August 2015

A Tech Conversation with Cuban Students at Grand Central Tech

Cuba-40-P1010300

Grand Central Tech is an accelerator in New York City that Microsoft has partnered with to help grow the startup community in the city. In partnership with C.A.A, Innovadores and Miles Spencer, GCT hosted four Cuban STEM students for the summer, introducing them to the startup ecosystem here in the city. The program was well-received in the press as technology becomes one of the first conversations American and Cuban citizens are having after half a century of restricted relations.

cuba (1036)

While speaking with the “Innovadores”, we learned a ton about the state of technology in Cuba, how people are slowly becoming more connected, and how far there is to go. Most interestingly, we got to hear directly from the students what they felt was needed to help build out Cuba’s technology scene.

If you’d like to hear from our friends directly, we invite you to watch this video profiling their time with Grand Central Tech:

Now, a note about internet connectivity in Cuba. While Cuba is one of many countries to have skipped desktop computing and embraced mobile, there is a glaring issue. Cubans do not have access to mobile data plans. They have the devices needed to build and consume modern web applications, but they do not have the infrastructure to access those services nor the technical know-how to build the applications themselves. Instead, many Cubans subscribe to the “paquete”. Their members then use file transfer services like Zapya to further distribute the digital content. Much of what constitutes “internet access” in Cuba mainly involves taking material available online elsewhere and converting it to an offline format accessible to the Cuban people.

So how did the students we met with see themselves contributing to technological innovation in such a fundamentally different digital environment?

In brief, the students didn’t want us to build stuff to help them. Instead, they asked for the tools and education to help themselves. To use an old analogy, they didn’t want us to give them a bunch of fish. They wanted lessons and resources to build fishing poles and catch dinner for themselves.

The first step that these students brought up was the creation of a community where young people could come together and simply share and develop their ideas. They then wanted international entities to support their efforts by providing hardware, software, and educational opportunities abroad so that they could grow both the hard (hardware) and soft (technical and educational) technological knowledge bases in Cuba. As connectivity and access to technology improve, the tech community that has coalesced through these efforts will endow the Cuban people with the tools and expertise needed to hit the ground running and design the kinds of tools and applications that they already consume so voraciously.

Join us at Civic Tech Fellow Demo Night #CivicDemo

Summer’s winding down, and our Civic Tech Fellows are heading off. Before they go, we want to share what we’ve built together over the past few months. Come to Civic Hall this Thursday, August 27th for a demo night with Hessvacio, Rasmi, Danielle, Emma, Ashley, David, Nick, and our Program Manager, Saron. We’ll share progress on Tech Jobs Academy, Civic Graph, a Maker Starter Kit, Microsoft Translator, a Civic Tech Case Finder, BRCK, and using the Blockchain for Social Good. Come see what they’ve made over the past few months, and connect with one another before the September craziness gets going.

Don’t forget to tweet along using @MicrosoftNY and #CivicDemo!

RSVP here to attend

Fellow Profile: Hessvacio Hassan

Hessvacio HassanWhere are you from?: I’m from Far Rockaway, born and raised. My mother is Panamanian and my father is Egyptian. Naturally they would meet in New York City and here I am.

Where/what did you study? When did you graduate?: I went to college at SUNY Oswego but unfortunately I couldn’t complete my education there. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though, because after that, I got a scholarship to attend the Flatiron School, which has opened a lot of doors for me.

What made you make the jump to get involved in technology?: I’d always been interested in coding, making apps, and designing video games, so once I’d been out of Oswego for a bit, I decided to see if I could go to Flatiron to pursue that. I got a much more practical education then I would have gotten at a traditional university.

And how did you get involved with the Civic Tech team? I joined this team immediately after graduating from Flatiron. I was familiar with organizations like Games for Change that use technology and games in service of the public good, and I decided I wanted to be part of a team that would build things to help people. When the opportunity arose to find jobs after Flatiron, this team was very attractive to me. I knew it would give me the chance to build a better society through my programming.

What projects are you working on with the team?: I was initially working on the Civic Graph, specifically on the front end. Now I’m working on Tech Jobs Academy. Danielle and I have been a real dynamic duo and it’s been great to get so much done in such a short time with all of the engineering resources we have on hand. I’m also really excited to get to start working with Microsoft Translator.

