January 2014

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.

Get Involved: Prepare Our Kids for Success through STEM Education

Guest post written by Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager at Microsoft New England

The nature of work and the workforce is changing. New jobs require new skills. Throughout the U.S., across a wide range of industries, there is a talent crisis for workers trained in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. By 2018, there will be 1.5 million computer science-related jobs available in the U.S. yet roughly only one third of U.S. graduates will be qualified for these positions.


In my role at Microsoft, I have the opportunity to meet many amazing teachers and students and learn about some of the truly AWESOME programs that are already taking place in Massachusetts to address the talent gap.  And there are terrific ways to get support these programs with your time.  Check out some of these great programs happening in the next month:


technovationTechnovation: Twelve week mentoring program leading high school and middle school female students working in teams to develop mobile apps, conduct market research, write business plans, and create a “pitch” for funding. The goal of the program is to inspire girls to see themselves not just as users of technology, but as inventors, designers, builders and entrepreneurs.



Photo credit: http://bostonpic.com

Photo credit: http://bostonpic.com

Boston Public Schools Job Shadow Day: Sign up to participate in Job Shadow Day and demonstrate a commitment to supporting and improving the community by introducing and mentoring to new career opportunities.



WECode Tech Interview and Resume Bootcamp. WECode is looking for experienced engineers to deliver sample interviews to talented and motivated students.  The bootcamp will take place Saturday, February 8 from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Interviewers will be provided with a list of sample technical questions and a checklist for resume review, so the preparation for this bootcamp will be minimal.



I am excited to be signed up to mentor a Technovation team and proud that Microsoft employees are participating in the Job Shadow Day and WECode Interview Bootcamp.  These programs are critical to preparing our children for STEM jobs of the future.  I hope you’ll join me in volunteering or share other opportunities with me via this blog or twitter @asprung.


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.

InnerCity Weightlifting Logo

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.

Bridging Tradition, Technology and City Boundaries: A Call to Boston and Cambridge’s New Leaders

Marty Walsh - Mayor, Boston Massachusetts

Marty Walsh – Mayor, Boston, Massachusetts

The City of Boston awakes this January morning with change in its chilly winds as Martin J. Walsh prepares to be sworn in as Boston’s new Mayor.

He will be Boston’s first new Mayor of the 21st Century in a city known for firsts.

  • In 1634, Boston Common became the first public park in America;
  • In 1635, Boston Latin School became the first public secondary school in America;
  • In 1716, the first American lighthouse was built in Boston Harbor;
  • In 1835, the first public school for African-American children, the Abiel Smith School, opened;
  • In 1837, Samuel Morse invented the first electric telegraph based on Morse Code;
  • In 1848, the Boston Public Library opened as the first publicly supported free municipal library in the world;
  • In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the first telephone in Boston;
  • In 1877, Helen Magill White graduated from Boston University as the first woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D.;
  • In 1897, the first Boston Marathon was run; and
  • In 1927, MIT professor Vannevar Bush constructed a differential analyzer, one of the first advanced computing devices used for research. An offshoot of the work at MIT by Bush and others was the beginning of digital circuit design theory.

As Marty Walsh prepares to lead Boston forward, he is well aware how tradition and technology have shaped the city’s past, and the opportunities they present for molding its future.

Nearly 140 years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in Boston, technology is woven into the fabric of Boston’s diverse economy, from its educational and financial institutions to the healthcare sector, and even its beloved sports teams. We constantly hear “there’s an app for that” in every part of life in Boston.

Marty Walsh has the opportunity to tap into this region’s rich tradition of technology excellence to make Boston that shining city on the seaport. By embracing technology in new ways, his Administration can make the city more effective, more efficient, and more transparent.

Bostonians want to interact with their local government about little things like potholes, and big issues like improving its schools and public transportation. Technology offers the path to developing strong, two-way communications channels between citizens and governments. There is also a tremendous opportunity to continue to open up government processes and data to encourage innovative solutions to the challenges of a modern city.

By embracing this moment of change, Marty Walsh and all of us in the region’s tech community have the opportunity to envision new possibilities for Boston and its surrounding communities by tapping into the region’s greatest resource – its people.

Richard Rossi - City Manager, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Richard Rossi – City Manager, Cambridge, Massachusetts

One opportunity is to build a stronger bridge between the thriving tech communities in Boston’s Innovation District and in Cambridge’s Kendall Square. As I sit in my office at One Memorial Drive in Cambridge, the Charles River sometimes seems like the Atlantic Ocean. And if Boston and Cambridge can feel like separate continents, other surrounding communities seem to be on the outer boundaries of those continents. It is fortuitous that as Boston gets its first new Mayor in 20 years, Cambridge also has its first new City Manager in 30 years, Richard Rossi. Mayor Walsh and City Manager Rossi have the opportunity to think broadly and boldly across city boundaries.

Similarly, at times, there seems to be a great divide between the tech community and traditional business, the new economy vs. the old economy. But it isn’t about pitting old vs. new. Instead, Marty Walsh, Richard Rossi, and the region’s other top political leaders have the opportunity to bridge the old and the new, to bring together tradition and technology in new and powerful ways that will once again have the world marveling at our region’s firsts.

So today we congratulate and look forward to working with Marty Walsh and Richard Rossi as they create new visions for their cities. Those of us at Microsoft’s New England Innovation & Policy Center are committed to connecting the region’s technology, business, academic, and government communities, catalyzing important technology and public policy discussions, and contributing to the vitality of the region’s tech community and broader economic development opportunities.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, we look forward to working with Marty Walsh, Richard Rossi, and other government leaders in bridging divides and partnering to reimagine our cities, and helping to demonstrate the role technology can play in realizing those visions.

Charles River

Annmarie Levins is Associate General Counsel in Microsoft’s newly created Technology & Civic Engagement group. She and her team are responsible for leading the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center New England, and for developing other Innovation & Policy Centers in the U.S. Annmarie, a Massachusetts native, has been based at NERD for the past five years, and is well known within the tech community here. She serves on the executive committees of the Mass. Tech Leadership Council and the New England Council, and chairs the New England Council’s Technology Committee. She also is Microsoft’s liaison to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.