July 2016

“Now, How Can You Make It Better?” — Girls Who Code Empowering #WomenInTech

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To me, #GirlsCan means there is nothing girls can’t do. It is not just a statement to prove that boys are not better than girls, or that girls can in fact do things. It is a statement that says, “Girls have, girls do, and girls will achieve amazing things, whether there are or aren’t obstacles ahead of us.”

My sophomore year of high school, the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani herself, came to my school — an all-girls school at that. She introduced us to her program, which we felt opened doors for us to explore limitless adventures as women in the field of tech. When I was a student in the GWC program, I was a part of the Twitter Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, also in Cambridge. I thought the energy, learning environment, people, ideas I was exposed to, and of course my teacher and teacher assistants were incredible. My teacher and her assistants, who seemed to answer all of my questions, then proceeded to ask me, “Now, how can you make it better?” These few words become a part of my philosophy as a student, and now a teacher assistant.

This summer our students, rising juniors and seniors in high school, are touching on topics like algorithms and encryption, and are plowing through programs like Scratch, Python, HTML/CSS and web design, JavaScript, and this week robotics and Arduino. After taking part in the program as a student, I was shaken by the possibilities that could become realities with the new knowledge at my fingertips. This was what lead me to understand why it is important to teach people how to code. In this day and age, with technology taking over anything and everything, learning to code is equivalent to understanding how to play with the building blocks of everything that could ever be created. The education of coding is important to learn because it is the base of almost everything that we use today. But with that, it is not just a skill, it is a thought process. It is not just languages to become fluent in, it is learning how to think of things in several different ways and using what is most advantageous within your given set of tools, and being efficient.

However, teaching women to code, specifically, is incredibly critical because we are underrepresented in the field. This may seem like just a number, but women represent more than half of the world and are shown to be less than half of the people that can use these building blocks coding gives us to change our world. A lack of representation is a lack of perspective, it is a lack of new ideas, and a limit to the change that can be created.

 FullSizeRender (3)Jasmine Hyppolite is a rising senior in high school from Providence, Rhode Island. She was part of the 2015 Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Twitter and is now a teacher assistant for the 2016 summer program at Microsoft. She is planning to major in Computer Science in college and hopes to inspire students to do the same.

The Museum of Science (Boston) Visits Microsoft!

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Photo C/O Stephen Smith

A team from the Museum of Science recently had the opportunity to visit the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, for two whole days of tours, demonstrations, conversations, and brainstorming. It was a truly eye-opening experience that will help us to advance our thinking about new engineering, computer science, and technology exhibits at the Museum.

The Museum’s exhibit staff is currently in the early stages of planning for the transformation of the Blue Wing, our largest exhibition space. Our goal is to create a state-of-the-art, integrated experience that excites, empowers, and engages everyone to be the critical thinkers needed to shape our technological future. To do this, our exhibits will help visitors to practice the habits of mind that allow them to think like engineers, scientists, computer scientists, and innovators.

Our trip to Redmond, which was facilitated by our partners at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center, was an amazing chance for our team to learn more about the direction and potential evolution of technology in the coming years, find out how Microsoft engineers and designers think about their work and solve problems, and also learn about specific technologies that we could incorporate into our exhibits to create incredible, one-of-a-kind experiences for our visitors.

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The visit had many highlights. We received a demonstration of the HoloLens, a wearable technology on the cutting edge of augmented reality and virtual reality, with many potential applications in commerce, education, and entertainment. Our tour of Microsoft’s Envisioning Center was an amazing look into the near future in which cloud-based artificial intelligence helps us to be more productive and to integrate technology more seamlessly into our lives.

We ended our visit with an incredibly productive brainstorming session with Microsoft staff. After two jam-packed days full of information and conversation, we quickly filled a wall-length whiteboard with ideas that we could turn into real exhibit components at the Museum. The visit clearly had our team excited and inspired about the potential to create amazing new experiences at the Museum to facilitate learning about science and technology.

The trip also reinforced the incredibly close alignment between Microsoft and the Museum’s values and mission. Everyone we talked with at Microsoft quickly understood what the Museum is trying to achieve, and why it is such an important goal. We have no doubt that we will be able to achieve great things working together.

Recap — Conversation in Civic Innovation: Financial Transparency and Citizen Engagement

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How can we get citizens engaged in government budgets? How can we make government fiscal information available to the public? How do we build tools that promote financial transparency and encourage citizen input?

