September 2015

TEALS Volunteer Spotlight – Miki Friedmann

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a $75 million investment in the company’s YouthSpark initiative last week, focused on computer science education. As part of this announcement, Microsoft will also expand its Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program starting Fall 2015, which enables professionals in the tech industry to volunteer and partner with teachers to start computer science programs in high schools. In celebration, we are featuring local teachers in the TEALS program to learn more about how to bring computer science programs to more schools.
 
In New York, TEALS is running programs in Academy for Environmental Leadership, Achievement First Brooklyn High School, Acorn Community High School, Churchill School & Center, Dewitt Clinton High School, East-West School of International Studies, Expeditionary Learning School For Community Leader, Fredrick Douglas Academy, Fredrick Douglas Academy Iv Secondary School, George Westinghouse Career & Technical Ed High School, Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics, High School For Global Citizenship, Millennium Brooklyn High School, The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, School For Human Rights, The High School for Language and Diplomacy, The Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem and Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School, and we are always looking to expand!

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I distinctly remember the afternoon in high school physics when I decided that one day, some 20+ years into my career, I’d strike a deal with my employer to teach one class at the local high school in the middle of the day. The idea of being taught by someone with real-world experience intrigued me, but more so, I imagined that a professional would bring fresh excitement and enthusiasm about their field in a way that a classroom teacher simply could not.  Little did I know, just three years into my career, I would already have a chance to accomplish what I had considered a pipe dream.

TEALS gives engineers the opportunity to teach and inspire young students at a critical time before most determine what they want to do when they grow up.  The curricula offered by TEALS range widely, from Intro to CS, which makes use of the graphical programming language, Snap!, to Advanced Placement Computer Science in java.  Nevertheless, the goal of both classes is the same: expose students to computer science fundamentals, and ignite their curiosity early, so that when they do start thinking about what they want to do, some will consider Computer Science.

The year 2015 is not a bad time for students to double-down on computer science.  Software engineering ranks in the top ten “happiest” professions year after year, with employees citing comfortable work environments and thoughtful, creative atmospheres.  At the same time, companies across industries are starving for well-qualified engineers in the United States, combining for tens of thousands of unfilled well-paying software jobs each year.  Teaching students the fundamentals of computer science before they’ve already committed to a major in college can very well set them up for a stable work in an otherwise challenging job market.

Just this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City of New York formally recognized the opportunity that Computer Science provides, by calling for every NYC public school to offer a computer science class by 2025.  With so many classroom teachers to train in the next few years, TEALS will be needed in NYC more than ever.

Miki Friedmann is a Software Engineer at Facebook who teaches computer science at George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School as part of the Microsoft TEALS program. After graduating from UPenn, Miki started his career as a software engineer with Amazon and now Facebook.  All the while, he’s had an itch for education.  In 2013, Miki learned about TEALS and volunteered at their first California school in South LA.  Since then, he’s moved to NYC, co-taught an AP class in NY, and is now starting to teach an intro course at George Westinghouse HS.

Join Us for the 2015 Code for America Summit!

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How can we transform government?

That’s the main question behind Code for America’s mission. Across the country, government workers are banding together to use technology to better their civic practices and keep our communities strong.

That’s why we’re excited to join Code for America (CfA) for their annual summit in Oakland. The 2015 CfA Summit brings together some of the nation’s top leaders in government, civic technology, community organizing, design and more in a chance to share ideas, inspire others, and work together to make great things. And we’re lucky to have one of our own names, Adam Hecktman, leading a panel on data visualization.

We want you to join us in the spirit of CfA summit — as Annmarie Levins mentioned in her call for action to make the most of Open Government Data, we want to collaborate on new ideas with as many people as possible. Let’s use our skills and passion to empower communities.

Local speakers include:

  • Jaron Benjamin, Vice President of Community Mobilization & National Advocacy, HousingWorks
  • Amen Ra Mashariki, Chief Analytics Officer, City of New York
  • Ariel Kennan, Director of Innovation and Design, New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations
  • Brian Platt, Director of Innovation, City of Jersey City

There is still time to register for the summit! Buy your ticket now at this link.

