January 2013

Breaking the Violence Cycle: InnerCity Weightlifting


Just a few of the super strong personal trainers that visit us every Tuesday and Thursday at NERD.


For the past 2 months I’ve had the pleasure of exercising with not one, not two, not even 3, but several personal trainers that come to me and on my schedule. Not only is this convenient, but it’s also inexpensive and for a good cause. Hard to believe but this is real life. It’s InnerCity Weightlifting, called ICW for short, and it’s the answer to the 2 most common New Year’s resolutions: get in shape and give back.

In 2009, Jon Feinman funneled his passion for weightlifting into InnerCity Weightlifting, a nonprofit promoting professional, personal and academic achievement among urban youth. The idea is to show at-risk kids they can be strong, smart and popular outside of gangs.

Jon and his almost identical-but-not-twin-brother Josh visit us at NERD twice a week with a team of ICW trainers. It’s fun, interactive and it got me interested in learning more about how this got started. I chatted with fellow Babson MBA Alum Jon about his road to ICW.

Q: Where did the idea for InnerCity Weightlifting come from?
Jon: In 2005 I spent a year with Americorps encouraging youth to participate in after school sports and other organized activities. I gravitated towards a group of young people in a gang. Getting to know them changed my perception of violent youth as I realized a few things. These kids had already been kicked out of other afterschool programs and/or weren’t interested in the choices available. Also, the bad decisions they made were based on the logic of the circumstances they faced.

There wasn’t a single kid that wanted to drop out of high school, go to jail, end up dead or loose a friend. I began thinking, if we could create an afterschool alternative they were interested in, they would take to it instead of the streets.

Q: Why weightlifting?
Jon: Our understanding and support from other studies shows that it’s the positive community and support that is so important to empowering young people to say no to violence/abuse. Weightlifting is a hook. It’s a common interest to build relationships and bring students into the positive community found inside ICW.

Weightlifting can also lead into a thriving career. We help our most committed students become certified personal trainers through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

Most importantly, the gym provides a place where people from all walks of life come together around a common interest—this is where the largest impact happens. Our students see that they can relate with anyone, gain valuable interpersonal skills, and gain hope for a future away from violence and out of poverty. Clients training with our students hear first-hand the struggles they’ve faced; jail time, violence, and death. They recognize our students for the good people they are, not the past decisions that others often use to stereotype and define them.

Q: What youth do you target?
Jon: In Boston, 1% of the city’s youth drive more than 70% of gun violence and 50% of homicides. Within that 1% there are approximately 300 young people who are the strongest influencers of their peers. These are our targets. We realize that progress takes time. We act as a catalyst for positive social change and stick with our students through good times and bad as they workout with us.

Q: What happens when they come to your gym?
Jon: They come and work out with us, it’s that simple. Some students come because a friend comes, others come because a social worker or lawyer referred them. Each student has different needs and various levels of risk. We developed a 3 stage program that helps everyone get on the right path.

Stage 1: Building a Relationship.
We need to earn their trust before we can help. We welcome them into the gym and make sure they know we enjoy their company and we want them here. We’re friendly but not aggressive because we want them to come back by choice. We reach out to them and observe their response rate. How often do they return our calls or texts, how often do they proactively reach out to us for help, and how engaged are they with the surrounding community when they’re at the gym? When we’re satisfied with this communication ratio, the student officially moves to stage 2, though this begins to happen simultaneously.

Stage 2: Building a Network.
As we get to know the students, we identify issues and refer them to organizations that help with emotional trauma, academic support and career planning. For those interested in becoming personal trainers, we introduce them to potential clients. For those interested in other careers, we reach out to our contacts and make connections in those fields when we can.

We introduced one of our students interested in culinary arts to one of our clients, the chef at Area 4. The client invited the student to shadow him and see what a career in the kitchen was like. It’s no surprise that the student had a great time. Now he has long term goals and is committed to a better future.

Stage 3: Path to Interdependence.
The students that reach this stage have shown commitment to a life free from violence. These students have a stable home, safe transportation and are distancing themselves from crime. In this stage our goals are to keep them in that positive mindset and motivated to take ownership over their own network they’ve developed in stage 2.


WOW. Thanks Jon! What an inspiring organization. I encourage all of you to visit their website, see more awesome pictures on Facebook, and talk to your employer about having ICW visit your office like they do with us. Which, by the way, you’re all invited to join us any Tuesday or Thursday at NERD. Email Kayt Racz at a-karacz@microsoft.com if you’re interested and we’ll see you soon.