What Microsoft technology excites you the most?: Definitely Skype Translator. I personally know a lot of people who would benefit enormously from a real-time translation service like this. There are so many applications for it, I just can’t wait to see how much of a transformational impact it has. From politics, to education, to healthcare, to community relations, there really is no end! I’ll give you a simple example. I lived for a time in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in the Bronx. The streets where I lived were a mess but not because the city actively neglected them. The simple truth is where other neighborhoods would have reported the issue, there was no one in this community who could bring attention to the problem. Skype Translator will fix this, among many other issues.

Are there any other technologies you see emerging to improve cities?: I love the idea of setting up wifi hotspots around the city. Closing the digital divide is one of the most important steps we can take to fight income inequality.

What would you like to do after your fellowship?: I love the idea of developing socially conscious games. We’ll see though!

What do you love about coding?: Oh man, it makes me feel like a kid again! You work on your little project and show it to everyone and there’s an undeniable sense of accomplishment too. Like, I built this. That’s cool to think about. I sat down, worked my soul into my computer, and out comes this tangible thing. You can’t beat that.

How would you Bing yourself without using your name?: Gamer. Thinker. Doer. Yeah, that sounds good.

Fellow Profile: Danielle Hill

Danielle HillWhere are you from?: I’m from Brooklyn, New York. Fort Greene to be precise. Now I live in Crown Heights. It seems like everyone on our team is from the city!

Where do you study? When will you graduate?: I graduated from LaGuardia High School a year ago as a visual arts major (it’s a performing arts school). I studied painting, color theory, anatomy, and illustration. If it was art related, I was involved.

Were you always interested in tech?: I first became involved in technology through a program called CodeNow that I found out about during my Junior year. They’re an organization that has summer fellowships and workshops designed to get high school kids programming. And in my case, they very much succeeded. I fell in love. Back at school I even started a programming club! Once I had graduated and decided to take a gap year from NYU, I ended up taking a six month course at the Flatiron School to continue learning to code.

And that’s how you ended up with the Civic Tech team?: Exactly. Frankly though, I didn’t know about the team until they offered me an interview! I’d never heard about civic technology before then. So I did some research, which confused me. There’s no real definition of civic tech! Most of the definitions I’d read would say something like “it’s good.” Which now of course I realize is kind of the point. It’s any tech which is good for society at large, which, when you think about it, is almost everything! Once I realized that, I was hooked.

What projects are you working on with the team?: I started out working on the Civic Graph. I did a lot of the front end and styling work. I’ve recently finished working with Saron and Ashley on the team to build out the Tech Jobs Academy website. It’s really cool hearing from so many people that they love what you’ve built. Working on this almost feels like I’m going back to my roots as head of the programming club! It feels great to be a part of something that will get more people coding in NYC. As of right now, I am working on a tool aimed at helping professors and teachers to be able to incorporate civic tech within their curriculum.

What is your favorite Microsoft technology? What development excites you the most?: Definitely Skype and Skype Translator. I’ve been a Skype user for a long time so that has to be my favorite product. Great user experience. The translator though….that thing is science fiction! It’s been great getting to work with that and seeing what we can build with it. Just seeing a short conversation was enough to convince me that that is going to be truly transformational. I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

What issues are you most passionate about?: Getting more people involved in coding and technology more generally. Which is why working on Tech Jobs Academy has been so gratifying!

What’s a crazy invention you would like to see made?: Oh wow, how much time do you have? Flying cars, invisibility cloaks….On a serious note I have this side project I’ve been working on which would basically be an Uber for tour guides. Essentially, you go to a city, open the app, and hire a local nearby to show you around!

What do you plan to do after this fellowship?: I would like to work for a couple more years before I go back to school, as I would like to save up enough to avoid future student loan debt. I plan on continuing my learning and growing my skills by experimenting heavily with different languages.

What has been your funniest experience on the team so far?: Probably the Tree Count on the first day. I was so anxious about what we’d be working on, getting set up, getting into the swing of things. Nope, we spent the day outside hugging trees. It was a big and pleasant surprise!

And finally, how would you find yourself on Bing without using your name?: Psh, that’s easy. Artist. Programmer. Flatiron School.

Fellow Profile: Rasmi Elasmar

Rasmi ElasmarWhere are you from?: I’m from Long Beach, California.