Can’t join us in Oakland? Participate in the conversation online by following @codeforamerica, @MicrosoftNY, and #CfASummit on Twitter.

Together, we can transform government for the 21st Century.

#BackToSchool: Intro to NYC Civic Tech Community

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Whether you’re an incoming freshman in an NYC college or a life-long New Yorker looking to get involved with civic tech, it can be overwhelming trying to get a handle on the NYC civic tech community. 

Below are a few public events that make it easy to get involved. First, we’ll go through some recurring meetups and events that have become staples of the NY civic tech scene. These events are open to the public and welcoming. Then, we’ll look at how to find the events that interest you.

Just show up to a few events, shake some hands, and become a part of the NYC civic tech family! 

Recurring Meetups and Events 

1. Civic Hacknight with BetaNYC
Wednesdays at 7pm, changing location
Learn more at: http://www.meetup.com/betanyc/

BetaNYC describes itself as a “weekly project night for technologists, designers, developers, data scientists, map makers, and activists who are working on ‘civic technology’ projects.” 

2. NY Tech Meetup
Monthly, Wednesdays at 7pm, NYU Skirball Center For The Performing Arts
Learn more at: http://www.meetup.com/ny-tech/

NY Tech Meetup is a monthly event consisting of a night of NY-based tech company demos, proceeded by a networking session for attendees and presenters.

3. BigApps events
Events hosted throughout the duration of the NYC BigApps competition.
Learn about events at http://bigapps.nyc/p/blog/ and about BigApps at http://bigapps.nyc/p/how-it-works/

NYC BigApps is a five-month civic tech initiative hosted by the City of New York. This year, BigApps is hosting four challenges, asking everyone from developers to designers to entrepreneurs to try their hand at building solutions for crucial city problems. Throughout the challenge, BigApps hosts various events related to civic tech throughout the city, from panels to workshops to hands-on activities. 

How to Find Cool Events and Workshops

Online resources are extremely helpful in figuring out upcoming NY civic tech events. For starters, the below three sites usually have a great array of relevant programming: 

Checking out upcoming programming at key locations can also reveal awesome events. Try taking a look at the schedules of: 

And of course, membership at any of the above spaces will allow you further opportunities and more chances to meet amazing people! 

Playcrafting & Square Enix teaming up for huge showcase of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Just Cause 3!

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Playcrafting NYC is excited to partner with Square Enix and Microsoft for a very special edition of our monthly Demo & Play Night! Join us for live demos and playtime with two of the hottest titles coming to Xbox One this year. Developers from Crystal Dynamics will be on hand to showcase the all-new Rise of the Tomb Raider. And Avalanche Studios will be showing the next installment in the hit series Just Cause 3. We’ll have complimentary pizza and beverages as well as giveaways and swag!

Playcrafting NYC
For the past three years, Playcrafting has hosted its monthly Demo & Play Nights at Microsoft in New York. As the game development community has grown, so has the scope of Playcrafting’s services for developers and those looking to become developers. This Demo & Play Night will be the biggest one to date, featuring 400 attendees from inside and outside the game industry. The evening will feature live demo presentations of the games as well as time to try them out and mingle with the developers over complimentary pizza and beverages. And don’t miss our epic after party, featuring independent games made in the New York area!

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Playcrafting began in 2009 as a Meetup group for developers to show off their games and meet other developers. For the first couple of years, monthly Demo & Play Nights were all that were provided. In the years since, it has grown to now provide about 20 big events, 80 classes, and 4 multi-week courses per year in New York alone. With a branch in Boston and another coming to San Francisco in 2016, join us in celebrating our biggest Demo & Play yet in celebration of New York’s growing community of talented game developers.

We hope to see you there! RSVP here.