**Thank you Kayt Racz for helping with this interview and more importantly, being a dedicated ICW customer.


You don’t need much equipment to get a quality workout. ICW delivers the good pain every time.



One-on-one attention.

Sometimes a conference room, sometimes a workout room.


Bring the Whole Family: (FREE) Education Summit This Saturday in Boston

Parents want children to embrace education, teachers want students to enjoy education and students want to be captivated by education. How can everyone be satisfied? Is this achievable?

Yes. With technology, of course.

You’re invited to join teachers, students, parents, educators, professionals (and more people) at EduTech Summit this Saturday at UMass Boston. We’ll have gadgets, games, online discoveries and everything educationally-technologically-related. There will be hands-on learning, engaging breakout sessions, and a key note from the charming and talented American Boxer, Mister Victor Ortiz himself.

Session topics include:
The Secret Lives of Teens Online
It’s Easy in the Cloud
Searching For Results
Modern Classroom
Bringing Lessons to Life with Kinect
Shape the Future
College/Career Preparation and Transition

Registration opens at 7:30 and the event runs until 2pm. If you drive to campus, park in the South Lot.  If you take the MBTA Red Line to JFK/UMass, look for our free shuttle to campus.

Healthy snacks will be provided, and special event prizes will be award to social media friends.  Engage with the conference via @Microsoft_EDU and #EduTech.

This FREE event is guaranteed to inspire all attendees. Get more details and sign up here. See you Saturday.


Keynote speaker: Victor Ortiz.


Courtesy of Bing imagine search.

The Surprising Digital Influence on Face-to-Face Interactions: Call-in Live Today on WBUR 90.9fm at 3pm

Technology, social media and the digital age all seem so familiar, yet unpredictable.  How is technology changing the way you interact with your life, your job, your family? Microsoft Researcher Nancy Baym has been studying this topic for years and has some unexpected conclusions.


This morning, Nancy spoke with WBUR’s Iris Adler for a series on “living in this digital saturated age.” Nancy, along with Sherry Turkle, William Powers and Baratunde Thurston, will share insights, evidence, experiences and humor around always being connected during this 4 piece series.


You might not be surprised to hear that technology brings new challenges and struggles in our ability to communicate- but can you believe that research shows the more people communicate with devices, the more they are communicating face-to-face?


“There’s a strong tendency to think of media as substituting for face-to-face interaction, but that’s just not what the evidence shows. In fact, the number of media through which people communicated was the best predictor of how developed and close a relationship was – every medium people added to a relationship was related to greater closeness. If you think about it, it makes sense – when you like someone, you want to communicate with them in each way you can and when you get a new medium, you want to take the people you like most there with you, “ Says Nancy.




The four diverse point-of-views make for an attention-grabbing series on NPR. What’s more appealing is when 2 of these digital experts will discuss their opinions and take callers live on the air today.


Turn your fm dial to NPR 90.9fm or listen online Today, January 17, 2013 from 3-4pm (today) when Dina Rosendorff will facilitate an unforgettable discussion between Nancy, William and possibly you.  Have your questions ready and call (800) 423-TALK.


Did I mention this was happening today?

The Windows Startup Challenge is Calling Your Name


Calling all app developers, mobile start-ups and tech geeks! There’s a contest you need to enter because you might win. And if you win, you’re going to be so happy. I mean sooooo happy.


The Windows Startup Challenge, brought to you by Windows, Startup Weekend and DEMO Mobile, invites you to develop an app to run on Windows 8 tablets, laptops and PCs. Your app is not required to run on Windows Phone, but we will be thrilled if it does.  It’s okay if your app already exist in the iOS Apple Store, Google Play or other platforms. As long as it does not exist in the Windows Store (yet), then it’s an eligible candidate.


You can enter alone or as a team. All entries must be submitted by January 29th, 11:59pm GMT.  Your entry can be as simple as an idea and you can submit said idea with a video, slideshare presentation, screen shots or anything else that meets the judging criteria.