This week, we discussed all of this and more at our quarterly #CivicTechBos conversation at the Microsoft New England R&D (NERD) Center. Alongside panelists from across the board in civic engagement, financial transparency, business, and government, we tackled these issues, brainstormed on civic solutions, and made promises to improve transparency and government progress.

Panelists included:

  • James Milan, producer of Your Arlington Dollar on ACMi (Arlington Community Media Inc.)
  • Mike Herbert, Ashland Town Manager
  • Adam Langley, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Fiscally Standardized Cities database
  • Christopher Dwelley, Co-Lead & Performance Manager, Citywide Analytics Team at City of Boston
  • Curt Savoie, Principal Data Scientist at Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Here are some of the top tweets from the night:

Girls Who Code Visit Microsoft NERD Center for Mentoring Event

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For the second year in a row, Microsoft is hosting 20 girls this summer at the Microsoft Cambridge campus to teach coding in partnership with the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. The girls apply for this competitive program and spend 7 weeks learning Python and other programming languages, as well as building their business and networking skills. When I participated in a speed mentoring session at the NERD office on July 11th, I had the chance to speak these 20 remarkable young women. They mostly live in Massachusetts, but some attend Girls Who Code from as far away as Virginia. Over 25 women Microsoft employees participated from both sales, marketing, R&D, data science and machine learning, as well as from our intern program.

We started the event with lunch and informal mingling.

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The Microsoft mentors and students shared stories about how their interest in technology developed, from whom they drew their inspiration, and what type of projects they were working on.

Through the mentoring program, Girls Who Code aims to provide girls with the invaluable opportunity to interact with strong, powerful, and exemplary female role models. Through mentoring relationships, students gain deeper exposure into the professional world and career opportunities once deemed impossible or unattainable. Mentoring sessions provide a safe and encouraging space for girls to ask questions and get both academic and career advice. Mentors had the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of ambitious and talented girls interested in technology.

I very much enjoyed being able to spend 10-15 minutes individually with nearly a dozen girls. I told them what I liked best about my job, which is that I use technology to make a global impact to improve communication outcomes for neurological patients and improve health screening for women in developing nations. I honestly addressed questions about maintaining work-life balance and coping in a male-dominated environment. Most of my advice revolved around confidence. I explained imposter syndrome and suggested that they read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language.  

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The girls’ unique personalities shined through. I met young women with amazing confidence, excellent technological backgrounds, and impressive interviewing skills. I’m proud to work for a company that not only encourages the development of the next generation of women leaders, but most critically, provides the resources necessary to instill excitement about and access to technology.

I’m happy that a couple of girls contacted me after the event and we are corresponding via email and making plans to meet in person for additional mentoring. I got a lovely long email from one of the girls visiting from the South and am looking forward to taking her to lunch to continue our discussion. It’s absolutely my pleasure to share my passion for technology with our next generation of technical leaders!

Design Museum Boston’s Urban Innovation Festival July 29-31

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Want to get a taste of what Boston could look like in the near future? Curious to see urban design in action? Join Design Museum Boston for their 3-day outdoor Urban Innovation Festival July 29-31 under the I-93 overpass at 247 Albany Street in the South End.

During this 3-day design hackathon, you’ll watch as teams comprised of engineers, designers, architects, and innovators compete to design solutions to urban problems. This is the main event of the museum’s ongoing Urban Innovation program, which shows how design can improve the livability of a city.

Each participating team — including Payette, Autodesk, Fidelity Labs, Essential Design, Bose, Shepley Bulfinch, Wentworth Institute of Technology, CBT, MassArt, and Stantec — will be given a challenge related to the overpass, such as improving safety or connecting neighborhoods. You’ll be able to watch solutions being built fro the ground up right before your eyes from under the overpass.

Microsoft New England is proud to be a sponsor of this event, as we’re always striving to support civic tech innovators as they transform Boston and make our city even better.

“I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with, but what I’m most excited about is when we actually install these solutions next year! My goal is to install as many as possible and in different neighborhoods. If the designs are successful, than we will work hard to install even more,” said Liz Pawlak, Associate Director, Design Museum Boston.