Where do you study? When will you graduate?: Columbia University.I’m studying some mix of computer science, math, physics, and statistics, and I’m starting my third year this fall.

What’s your favorite technology at Microsoft?: A lot of the projects to come out of Microsoft Research are exciting — HoloLens and Kinect are especially fun in how they rethink the way we interact with computers, and some of the machine-learning based projects like Translator make me think that the future is already here.

What projects have you been working on for the Microsoft Civic Tech team?: I spent the first two months of the summer rebuilding the Civic Graph to allow it to scale up to a wider audience. Recently, I’ve been working on translation tools that would be useful for the city. I just finished working in collaboration with the Translator team on a browser extension that live captions and translates any audio or video on the web. I’m also working with the Mayor’s office to get their videos captioned and translated. Machine translation on a large scale would allow people to understand and access resources online even if they don’t speak English, so I’m excited to help break down language barriers on the internet.

How did you end up with the Civic Tech team?: I’ve been working on projects in the civic tech scene independently and with groups like BetaNYC since I came to New York. A friend of mine met John at New York Tech Meetup and suggested I reach out to him because of the similarity of our work. I joined the team because I was excited by the idea of using technology to have meaningful impact in our city.

What issues are you most passionate about?: I like solving difficult problems, and there is no shortage of them in New York. Education, income, and social inequality are all issues people are facing in cities across the country. I think what makes New York different is that everything is done on a scale unlike any other city in the US. We have resources and initiatives that are changing the possibilities of what a few people can do for their cities with technology. For example, our Open Data initiatives have created all sorts of useful tools for citizens that range from helping ensure government accountability, to making it easier to access and navigate historically difficult and bureaucratic government processes. We’re only just beginning to explore the applications, so I’m excited for what’s to come. With the technology now available to us, our ability to tackle difficult problems is growing faster than the problems themselves, so I’m optimistic for the future.

What will you do next then?: Learn as much as I can in school, and be as helpful as I can outside of school.

What is a wild “Mad-scientist idea” you’ve had? It’s not my idea, but I’ve thought about it a lot recently because of the work we’ve been doing in exploring Blockchain applications in society. Imagine this: a self-driving car with enough intelligence to also manage its own Bitcoin wallet. You could summon it from your smartphone, it would drive you to where you want to go, and you’d pay that car itself Bitcoin, and that car could use that currency to pay people to maintain and improve itself. The car would own itself, meaning no company or individual would need to own the car. Eventually (in theory), no people or companies would need to own any cars. They would just exist among us like the individualistic robots of the future.

What has been your funniest experience on the team so far? It’s amusing to hear people’s reactions when I talk about the open source work we do. Microsoft has made some huge strides in promoting open source projects in recent years, and I’m glad to be a part of that.

Why Didn’t I Think Of This? The Girls Who Code Experience

Donna Woodall, Citizenship & Public Affairs Director, Northeast

Donna Woodall, Citizenship & Public Affairs Director, Northeast

I often wonder why I didn’t think about creating a “Girls Who Code” organization. I always had this hunch that computer technology would be the great equalizer for women, and for the world, and although I saw the gap in gender diversity, it was many years before I actually took action to address it.

In my earlier days, computer technology in the home was only as sophisticated as a ping-pong game (you played against the computer) and BASIC coding. Sure, we had the video arcade, but who could afford to bring those bulky, large, overwhelming machines home to play in your bedroom?

Back in the late 1980’s when I graduated from Brown University with a degree in Computer Science, I was fortunate to be in the first graduating class to be conferred with a Comp Sci degree vs. an engineering degree with a designation of ‘having studied Computer Science’. Even then I had a lot of ideas about how computers could be used in the realm of educating others. I dreamed about ways in which computer animation could be combined with music to teach pre-K and elementary school lessons. I envisioned, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could put computer graphics to music while using images of people, letters and numbers to program the computer to teach nursery rhymes or tell a bedtime story; or perhaps use the computer to “rap” to young urban children so that they can learn their “A, B, C’s”; or maybe, just maybe, we can use computer animation to help people of all ages learn to read?” I always knew that computer technology could empower everyone to learn and achieve greatness. But in those days all I had access to was an IBM 3270 ‘dumb terminal’ and a mainframe, and that was at the office. Personal computing was coming, but not yet realized, and certainly not in every home.