About Playcrafting

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Playcrafting empowers the game development community through education, networking, and collaboration. We offer workshops, classes, courses and events for game developers and those aspiring to make games in topics including game design, programming, art, business, and more.

Founded in 2009 as the New York Gaming Meetup, Playcrafting has since grown to over 8,000 members in New York and Boston. Between our flagship quarterly Expos, monthly Demo & Play Nights, quarterly 8 week courses, and 10 classes and workshops per month, Playcrafting helps game developer communities succeed. Best of all, our instructors are talented local developers actively making games. A Playcrafting education not only provides the skills needed to succeed as a game developer but also puts money directly into the local game industry.

Civic Tech in the Motor City at Techonomy Detroit

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The very first session at Techonomy Detroit is “Can We Hack Our Way to the Cities We Need?”. Techonomy’s been doing this event in Detroit for four years now, since “before the Whole Foods.” David Kirkpatrick, the event organizer, suggests that something fundamentally new is going on with civic tech. The panel features Dan’l Lewin of Microsoft, Thomas Ermacora of Clear-Village.org (@termacora), Jon Gosier of Cross Valley Capital (@jongos), and Beth Niblock, Detroit’s CIO (@DetroitCIO).

Dan’l Lewin starts from a technology perspective. Since 1975, the microprocessor and ensuing mobility revolution have created the conditions that allow phenomena like civic tech, where data-rich civil information becomes a form of ambient intelligence. The goal is for the technology to fade away – eventually even into the very fabric of our clothing – while remaining useful.

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Dan’l’s Tech & Civic Engagement group is a small and strategic group at Microsoft. They chose a few key places to start, like Chicago. The partnership there, UI LABS (standing for University Industry) will take on projects that are 6-24 months in duration and designed with relevant communities (not off-the-shelf solutions). An example project involves bringing sensors to updating the city’s sewage infrastructure. The initial apps will show the edge cases of what’s possible, and out of that experimentation, Dan’l sees more formulaic problem-solving to follow.

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Beth Niblock, Detroit’s CIO, came to the City of Detroit as part of a group that the Obama Administration sent to meet about technology. She says there was a strong existing civic tech community in place, partially because the government wasn’t functioning, so these groups had to step in and serve the city.

In February, the City announced its open data portal, supported by the Socrata Foundation. The city was in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings, but some city offices were still running Windows XP, while others didn’t have PCs at all. The basic technology landscape in the city was very outdated, but they also understood the immediate need to support the modern civic tech community. Deputy Director Garlin Gilchrist II to work on open data exclusively. They’re up to over a hundred open data sets, with assessor imagery coming soon. They feel strongly that information is power, and if the city doesn’t put its information out for citizen groups to use, they’re retaining all the power. Neighborhood groups are consuming the open data “like crazy”. The Chief of Police has been thrilled when, in his regular meetings with community groups, the community has already seen their data, is conversant in its descriptions, and can generally engage at a whole new level as citizens in a way that makes it easier to have a shared conversation.

Beth’s battle now is to keep the archaic legacy systems alive while they update and upgrade them over time.

Jon Gosier sees civic tech culture as a point of inclusion between the city and its citizens that lead the movements. Philadelphia, where Jon’s from, created one of the first Chief Data Officer positions, filled by Mark Headd. He saw the struggle between wanting to do cutting edge work and fighting a resistance to change. The culture of using technology to improve cities and peoples’ lives is the key. Global cities like Nairobi and Kumpala are leading the way with some of the most interesting work, with cities like Detroit and Philadelphia implementing the same technologies years later. In both environments, it’s the citizens’ power and ability to address their own problems from their perspective, and governments have recognized this as a resource.

Sharp Insight, a Knight News Challenge winner in Philadelphia, is working to enfranchise communities, and help them understand the importance of what they’re giving up by not participating in elections. People who have been in prison can get back their rigiht to vote over time, for example. 5.6M Mexican Americans are living here legally, but without becoming naturalized citizens, meaning a huge potential voting bloc is going unheard.