Sumu — Rebuilding the Housing Market Through Tech

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We’ve observed most major industries undergo innovative and disruptive change, however for some reason the consumer facing experience of residential real estate remains immune to truly transformative technology. We’ve seen positive change in the way we hail a taxi (Uber), how we think about short term rentals (AirBNB), we are even seeing large scale innovation in the automotive industry (Tesla), but the consumer face of residential real estate remains largely unchanged to how it was at the start of the last century. Boston area app Sumu recently conducted some consumer research amongst millennials and, rather unsurprisingly, the most popular discovery tool amongst this demographic was still Craigslist. Surely, we can do better.

The process of finding your next home continues to be frustrating, complicated and perhaps even scary. One thing is clear: the current solutions available on the market do not meet the needs of tenants and landlords in a fashion that technology should. By looking towards other industries and platforms such as dating apps, personal finance and travel the expectation is clear: it is necessary to provide tenants better tools to make more informed and intelligent decisions.

lumiaSince launching, Sumu has sought to streamline this process by creating a product by tenants for tenants. By working directly with property managers and landlords, we can remove the friction of a broker, and in doing so save tenants the broker free in Boston’s first no-fee housing market.

“We’re taking a more human approach to empowerment in finding housing through self-posting and better discovery tools,” explains Daniel Tewfik, Sumu co-founder. Sumu’s web app makes it easy for users to post housing or rent an apartment giving people the power to find their own apartment without having to go through the tortuous process of dealing with brokers and agents.

Sumu hasn’t ended there. With the help with local industry leaders and partners, Sumu and their partners formed a group called BOSRETECH to modernize and straighten the housing industry as a whole. BOSRETECH was created with the purpose of expanding opportunities for those that want to break into real estate, innovate inside it, or leave the more traditional, brick-and-mortar real estate space. With their monthly meetup, breakfasts, and panels, they have created a healthy, inclusive environment for millennials to share and converse which is far removed from the ‘stuffy’, exclusive environment which Real Estate often can be.

“With BOSRETECH, we questioned the necessity of after-work only events,” says Tewfik. “With BOSRETECH, we now have inclusive events that are for early birds and night owls alike.”

tewfikDaniel Tewfik is at the forefront of technology-enabled real estate, startups, and government. He  is the co-founder of Sumu, a tenant relationship management service that lets prospective tenants find sublets, apartment shares, apartments, and housing in the city.

Constantly in search for technology solutions for interesting problems, Daniel has a particular interest in helping communities make specialty podcasts, creating marketing strategies, and being a serial entrepreneur.

Specialties: Urban Planning, Project Management, Housing, Real Estate, UI/UX, Digital Media, Informational Sciences, Product Management, Technology, Startups.

Using Power BI to Track Gentrification

There is a great amount of data available today to help citizens understand how their community is changing, provided that there’s a thoughtful way to make meaning of that data. This summer, our Civic Technology fellow, Aaron Myran, is working how public data and APIs can be unlocked, visualized and shared to facilitate civic engagement and policy decisions. His first project looks at the Boston housing market and rent rates. Check out his blog post (below), as well as his code that’s posted on Github. Thank you Aaron for this great work—we look forward to the next segment of this series!

— Cathy Wissink

Power BI Cost Per Square Foot Rental Gentrification

A lack of real-time data on how urban neighborhood prices are changing makes gentrification a difficult public policy challenge. In some cases, the most accessible longitudinal data for cities is the census.  As a result, soaring housing prices in working class neighborhoods can quickly displace residents.

Unlike the census, or even annual tax returns, housing rental websites provide up to date data on the cost of leasing a home or apartment.  To display how gentrification is occurring in the greater Boston area and across the country I scraped rental market listings, including zip codes, and price per square foot from rental market websites and used Power Bi to produce data visualizations to understand changes in housing prices.

The dashboard below, created with Microsoft’s Power Bi, visualizes the change in price per square foot for the rental market in Boston over time, starting in mid-June, 2016.  The heat map of Boston shows zip codes with a lower average price per square foot for listings in light red and zip codes with higher price per square foot listings in darker shades of red.  The visualizations to the right illustrate how these prices are changing over time.  To focus on a specific zip code, click on the zip code on the map to filter it in all of the visualizations.  