Once you’ve submitted your idea, share it with the world.  You have until February 5th to get the public’s opinion. If the public votes for your idea, you’re likely to be one of the 20 teams moving to the next round.  Those 20 teams will receive FREE support from real-life Windows engineers and designers to help take your idea to the next level.  After that, 5 teams will get a marketing package to launch their apps: everything from banners to content to PR support. Finally, one lucky team will send 2 members to the DEMO Mobile Conference in San Francisco on April 17th, 2013. This includes roundtrip airfare, 3 nights’ accommodations and the chance to present your idea at the conference to thousands of media outlets, investors, bloggers and industry influencers.


Whoa, this sounds awesome. I know you’ve got what it takes, so what are you waiting for? Get in this contest, now. Good luck!


We’re Having Monthly Themes in 2013: January is Innovation

Revolution, origination, modernization and advance are just a few of the words Bing Thesaurus provides for innovation. Bing defines it as “the act or process of inventing or introducing something new.”  While that is certainly an accurate definition, we feel there is more to it. What does innovation mean to you? How are you innovating at home, at school or at work?  What images come to mind when you hear “innovation”? Tell us here.


We spend a lot of time thinking about innovation at NERD and this month we want to think about it with you.  Starting in 2013, our social media will focus around a new theme every month.  Yup, you guessed it, this month is innovation.


In January we’ll profile innovative companies and people. We’ll collect your ideas about what innovation means and share that too.  We are on a quest to find everything on the internet about innovation!  We’ll share what we find and we’ll share what you find.  Wait, isn’t the internet innovation? Okay, so we’re on a quest to find the whole internet, no big deal.

Anyway, help up define innovation, share your stories and ideas and get in touch about anything innovative.

TJ Hazen Joins Microsoft to Lead Effort in Speech and Language Processing

TJ Hazen

At the core of Microsoft’s original vision (“a computer on every desk”) there lies a commitment to making devices and software more accessible and easier to use for everyone, and our belief in the value of this work strengthens as computing devices become increasingly part of the fabric of everyone’s life.  Today, I am pleased to announce a new effort we’ve formed at NERD for the purpose of continuing to advance the state of the art in making all kinds of software easier, more natural and more intuitive to use, with a particular emphasis on speech and language processing capabilities. NERD is an ideal place for such an investment.   The greater Boston area is a world-class center for both research and innovation in a wide variety of fields, and NERD’s location near many of the world’s leading universities, as well as Boston’s thriving local tech community, made our choice clear.  We feel privileged to be here and grateful for the chance to work with some of the best and brightest in so many fields.

In particular, our selection of Cambridge for this new work has already paid dividends, as I am also happy to report today that TJ Hazen, formerly a member of the technical staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, will lead the work of the NERD science team in this area.  Since graduating from MIT 15 years ago, TJ has been a leading thinker in the speech and language processing community, with over 60 publications appearing in books, peer-reviewed journals and international conference proceedings.  Through his most recent experience at Lincoln Labs, as well almost a decade’s work at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, he also brings extensive and valuable experience in applying cutting-edge scientific research to applications that make a difference in the world outside the lab.  I’m thrilled to have TJ leading this effort for us, and we’ll be working together in the months ahead to build a world-class multi-disciplinary team at NERD.

We are hiring developers and scientists to join our team, and you can apply for these jobs today! Check out these career opportunities on the Microsoft website, or learn more about working at NERD here!

Top 12 Events at NERD in 2012


Local college students explore the new Microsoft Surface at the Windows 8 Launch Party on October 26th.

A super big thanks to all the entrepreneurs, MeetUps, nonprofits and tech enthusiasts that hosted and attended the 500+ events at NERD last year. We couldn’t have done it without you or our amazing event staff.  From weekend conferences, to networking events to award celebrations, our Dream Team of Kayt, Robert, Livvy, Lance, Amziah, Eddie and Chris made it happen.


One of the highlights of working at NERD is the community and the best thing about that community is YOU! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for making 2012 so memorable.  We’re excited for 2013 and beyond.


Without further ado, here are the top 12 events of 2012, as defined by YOU.


1. Northeast PHP Conference: August 11-12, 2012
This 2-day conference was the first of its kind. Organized entirely by volunteers, the weekend was a wild success and easily sold out the 300 tickets. The only disappointment was the attendees now have to wait a year for the next conference!


2. MassDiGi Game Challenge: April 13-15, 2012
28 teams of local professionals, students and devoted gamers participated in a new game creation competition. The winning team from Becker College were invited to participate in MassDiGI’s summer innovation program, which helps developers bring their games to market.