But all the while I was dreaming, something else wasn’t adding up. When I attended college my class was 50/50 women to men, but in the workplace somehow I was an anomaly – I was working with and for men, and rarely saw a woman or a person of color in my office. In college we seemed to be on equal footing; I never questioned could we or would we achieve parity in this ‘brand new world’ of Computer Science? But somewhere along the way we left the girls behind.  Collectively we gave girls the impression that science and math is something only boys do well. We gave girls the impression that unless you wear ‘thick rimmed eye glasses’ and ‘carry a pocket protector’ that maybe you don’t fit in the world of technology. Somehow we gave girls the impression that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive. We forgot to be role models for young women in the technology revolution.

The images of someone with a Computer Science degree certainly didn’t reflect me. From the classroom to the boardroom we put girls and diversity on the back burner. We neglected to inform girls that, yes, you CAN do science and math and NO, you don’t have to carry the GEEK persona. Not to say that there is anything wrong with the being “geeky”, but we failed to state that this is not a requirement for C.S.

What we should have said is that the benefit to Computer Science and coding is that you improve your ability to reason, to solve problems logically. We didn’t say that people with a strong background in math and science have the tools to be innovative and express their creativity. We didn’t say that technology is in everything that we do, so if you enjoy the world of fashion then we need you to design the next wearable tech item. We didn’t say that if you like dancing and choreography that you should be an animator or illustrator for video games focused on fitness and dance. We also didn’t say that with a pretty good foundation in math and science you might launch your own business and be your own boss, an entrepreneur. No, we forgot about our little sisters and continued to show images of men in tech wearing plaid shirts, glasses stuffed in their front pockets, unkempt hair styles, and devoid of diverse skin colors.

Girls Who Code panoramic view NYC

300 Girls Who Code members in NYC

So, as I watch 300 young ladies in Times Square on the red TKTS steps, I marvel at the revolution that is just beginning to take hold since I received my degree in computer science. Not only do I well up with pride to see GIRLS beaming with excitement on this day, a day when Girls Who Code gets exclusive access to Microsoft, our people, our offices and a panel of stellar women in tech, but I marvel at the sheer number of young high school enthusiasts who are pushing the boundaries to learn computer coding inclusive of all things like video game development, web development, UX design, robotics, as well as the core computer algorithms and programming. What a fortunate opportunity to host these young ladies and participate on a speaking panel of all women: the founder of Girls Who Code, the first CTO for NYC, a former producer of ABC television shows who is now the CEO of a venture capital firm, and Hillary Clinton’s technology lead for her political campaign… I had to pinch myself and say, really? Look at all of this wonderful girl power, I can still feel the energy in the room as it holds no bounds for these young women!

GWCNYC in Times Square

300 young ladies in Times Square on the TKTS “red steps”

Seeing hundreds of girls on the “red steps” and bringing them into the 11TS office of Microsoft signified for me that we’re finally, finally on our way. OK, so it may have taken 25 years to get the message out and build the coalition that is so needed, but I am very proud to know that Reshma and Girls Who Code did what I failed to do; rise up and hold out my hand.

Girls Who Code DC and Donna

Girls Who Code DC and Donna Woodall

I’m so proud to be at Microsoft who recognizes the importance of computer science and coding skills as a means to empower all people, and particularly the young ladies and women who participate in programs like Girls Who Code. I still don’t know why I didn’t start Girls Who Code, but I am certainly glad to be a part of the technology revolution and putting an emphasis on getting more girls engaged in C.S. and tech careers. I think we are finally making a real impact on uniting girls in the tech world! Hmmm ….. maybe that’s what I’ll call my next endeavor: ‘UNITED for CODE’ 🙂

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Modeling NYC Subway Flow and School Districts’ Effect on Housing Value

Justin Rao and Jake Hofman coordinate the Data Science Summer School program, hosted and sponsored by Microsoft Research. Each year, dedicated students spend their summer learning how to conduct research thanks to a network of researchers, mentors, and advisors. All of the course materials are openly and freely available on Github.

Tonight, we’re celebrating the program’s second class. Last year’s students researched questions about racial profiling in New York City and how to optimize the city’s bikeshare system.