While there haven’t been major changes over the last few weeks, you’ll be able to revisit this dashboard in the future to see how these trends are changing. In addition, this dataset provides information to policy makers on the average affordability of a given neighborhood in real-time.  This data, in conjunction with income data can aid government in determining if residents will be displaced by increasing rental prices.*

In addition to collecting data for the city of Boston, I was also able to analyze data for the all of the cities in the United States with more than 50,000 residents.  This Power Bi dashboard can also be seen below.**

Next Steps? Housing market data isn’t the only piece of the gentrification puzzle. Overlaying data such as public works projects, distance from public transit lines, changes in employment demographics, percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher and other data can help forecast where gentrification is occurring and help policy makers plan accordingly.

If you’re interested in displaying how housing prices are changing in your city and identifying gentrification trends and key indicators, you can access my GitHub account with the Python scripts that were used for the data collection and use Microsoft’s interactive data visualization and dashboard builder, Power Bi, to display the data.

*The scraped data represents a sample of the Boston housing market as not all rental listings are put online or are listed on websites in a structured manner.

** A few cities do not use the sites scraped to display data and are not summarized in the dashboard.

image001 (2)Bio: Aaron Myran is a civic technology fellow with Microsoft and a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Bringing Boston’s Public Spaces to a Whole New Level

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This year, we announced our partnership with the City of Boston’s Second Public Space Invitational (PSI), a contest that encourages collaborative ideas that transform Boston’s public spaces. This open call to creatives in the Boston area commands attention to spaces where Boston residents live, walk, and work, placing intuition and aesthetic first and foremost in new designs that can improve unused spaces.

The PSI branches into three categories:

  • Analog Challenge: seeking traditional, but scalable and innovative approaches to improve the streetscape;
  • Digital Challenge: seeking projects that experiment with technology, sensors and a generally connected world;
  • Bonus Challenge: a partnership with the MBTA and Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Matthew Hincman to help a winning team make bus shelters, specifically those at Mattapan Station, more inviting, beautiful, and comfortable.

Together with the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Boston Art Commission, we were honored to sponsor this year’s PSI Digital Challenge.

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We’re pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Public Space Invitational, seven innovative teams that are producing unique projects across the city of Boston and beyond to keep residents engaged in public spaces.

The winners are:

Analog

Night Garden
Location: Boston Day and Evening Academy, 20 Kearsarge Rd., Roxbury
Proposed by: Ethan Vogt, Mihai Dinulescu, Shawn Flaherty, DiDi Delgado

Night Garden is a light installation designed to create a space for evening food and performance events in Boston Day and Evening Academy’s community garden.

Egleston #StreetMurals #MuralesEnLaCalle
Location: Egleston Square, Jamaica Plain
Proposed by: Luis Cotto, Dorothy Fennell, Sydney Hardin

Egleston Square Main Streets seeks to implement a community-designed street mural at the intersection of Boylston Street and Egleston Street in Jamaica Plain’s Egleston Square neighborhood. This would become one of the City’s first street murals.

Franklin Street (Allston) Neighborway
Location: Franklin Street, Allston
Proposed by: Mark Chase, Viola Augustin, Tom Bertulis

Using on-street murals, pavement markings and high-quality planters, the applicants intend for a community-led slow street intervention on Franklin St. in Allston to prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Digital

Public Radio
Location: TBD
Proposed by: New American Public Art

New American Public Art’s proposal includes installing a functional, larger-than-life radio in a City park or public space.

The Public Stage
Location: TBD
Proposed by: Liat Racin, Matan Mayer, Mariko Davidson, Christina Usenza, Alon Dagan

The proposal will use synchronized light and sound to link to an orchestra’s soundscape through a livestream audio transmission to Boston’s urbanscape. A light display will illuminate the space with attractive colors synchronized in real time to the volume and timbre of the performance.

Bonus

Radiant Forest
Location: Mattapan Station
Proposed by: Chris Freda, Ryan Collier, Jhanea Williams, Anthony Lawson

Radiant Forest is intended to transform the Mattapan bus station platform into a dynamic and delightful work of art that celebrates the shelter utility with an array of translucent-colored screens just beneath the glass panels that form the station’s covering.

Real People, Real Stories: Mattapan
Location: Mattapan Station and/or Bus Stations in Mattapan
Proposed by: Professor and Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges and Jennifer Waddell

The proposal includes a series of printed photographs and poems based on interviews with current residents of Mattapan. The portraits and poetic texts would be displayed on digital monitors within or on the exterior of the clear outdoor waiting shelters, or via free-standing outdoor digital media enclosures.