Thomas Ermacora spends a lot of time in Europe. His forthcoming book, Recoded City, describes how communities can rejuvenate shared places.

Thomas is concerned with artificial intelligence right around the corner, we should accelerate the process of using open data while we can, before the crawlers and bots use these data to make decisions on our behalf, without community involvement. It’s not about control of the data, he says, but about how those data are used to make meaning. There’s no malevolence necessary for it to happen. There’s more data to be had, but we need more citizen groups that can make use of these data.

Dan’l adds on. Microsoft has funded independent academic research looking into potential problems with widely heralded tech solutions. Consider police bodycams. They’re being advertised as the answer to police brutality, but will bodycams also demand full enforcement of infractions that officers previously had discretion to let go? People suffering domestic abuse could hesitate to call the police if they don’t know what will happen to the video recording of the incident.

Thomas makes the point that cities have big players and minute players, but few medium-sized groups that serve both the haves and the have-nots in the community. In cities like London, the cost of living has pushed even the affluent out of the city center. Thomas’s challenge is, can we develop cultural excellence outside of our city centers? He’s working to develop cultural bridges between the center and the outer parts of cities.

Microsoft announces global expansion of YouthSpark–focusing on computer science

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Today at DreamForce, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a 3-year, $75 million investment in our YouthSpark initiative to increase access to computer science education for all youth, and especially for those from under-represented backgrounds. Over the next three years, Microsoft will deliver on this commitment through cash grants and nonprofit partnerships, as well as unique program and content offerings, to increase access to computer science and computational thinking for diverse populations of youth.

One of the flagship programs is Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), which pairs tech professionals from across the industry with classroom educators to team-teach computer science in U.S. high schools.  TEALS aims to grow five-fold in the next three years, with the goal of working with 2,000 tech industry volunteers to reach 30,000 students in nearly 700 schools across 33 states. Recently, we featured New York TEALS Volunteer Jim Steinberger on our blog—learn more about their experience here.

To learn more about Microsoft’s new commitment, visit the Microsoft News Center.

To hear Satya’s comments, click here.

TEALS Volunteer Spotlight – Jim Steinberger

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced a $75 million investment in the company’s YouthSpark initiative today, focused on computer science education. As part of this announcement, Microsoft will also expand its Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program starting Fall 2015, which enables professionals in the tech industry to volunteer and partner with teachers to start computer science programs in high schools. In celebration, we are featuring local teachers in the TEALS program to learn more about how to bring computer science programs to more schools.
 
In New York, TEALS is running programs in Academy for Environmental Leadership, Achievement First Brooklyn High School, Acorn Community High School, Churchill School & Center, Dewitt Clinton High School, East-West School of International Studies, Expeditionary Learning School For Community Leader, Fredrick Douglas Academy, Fredrick Douglas Academy Iv Secondary School, George Westinghouse Career & Technical Ed High School, Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics, High School For Global Citizenship, Millennium Brooklyn High School, The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, School For Human Rights, The High School for Language and Diplomacy, The Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, The Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem and Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School, and we are always looking to expand!

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I was a teenager in 1990s suburban Detroit, possibly the first human able/willing to “sing” along to the entire dial-up modem handshake “song” when connecting to America Online.  My eyes were opening up to the World Wide Web at the same time they were opening up to the world in general; I’ve felt naturally at home on a computer ever since.  I was a 15-year-old volunteer helping run a game on AOL, with coworkers my age or in their 50s, hailing from Hawaii to London to Germany to Australia.  This was magic to me; I loved the landscape, and wanted to help flesh it out with my own creations.

Thus, halfway through high school, I knew I wanted to go into computer science.  How lucky to feel so sure so early!  There were just two tiny problems: 1) I didn’t actually know what computer science was, and 2) there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for me to find out.