Subways

New York City Subway data visualized

The first team, consisting of Eiman, Shannon, Riva, and Steven, studied the New York City subway system. They were interested in how people travel on complex transit networks, and classifying stations based on turnstile data. The system’s 468 stations serve approximately 6 million trips per weekday. The team took data from the MTA’s General Transit Feed Specification data and MTA turnstile data, but had to exclude PATH, LIRR, NJT, and Staten Island Railroad systems due to incomplete data.

There are 30% more entries than exits in the data due to New Yorkers’ habit of using the more accessible emergency exit door. New Yorkers also travel less on Mondays and Fridays, as well as holidays and during major snowstorms. The data required significant cleaning to balance entries and exits and match station names across the datasets.

Different stations serve different purposes in the city. The team categorized over 400 subway stations as commercial stations, residential stations, or link stations, based on the ratio of daytime to nighttime entries and exits. Residential stations serve roughly 1,000 fewer entries per hour (~400 per hour) than commercial stations (~1,500 per hour). Grand Central alone serves over 188,000 daily exits. As you might guess, the commercial stations serve Manhattan south of 59th Street, while residential stations cover the rest of the city, with a few exceptions for military bases, car dealerships, and other outliers.

Next, the team constructed a network graph to visualize the flow of activity through the stations. Nodes were train stations, edges were rail links between adjacent stations, and the cost is the time it takes to travel from one station to another based on schedules. The resulting adjacency matrix is a rat’s nest (sorry) of stations, improved by adding the stations’ geocoordinates.

One finding is that 14th Street Union Square has 10 neighboring adjacent stations, while Times Square, the most trafficked station, has only 7.

The team estimated demand of inflow and outflow, and computed minimum cost flow, where demand is satisfied while minimizing the previously defined cost. They chose Grand Central Station as the center of the visualization. The algorithm identifies high flow corridors. In the mornings, the flow is generally inbound to Grand Central, with the exception of flow down to Lower Manhattan.

Next, they wanted to model population flow. US Census data only shows residential population, which wouldn’t work for New York’s immense number of commuters. Combined with the commuter data, we can watch Census tracts empty or swell throughout the day based on commuting patterns. The team suggests applications such as correcting stop and frisk activity for an area’s current population, or studying disease spread in epidemiology.

Q: Has anything you’ve learned change how you use the subway?

A: “I definitely don’t use the [emergency] exit doors anymore”.

“I don’t know if Midtown is fire-safe”.


Schools

New York City School District

The second data science team sought to understand the relationship between housing values and the quality of the school district in which they’re situated. It’s comprised of Glenda, Thomas, Nikki, and Anastassiya.

The New York City school system is the largest in the country, with over 1 million students. It has some of the best schools, and some of the worst, depending where you live. The team looked at test scores and plotted it relative to the rest of the state. The result is a huge disparity, between boroughs like the Bronx and Queens, and within boroughs like Manhattan. They took shapefiles and plotted school performance on a map of New York by color.

PS111 performed worse than 60% of all schools in the state, where as PS59 performed better than 99.2% of all state elementary schools. They are a ten minute walk from one another on 53rd and 56th streets.

This is where school district boundaries can make or break your child’s education. Park Slope recently redrew their lines, stoking parents’ anxieties.

The team compared high-performing school zones to housing values. In an ideal experiment, they’d sell identical apartments in two different school districts. Instead the looked at historical sales value data by scraping StreetEasy, a major NYC-area real estate website. The data wasn’t perfect — apparently you can have a negative number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

They wrote a Python script to geocode the addresses with the NYC GeoClient API. They computed and displayed the latitude, longitude, school, and price per square foot for each home. 40,000 distinct sales produced 10,000 sales with complete data mappable to known school zones.

Apartment prices alone illustrate huge disparities in New York: $110 per square foot in Woodlawn, Bronx vs. $3,393 per square foot around Central Park South. When plotted against school performance, there’s a correlation between price and competitive schools, but the relationship is conflated by other factors like neighborhood quality and location. We can’t confidently say that price per square foot increases only because of school quality.

