July 2014

Staff Spotlight: Nancy Baym

Nancy_BaymName: Nancy Baym 

Hometown: Urbana, Illinois

Job: Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research

Years at Microsoft: 2

Favorite restaurant in the Boston area: That’s a hard call! I quite like Helmand in Cambridge and Sichuan Gourmet in Brookline.

Last thing you Binged: I was looking for articles about the new album by the Spanish singer-songwriter Nacho Vegas.

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: I’ve been interviewing musicians about their relationships with audiences. I think that counts as cool!

What inspires you about technology? I’m fascinated by the ways that it opens possibilities for people to interact with one another and the ways people manage to overcome the obstacles technologies pose in order to connect in meaningful ways. Perhaps that is what inspires me about people more than about technology.

What problem would you like to see technology solve? I am not a big believer in technology as a solution, but I think it can help *people* solve problems, and in that regard I would sure like to see us use technology to connect across boundaries and lessen the racism, sexism, and all the other –isms that keep us apart and lead to hatred and violence.

BU’s Artemis Project Visits Microsoft New England: An Interview with Soon-to-be 9th Graders Victoria Shen & Madaleine Cutone

(L) Madaleine Cutone, soon-to-be 9th grader at Newton North High School; (R) Victoria Shen, soon-to-be 9th grader at Quincy High Schools

(L) Madaleine Cutone (R) Victoria Shen | soon-to-be 9th graders at Newton North and Quincy High Schools

On July 11, Microsoft New England welcomed BU’s Artemis Project to our Technology Center and New England Research & Development (NERD) Center. The Artemis Project is a five-week summer program that introduces rising ninth grade girls to computer science, directed by undergraduate women at BU.

We’re always pumped to get kids excited about technology—and these kinds of hands-on experiences are what STEM education’s all about. You know, ditch the textbooks for a walk-through exploration of real-life researchers and their cool creations: from capturing the world in 3-D with Photosynth, to Bing Health & Fitness apps to playing and drawing on giant Surface boards with Surface Pens.

We got the chance to chat with two of the girls: soon-to-be ninth graders Victoria Shen and Madaleine Cutone, who’ll be attending Quincy High School and Newton North High School (respectively) this fall. Here’s what the girls had to say about their visit to Microsoft:

Microsoft New England: Why did you join The Artemis Project?

Victoria: I have always been interested in working with computers, and when my science teacher recommended me to join this program, I jumped at that opportunity to expand my knowledge about computers.

Madaleine: I wanted to learn about different types of Technology and Engineering fields to prepare me for college at first, but I had also realized that I had had a lot of success in my Tech Ed. and science classes at school. I decided to expand on that success and look further into the engineering and technology fields.

MSNE: What was your favorite thing about your visit to Microsoft New England?

V: My favorite part of my visit to Microsoft New England was getting the tour of the Exploratorium and getting to try out some of the things. The robot that takes your picture is so cool!!!

M: My personal favorite thing to do there was to play around on all of the different devices. I enjoyed getting to explore the way that Microsoft’s devices were programmed and put together.

MSNE: What was your favorite piece of technology that you used?

V: The Surface. It’s so cool that it’s a device that can easily change into a tablet or a laptop!

M: Cortana, the voice control option on many of Microsoft’s devices. It was interesting to me that Cortana didn’t obligate the user to say specific facts about the piece of information that they wanted to acquire.

MSNE: What do you want to be when you grow up?

V: I used to want to be a teacher, but now thanks to the Artemis Project, I think I want to be an IT Specialist.

M: I want to be a computer scientist when I grow up, but I think I would also enjoy working in the biomedical field.

Which Boston Restaurants Pass City Food Inspection? Cue: Microsoft Fellow’s New Windows App

Ramsay_Microsoft

Step aside, Gordon Ramsay—there’s a new app in town that swaps your scathing insults for cold hard data. Harvard sophomore and Microsoft Chicago Fellow Gavin Sullivan recently developed an app now available in the Windows Store called Boston Food Inspections. And it just might change where you book your next dinner date.

“The idea originated when I was browsing the data portal released by the City of Chicago,” Sullivan told MSNE of his hometown. “The city released tons and tons of data that’s available to the public. I came across this interesting data on food inspections, and was surprised at how detailed it was and how many restaurants were on the list.”

“I thought it would be interesting to take that information and present it in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand.”

Sullivan’s Boston Food Inspections app visualizes the data as happy and frowny-faced emoticons based on the number of times a restaurant passes and fails different types of inspections. For example, “Food must be stored at a temperature below 50 degrees: pass/fail.”

The concept started with a massive data set of passes and fails from Boston restaurants. Sullivan then used Microsoft Excel to file through all of that data and sort it in a way that could be translated into an app.

“Excel allowed me to store things really nicely, narrow down the huge data set and create something that I could then present as an app,” Sullivan explained.

After modifying the data, he went to Project Siena (a Microsoft program in beta testing that anyone can download from the Windows Store). Siena allows you to create applications for your desktop using commands similar to Excel commands.

“Siena is easy to use for someone who’s new to coding and app development,” Sullivan said.

We asked Sullivan if he ever eats out anymore after seeing all of this food inspection data.

“To be honest, I’m not too much of a good cook,” he told us. “So I still eat out. But it’s definitely surprising to see how many things restaurants do wrong when looking at this data.”

Staff Spotlight: Brian aka “Bubba” Conley

Name: Brian aka “Bubba” Conley
Currently the only Bubba @ Microsoft 😉

Hometown: Weymouth, MA

Job: Software Design Engineer in Test (SDET)

Years at Microsoft: 8

Favorite restaurant in the Boston area: Anna’s Taqueria – I like a good burrito!

Last thing you Binged: Watertown MA, Town hall hours

Something cool you’ve worked on recently: Citizen Schools class on Game Theory with 6th graders from Browne Middle School in Chelsea.

What inspires you about technology? The ability to transform people’s lives for the better

What problem would you like to see technology solve? Improved, more connected, devices for police departments.  It seems that their technology tends to be lagging behind, where I strongly believe that their profession above others deserves cutting edge solutions.

Get Into It: Youth Summer Camps in Boston and Cambridge

youthspark

As I drop my children off for their first days of summer camp this week, I find myself envious of the amazing programs students have access to today.  In particular, I love seeing the variety of STEM and computer science programs that are available in the summer.

If you are still looking for summer activities, check out the full list of summer programs compiled by the Mass TLC Education Foundation.

Here are a few highlights I picked from the list:

  • Museum of Science. One week courses on a wide variety of topics from Rockets to Bugs to Xbox Game Creation.
  • Summer Camps at your local Microsoft Retail Store! Registration is open for free weekly in-store camps. Camps are broken up into two age groups for Jr. Designers (recommended for ages 8-10) and Designers (recommended for ages 11-13), so choose the camp that fits your student’s interest and sign up today.
  • Summer Pathways at Boston University.  Summer Pathways is your chance to discover the range of opportunities in science and engineering, and to meet the real women working in these fields today.

If you know of other programs we can add to this list, please email Rachel Nicoll RNicoll@masstlc.org.