I knew I was enamored with Sandra Bullock ordering pizza online in The Net, and Alicia Silverstone diverting Mr. Freeze’s satellites in Batman and Robin, but I had never actually programmed anything myself, and couldn’t envision myself doing it.  Meanwhile, my high school didn’t really offer serious programming classes, and made it impossible for me to fit those into my schedule with the other courses I was required to take in addition to my college prep schedule.  If AP Computer Science had been a possibility, I’d have leapt at that opportunity and probably thrived.  I didn’t even know AP Computer Science was a thing until my senior year, at which point I tried to take it as a correspondence course—but it was too expensive.  I ended up taking night classes at a community college to cobble together /some/ experience before college.

As a result, my first year of college was tougher than it should have been.  It seemed like everyone had been programming since middle school; I felt out of my league.  I had enough natural aptitude to fight through and do well, but two things were clear to me even as a college freshman.  First, I could have done so much more with a better head start.  And second, I was a middle-class white male who’d had my own computer as a teenager … I did have a head start!

This is why TEALS is so important to me.  I’m in a position to give computer science exposure to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have it.  To kids who need that exposure far more than I did.

Jim Steinberger is a Software Architect at DonorsChoose.org. He teaches Computer Science at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, and has taught previously at the East-West School of International Studies, as part of the Microsoft TEALS program. With a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, and a firm yet eyes-wide-open belief in public education, Jim has been working toward a fruitful marriage between career and passion. His involvement with TEALS has been a strong complement to his work at DonorsChoose.org, an online charity connecting citizen donors to public school classrooms in need.

Bing Pulse partners with CNN to let GOP Debate viewers provide real-time feedback

CNN Debate with Bing Pulse

Microsoft’s Bing Pulse, a tool that enables anyone, anywhere on any device to vote, engage, participate in a live event or broadcast, will be integrated into CNN’s broadcast coverage of tonight’s Republican Presidential Primary debate, allowing viewers to provide real-time feedback throughout the event. Tune into CNN at 6pm and 8pm ET to join the conversation and vote at http://www.bing.com/cnn. 

bing_pulse_yellow on transparent logoWant to hear more? Visit the Bing Pulse blog and follow @BingPulse on Twitter.

Fellow Profile: David Lorente

David Lorente was a Microsoft Civic Tech Fellow during our 2015 summer term.

David LorenteWhere are you from? I’m from Barcelona, Spain.

Where/what did you study? When did you graduate? I studied audio engineering back when I was in Spain.

How did you get involved in tech in general? I have always been interested in computers and technology, but what really sparked my interest was living in San Francisco and working for a startup. I observed how people were really changing the world with technology, and I wanted to be a part of it on a deeper level. Later, I became involved with that whole bitcoin thing, and it was like an addiction. I started to build my own computers, and I wanted to build my own apps after that.

Why did you decide to move to America? I love to travel, and after I graduated I wanted to travel the world and experience other cultures. I lived in London for a while, then moved to the bay Area, but I really just wanted to move to New York. It was always in my mind. New York felt like the center of everything. And when I finally made it here, it really felt like “home.”

Any comment on the tech scene in Spain? In my personal opinion, I think New York and San Francisco definitely have a more vibrant tech scene than Spain. I think that has a lot to do with the startup culture here, which allows new technologies to flourish. Spain doesn’t really have that same type of culture: there’s definitely entrepreneurs and startups over there, but they lack a lot of resources. That being said, there are pockets of Spain that have a really interesting tech scene. Barcelona even has a whole neighborhood dedicated to technology.

How did you get involved with the Microsoft Civic Tech Team? I really wanted to help society out in some way, to change whatever city I lived in for the better, and I found out about Microsoft Civic Tech through the Flatiron School. When the Flatiron School told me about Microsoft Civic Tech, I thought it was a perfect match for me.

What projects are you working on as part of the team? I’m working mostly on the code behind civic graph, a civic tech network visualization, to help understand the connections between individuals, non-profits, government and for-profits.