So how do we isolate the school zone premium? If we had infinite data, we’d simply subtract the average sale price in neighboring zones from the average sale price in the school zone. With limited data, the team had to build a model to estimate, and fit a linear model to predict sale price per square foot. They used regularization to select important features and avoid unreliable estimates of sales in the given areas. They took into account the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, demographics, test scores, and neighborhood, as well as the interactions between the number of bedrooms and the school (to capture families vs. studios).

The median absolute deviation for all boroughs was $103 per square foot, but it varied by borough: $48.99 in the Bronx and $138.48 in Manhattan. The model accurately captures average home price within each school zone.

The team zoomed in on Park Slope to identify school-based premiums. They found a premium of $84 per square foot for residencies in PS 321’s school district vs. those in PS 282, despite PS 282 being closer to the Atlantic Ave subway hub. Repeating the same procedure in each school district, they find that you do pay less to live in a school district with poorer test scores.

The result? New York City’s schools demonstrate extreme inequality, often over small geographic areas.

The information is compelling, but static, so the team built an interactive app where you can enter your address and number of bedrooms and bathrooms to see the price average, median price, and premium price (positive or negative) in each of the city’s school zones:

https://nycschoolcost.shinyapps.io/premium_map

Screenshot (38)

Girls Who Code Takes Over New York City

Girls are taking over New York.

Or, at least, that’s what happened this Friday, when hundreds of Girls Who Code members took over Times Square to celebrate girls in STEM education. In a day that included plenty of talks and activities at our Times Square HQ, we took the team out to celebrate and spread the word that Girls Can!

Here are some of the top tweets of the day. You can find more by searching #GWCNYC and #GirlsCan on Twitter. Be sure to follow @GirlsWhoCode and @GirlsWhoCodeNYC!

To learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to youth and education, visit our YouthSpark Hub or follow us on twitter at @msftcitizenship.

Fellow Profile: Emma Smith

Emma Akari SmithWhere are you from? I’m from New York City, born and raised!

Where do you study? When will you graduate? I go to the University of Chicago, class of 2017, majoring in CS with a minor in molecular engineering.

Wow, that sounds rather demanding! Were you always interested in tech? Actually, I started as a political science major but at some point I just realized that I could be more directly involved in improving the world as a programmer than as a political actor. Experiences like my work here at Microsoft and last year at MODA (Mayor’s Office of Data Anlaytics) have certainly strengthened that belief!

And how did you end up at MODA? My interest in politics drove me to work with the DeBlasio mayoral campaign working on graphics. After that, I was able to get a summer job working with MODA where I got to do a lot of really cool work with city data.

How did you get involved with Civic Tech team? I’ve been skipping around the Civic Tech scene in various ways out in Chicago and here in NYC in the past couple years. The thing is, I didn’t really know I was involved in this thing called Civic Tech! I knew that I was interested in the intersection between policy and technology, but I didn’t know that intersection existed in a defined way. Then I met John who crystallized things for me. He really helped define the value and role of civic tech for me and once that seed had been planted I just had to get more involved!

What is your favorite thing Microsoft is doing? I know this isn’t the most popular answer but I’m a huge fan of BizSpark. I think it’s really important to support early stage startups and it’s great to see Microsoft stepping up and giving these organizations the resources they need to grow and succeed. It’s really great to encourage that kind of collaboration within the industry.

And what are you working on at Microsoft now? I was initially involved with Civic Graph, our tool for connecting everyone working in the Civic Tech ecosystem, but now I’m more focused on expanding Microsoft’s involvement with the Maker movement. This is really important to me because I feel that the more you empower people to build things, the more innovative problem solving we’ll see spring from our communities. It’s hard to overstate the importance of inspired invention. I’m really excited to see what people will build with the resources we’re looking to give them.

What has been your funniest memory on the team so far? Perhaps this isn’t the most serious answer but there was a really funny moment that happened during LMHQ’s opening week. A news crew came in asking to film us so Hessvacio started pretending to write stuff on the wall. He just started writing random things that didn’t make sense but looked vaguely technical. Anyways, the next day we were appearing on a local news cast somewhere in Arizona. I guess their technical literacy was a little lacking!

What are some civic tech ideas you would like to see developed? I would love to see someone use technology to help allocate resources in education. Specifically pre-k – 12th grade. I think there are myriad opportunities to look at improving resources available for parents to evaluate schools and for schools to improve the learning experience for students and educators through technology. The relationship between technology and education is one of the more interesting opportunities today in tech as far as I’m concerned.

