Friday, March 7th, our Microsoft Technology Center at One Cambridge Center was aflutter with the best type of passion and exploration—the type experienced when eyes see something for the first time. When girls are excited and inspired to create by the latest technologies. When they all come together for a day of learning and actually embrace it—because it doesn’t feel like learning at all.
It was DigiGirlz Day. And 120 high school students and teachers from 14 schools throughout Mass., as well as New Hampshire and Rhode Island, poured into One Cambridge Center. All girls! —To celebrate International #WomensDay and Women’s History Month. The point of the day is for us at Microsoft to show the girls what a career in technology actually looks like. And judging from their excitement throughout the day, we think in 10 years there will be 120 new game developers, 3D printing innovators, and tech researchers beginning successful careers.
One of the cool aspects we added to the day this year was encouraging the girlz to live-tweet their experiences, using the hashtag #DigiGirlzMA. The tweets poured in every minute with real-time feedback: “Wow 4000 mega pixels! Amazing! Microsoft is so cool!!!” – “Learning about 3D printing ! Lol this is clutch!” – “Saving the world, one #MakerBot at a time.” – “Switching over to Bing!” and “Yes!!!! Building my first video game at #DigiGirlzMA!” were just some of the hundreds of insightful (and hilarious) tweets. We also projected their live tweets at lunch, and handed out prizes for the Top 3 and Top 10 tweeters.
The day started off with the girls playing in the MTC’s Interactive Center and an inspiring Keynote with Cathy Wissink, Director of Technical Outreach from our Innovation and Policy Center. Wissink talked the language of coding in a totally accessible way, telling stories of the progression of her incredible career. But the best bit of advice we took away was: “Try things outside of your comfort zone.” Every time you’re asked to do something and it seems too challenging – just say yes. After all, leaving your comfort zone is often the beginning of the best adventures.
The girls rotated between a series of workshops throughout the day, that tbh were so fun, we participated in all of them. They learned how to develop their own game apps for smartphones using Contruct 2 technology from Michael Cummings, Senior Technical Evangelist at Microsoft. One girl live-tweeted the evolution of the main character of her game, Jimmy:
Allison Knight from the Microsoft Store led an awesome discussion on MakerBot 3D Printing Design. The girls had a blast thinking up what kinds of things 3D printing could help with in the future—from printing new limbs and tissue in the medical field to wondering how on earth they’re working on 3D printing meat! One of the coolest pics from this workshop was taken by Melissa De Witte of this 3D printed rose:
Down in the Envisioning Center (which, walking in, feels like you’re entering a video game – like, almost Pandora from Avatar status) Senior Technology Specialist Chad Gronbach blew everyone’s minds with a PhotoSynth demo. By taking a series of photos of your surroundings, the software turns it into a 3D landscape that you can then enter into virtually on your PC. Technical Solutions Specialist Hitakshi Nanavaty also gave live demos, showing all of the ways we can integrate technology into our lives at work, school, home and play.
MIT’s Ingrid Cheung gave a hands-on demo with Paper Electronics, which she uses to make everything from LED light-up cards to interactive origami. Then the girls got to make their own working circuits!
The day also included valuable Career Discussion with the students from our campus FOUNDRY program.
So what did we at Microsoft take away from this? It is a BLAST working with kids and STEM, and it is not difficult to inspire them; they get it. Theirs are bright, open minds that appreciate how exciting the tech side of the job world is, as long as we present it in a fun, accessible way. But mostly, the DigiGirlz’ enthusiasm inspired us.
We look forward to next year’s DigiGirlz Day, but in the meantime, look for more STEM events for students coming up in 2014.
Find more info about interning at Microsoft’s The Foundry here.
Tags: #DigiGirlzMA, 3D Printing, Cathy Wissink, Chad Gronbach, DigiGirlz Day, Envisioning Center, Events, Ingrid Cheung, MakerBot, Michael Cummings, microsoft, Microsoft Store, Microsoft Technology Center, MIT, One Cambridge Center, Paper Electronics, PhotoSynth, technology