3. Pax East Party: April 5, 2012
The 3rd annual party to celebrate Massachusetts Gaming Industry brought together 1200+ gamers, entrepreneurs, investors, government and media professionals.  Some people might be unaware that Massachusetts has a huge gaming industry, but with an event this popular, there is no doubt about it.


4. Digital Dumbo Boston: December 13, 2012
What started as a monthly get-together for creative and entrepreneurial folks in Brooklyn has expanded to Boston and beyond.  The party featured 7 minutes of DUMBO, a social game that matches people based on shared interests.  Attendees also got to DJ the event via
Turntable.fm. With hundreds of digital and creative people geeking out, what’s not to love?


5. Windows 8 Launch Party: October 26, 2012
I’m going to assume you’ve heard of Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 8. At NERD we were very excited for the launch that
we invited local college and graduate students to celebrate with us. We had 888 locals here, including our Foundry Interns who shared the Windows 8 apps they developed at NERD last summer. By the way, these cool apps are available for free in the app store. Check out Trackage, Reddit, Inkarus, Never Late, Catch it, and Face Reel.


6. The Successful You Women’s Leadership Forum: October 4, 2012
Along with MITX and The Commonwealth Institute, NERD hosted
this 3rd annual day of leadership development.  Although geared towards women, all genders were welcome and present. Big keynotes from Boston Children’s Hospital and Microsoft’s very own Chief People officer were just some of the highlights. The day had panels, workshops and networking that attracted professionals across all industries.  We look forward to the 4th annual event next fall.


7. Boston New Technology MeetUp: Monthly
This monthly event showcases new technologies being developed in Boston with a 5 minute pitch. Entrepreneurs come to share ideas, seek funding and make connections.  There is always guaranteed to be a big turnout, quality conversation and a lot of exciting ideas.


8. AngelHack Hackathon: November 17-18, 2013
This weekend long hackathon was not your typical hackathon.  Boston was just one of 11 cities hosting the event that brought 2,500 developers and designers together to compete for $650,000 in prizes. No business plan required, just an idea with potential to solve a problem. The only rule was all code must be developed during the weekend.  Winners were sent to Silicon Valley to expand on their ideas.


9. Gold Pieces for Child’s Play IV: December 1, 2012
The 4
th annual event raised over $2,000 for Child’s Play an organization that improves the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the power of play.  The party goers enjoyed great food, cool prizes, a dungeon crawl, tarot card reading and 8-Bit readings, all while contributing to a worthy cause.


10. Greenhorn Summit: October 6-7, 2012
The weekend long conference invited entrepreneurial students from across the county to network with each other and learn from established entrepreneurs and experienced investors in our local start up community.
The first of its kind, this conference was a sold out success.  The summit inspired companies to expand outreach activities on college campuses to keep the enthusiastic momentum of the high-tech Boston startup scene going.


11. Kinect Boston: Monthly MeetUp
This group brings Kinect users and developers together to share experiences, cool demos and tips for developing with Microsoft’s Kinect senor and related products.  Innovative technology fosters newer and cooler ideas. We are thankful to have a Kinect user group here.


12. Mass Innovation Nights: February 8, 2012
This monthly event is hosted around the state and we were honored to have it at NERD in February. The event connects product developers with product managers, marketers with new technology, job seekers with employers, social media enthusiasts with buzz content and more.

Well, there we have it: The top 12 events in 2012 at NERD as voted by you, our much appreciated community. It was a close call and we wish we could include all 500+ of the events on this list. The monthly Boston PHP Group, Xconomy Forum on Mobile Madness and Monthly Founder Dialogues were just a few votes short of making the top 12.

Thank you everyone for voting. More importantly, thank you everyone for attending and hosting events at NERD. We look forward to seeing you 2013.


The first ever North East PHP Conference, and your choice for best event at NERD in 2012.





The winning team from Becker College at MassDigi Game Challenge April 13-15.



Greeting attendees at Digital Dumbo on December 13th.

Enjoying the NERD ambiance at Digital Dumbo on December 13.



Students arrive at the Windows 8 Launch Party on October 26th.





An entrepreneur presents to the group during a monthly Boston New Tech MeetUp.

Attendees take a stretch break with HeathWorks during the Women’s Leadership Forum on October 4th.

Girls learn about STEM career opportunities at the Women’s Leadership Forum on October 4th.