Any dreams for what you want to do 10 years down the line? Honestly, it’d be impossible for me to say. Two years ago I was a political junkie with no interest in becoming a programmer. Now I’m a programmer and a Maker. Who knows what I’ll be doing in another 2 years! I’m just focusing on my job and graduating!

Civic Tech Events This August

Civic Tech Events This August

The summer is heating up and August is upon us. That means it’s time for a new slate of civic tech events here in New York City. So get out of the heat and go to one of the many events happening around the city. Here’re just a few of our favorite’s coming up this month. You might notice that the second two weeks are pretty slow. Enjoy that body of water you’re visiting!

August 4: Observations from Shanghai with Clay Shirky at Civic Hall: Join renowned tech author and friend of Civic Hall, Clay Shirky, as he discusses civic media in China, and what it might mean for other countries to provide a model of high communicative freedom and low political freedom.

August 4: School is Out, Party is in: NYEdTech Summer Mixer at LMHQ: Join us for NYEdTech’s Summer Mixer to mingle and share what you’ve been up to over drinks and light refreshments.

August 4: NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty at NYU Skirball: Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York. We’ll have live demos followed by a networking after party.

August 5: Give us the Ballot at Civic Hall: Join New America NYC on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act for a timely conversation with some of the country’s leading civil rights experts on the modern struggle for voting rights and what it means for our understanding of freedom and democracy in America.

August 5: BetaNYC Civic Hacknight at Civic Hall: Come enjoy this weekly event bringing together the most innovative people in civic tech for a night of collaboration and networking.

August 5: Mobile Growth Hackers Meetup at LMHQ: Join fellow mobile app developers, marketers, and entrepreneurs for an in-depth look at best practices to help drive growth for your mobile app.

August 6: PlayCrafting NYC Special Israeli Developer Showcase: Join Playcrafting and the Israel Economic Mission in welcoming game companies visiting from Israel in a special event showing off some interesting projects from abroad! The evening will feature live talks and demos from each developer as well as refreshments and time for networking.

August 6: The Future of the Internet – Is It In the Hands of the United Nations?: Join leaders of ICANN, the Internet corporation for assigned names and numbers, for a United Nations WSIS+10 review and implications for businesses, government and civil society.

August 10: Downtown Tech Community Summer Social with Dev Bootcamp at LMHQ: Join us to celebrate a new generation of web developers who are changing the face of technology in New York City. Hear enlightening talks from Dev Bootcamp graduates about how they changed their lives and energized their careers by learning to code, learn about and network with organizations and companies who are building new opportunities in the tech space like Girl Develop It, Code Montage, Two Weeks Notice and Write/Speak/Code.

August 13: NY: Startup Institute TalentExpo – Summer 2015: Looking to build your team or meet the hottest, hiring startups in New York? Then come join Startup Institute for their New York TalentExpo featuring 60-second pitches from their amazing students.

August 18: Playcrafting NYC 8 Week Unity Course with Kurt Bieg: This info session will preview topics from Kurt Bieg’s 8 Week Unity Course, occuring every Monday and Wednesday from September 9th to November 2nd. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet Kurt and find out more about the course! Bring any questions or concerns you may have about signing up.

August 20: Blue Ridge Labs Product Showcase: Join Blue Ridge Labs on August 20th to see what their 15 fellows have built and hear what they’ve learned in the process. Fellow technologies reimagine how New Yorkers might find additional work, pay for college, access social services, and much more. Plus, audience members get a say, voting for special awards.

August 27: PlayCrafting NYC August Demo & Play NightPlaycrafting NYC is the place to see the newest independent games being built in New York and network with the people who built them. Each month, they get together to watch awesome live game demos and play each game with the developers behind them. Join the community of game developers, designers, creatives, investors and more building across multiple platforms and genres. Enjoy complimentary beer, wine and gourmet pizza as you meet the developers and network with game professionals from throughout our community.

August 27: Discovering Cybersecurity as the next trillion-dollar industry: This event will explore the exciting emergence of cyber security as a booming, and possibly contentious, segment of the broader tech industry. Enjoy the opportunity to network with others working in the space and learn more about how startups are rising to the challenge of designing secure systems in the 21st century.