Read the City of Boston’s Press Release on the 2016 Public Space Invitational, including full project descriptions and Honorable Mentions, live on the City of Boston Website.

Microsoft New England Picks: Not-To-Miss Events This July

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Fireworks, trips to the beach, and civic tech in the city. We’re honoring this July with some of the best civic tech events you can find in Boston. Our top picks for events this month:

July 6

Public Space Invitational Awards Ceremony

This year, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Boston Art Commission, and the City’s Streets cabinet launched the second Public Space Invitational, an open call for creative minds to reimagine civic spaces and public infrastructure in Boston.
Join Mayor Martin J. Walsh as he opens up the third and fourth floors of City Hall to showcase a gallery of this year’s proposals and announces the winners of the Invitational.

July 9

Grand Opening of the Boston Public Library Central Library Renovation

The Central Library Renovation will open to the public on Saturday, July 9, following a ribbon cutting with Mayor Martin J. Walsh at 10:30 a.m. The grand reopening will celebrate the completion of the second and final phase of renovations to the Johnson building constructed in 1972. This second phase of work includes updates to the interior design and exterior landscaping, new digital elements, beautiful new spaces for studying and reading, refreshed collections, and new public computers. The Central Library Renovation puts the Boston Public Library on the cutting edge of library services – reshaping and redefining the patron experience at a 21st century urban public library.

July 12

Digital Politics: New technology in motion

This month on Modern Workplace, watch Digital Politics: New technology in motion, airing July 12th at 8:00 AM PDT / 3:00 PM GMT. Get a first-hand look at some of the new tools and innovations being put to the test in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

  • Stan Freck shares some of the tech innovations being used in political campaigns, including how new apps are informing an electoral process that is over 100 years old.
  • Patrick Stewart discusses how data visualization is playing a crucial role in the 2016 election cycle and takes a look at some of the emerging technologies.

July 19

Boston Bayesians Inaugural Meetup

Boston Bayesians is a meetup group that brings together data scientists, statisticians, engineers, entrepreneurs and others interested in the practical applications of Bayesian statistics. Join us for friendly academic briefings, stories from real-world projects, and open discussion of Bayesian inference, tools, techniques and case studies.

We follow a conventional format of 1 or 2 presentations from volunteers in the group and/or invited experts, and general conversation and socializing afterwards. Think of us as your Bayesian self-help group in the Boston Area.

July 19

Roxbury Innovation Center Café Night

The monthly Café Nights @ RIC are energetic and dynamic events where innovators and entrepreneurs can find one another and collaborate to bring their dreams to reality.
These regular gatherings provide a space for conversations and scheduled programs to inspire a wide range of attendees from different backgrounds and industries to connect, share ideas, and grow their ventures. The Café is open to all members of the innovation community—stop by to try it out.

The July Café will highlight the convergence of Education and Innovation.

July 19

MassTLC Leadership Awards Summer Reception

Join us for this special cocktail and networking reception where Council Members, Sponsors, Trustees and invited guests will have a chance to meet the nominees and watch the announcement of the 2016 Mass Technology Leadership Awards finalists!

July 20

Conversation in Civic Innovation: Financial Transparency and Citizen Engagement

What do municipal governments need to do to go from providing financials tools that build trust to providing tools that helps citizens engage in a meaningful and practical way with issues that concern them but have financial implications that constrain the options?  What would a set of tools that covered the whole financial waterfront – budgets, actuals, future projections, benchmarking, participatory budgeting – look like?

We’re looking to answer these questions — and more — at our July #CivicTechBos event. Join us for our next Conversation in Civic Innovation, set around financial transparency and citizen engagement, on Wednesday, July 20.

July 20

Export Regulatory Compliance Update

This conference will provide the latest information on export regulatory trends, with a focus on current compliance issues, including: export regulatory policy developments; special concerns involving product and technology controls; rapidly evolving sanctions policy; and best practices for compliance. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear the latest on export compliance issues and trends from some of the area’s leading export compliance practitioners and experts.

July 29-31

Design Museum Boston Urban Innovation Festival

Free & Open to the Public: Help improve your city! Give your feedback to design professionals, vote on your favorite urban solution, enjoy food trucks, kids activities, and community interviews. Make your voice heard and view design in action!