoloLens was the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Abby said of the HoloLens demo in our Reality Room, where students had the chance to demo educational HoloLens programs like Land of Dinosaurs and interactive games like RoboRaid. HoloLens is the first fully self-contained holographic computer and is the “high water mark” for what we believe is possible with mixed reality.
“Being able to use augmented reality to manipulate my surroundings felt so futuristic and surreal,” Abby added.
Students also took part in drone flying with Distinguished Engineer Nick Baker and glass etching with Garage guru Kenny Spade.
Abby noted she was inspired by both the spirit of the Tech Challenge and the number of women she met here on campus, from project managers to engineers.
“Seeing so many women [at Microsoft] really gave me hope that girls can actually thrive in the tech community,” she said. “The conversations I had with both the women and men at Microsoft really made me want to excel further in the STEM area.”
Special thanks to the team at The Tech Museum and the following employees for making this possible: Kenny Spade, Pat O’Connor, Susan Catan, Shaun McCarthy, Swati Mehta, Avdhesh Chhodavdia, Atul Ohri, Mustansir Mukadam, Allan Boll, Nick Baker, and Evelyn Moreno.