What’s your favorite Microsoft technology? Microsoft Health and Microsoft Band. Basically, it’s a platform to collect data from all our daily activities: exercises, eating habits, sleep patterns… the exciting part is then applying machine learning to all this data to predict health risks or to help improve our health.

What issues are you most passionate about? Helping the impoverished/people without resources is big on my list. I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and my dream is to build an app that would help out society in some way.

What is your “Mad-Scientist” idea? I like the idea of cloning our brains into a computer, as a way to achieve digital immortality. That’s definitely the maddest idea. I also dream about hoverboards in Central Park, of course.

What would you like to do next? I have no plans, but I definitely want to be in a place where I can use my tech skills to improve society.

What has been your favorite/funniest moment working at Microsoft? Funniest moment was probably when we participated in a tree count as part of a hackathon. There are a few funny anecdotes from that day, from people asking us to cut the branches of the trees in front of their homes, to other people getting infuriated at us as they thought we were about to cut the trees. Also, being part of the fellowship has given me the chance to assist to a lot of interesting talks and meet a lot of people, which is great.

Without using your name, what key words would someone use to find you on Bing? Hacker, musician, activist, Brooklyn.

Fellow Profile: Ashley Southerland

Ashley SoutherlandWhere are you from? I grew up all over the Bronx but I most identify with my time living in the South Bronx and Harlem. That’s where I have my deepest community ties.

Where/what did you study? When did you graduate? I graduated this past May with a degree in Environmental Studies from the College of New Rochelle School of Arts & Sciences. I really appreciated the way they catered to my academic interests, specifically environmental issues in urban regions.

How did you get involved with the Microsoft Civic Tech Team? I worked closely with Majora Carter of the Majora Carter Group as the local business development associate. This was a project to improve foot traffic of the Hunts Point area in the South Bronx, enhance the aesthetic of the neighborhood with community art projects, and ultimately revitalize the local economy. This was back in 2011 and Majora has been a wonderful mentor to me since. This past year, knowing I was about to graduate, she forwarded the opportunity to pursue this fellowship. I was excited about the program so she recommended me to John.

How did you get involved in tech in general? This fellowship has been my gateway into technology. I couldn’t think of a better way to apply my passion for improving the quality of human life. I’ve been able to draw on the skills and knowledge of our diverse team to find new ways to address environmental challenges in our cities using technology.

What projects are you working on as part of the team? I spent the majority of my fellowship working on Tech Jobs Academy (TJA). TJA is a public-private partnership between Tech Talent Pipeline, CUNY City Tech, and Microsoft designed to give un- and underemployed New York City residents skills and training in IT services. I enjoy being the liaison between the public and private stakeholders and working with diverse perspectives to make this project a success.

What’s your favorite Microsoft technology? I really like Skype Translator. It’s making information accessible to people who previously wouldn’t have access. The best way to improve a community is to make information accessible so I’m excited to see how Skype Translator can help address that.

What issues are you most passionate about? I’m most passionate about bringing opportunities to disenfranchised communities. Where we live is essential in shaping how we view the world around us and is largely tied to our socio-economic status. I’m deeply invested in providing the resources to bridge the divide between those who have easy access to opportunity and those for whom opportunity has long been a struggle to obtain.

What is your “Mad-Scientist” idea? My mad-scientist idea is not that mad when you think about it. The Green Way Plan, published in 1993, is a network of bike paths, parks, and waterfront restoration projects to diversify the way New Yorkers travel around their city. Why not incorporate technology so that you can see the story of the neighborhoods you travel through? It would revolutionize the way tourists and residents alike experience New York City.

What would you like to do next? I’d like to explore the application of technology in urban design with a focus on facilitating non-traditional public place making. I want to partner with non-profits, developers, and city planners who focus on environmental sustainability and public health and reform our environment ethic in New York City. I think there is so much more we should be considering and I want to be a part of that conversation.

Without using your name, what key words would someone use to find you on Bing? Urban revitalization, passionate, “Started from the bottom”