NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair Brings STEM to Students

Last week, we partnered with CSNYC, Computer Science for All, the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS), and others to sponsor New York’s largest annual college and career inspiration event for CS-oriented public high school students. The fourth annual NYC Computer Science Opportunity Fair hosted over 2,000 students from 60 schools across all five boroughs as well as 90 companies, colleges, and extracurricular programs. Invited students were chosen based on their participation in TEALS, NYC CS4All, and other CS and career and technical education programs. The program’s aimed to excite students about the myriad of educational and professional opportunities that often result from a CS education. By showcasing the culture & products of leading tech companies, the fair nurtures the aspirations of blossoming young technologists.

Colleges, companies, and various extracurricular programs demonstrated the experiences of project-building in academic and workforce environments. Relevant CS departments exhibited current and past research projects and informed students about offerings within their respective programs. Our exhibit booth featured an interactive gaming station as well as the opportunity to Skype with a Microsoft engineer. Most notably popular was our Intelligent Kiosk demo, which used the suite of Cognitive Services APIs to guess students’ ages and emotion relayed via facial expression. HoloLens experiences were also offered for students who wanted to try out augmented reality.

As students perused booths, they had the option to scan their badge’s QR code by staffers. After the fair, students could then use their badge to log into the fair’s web portal and view info about each booth visited. Each check-in was worth an entry in the event’s CS raffle, which awarded prizes periodically during the event. Prizes ranged from gift cards to class visits to prominent tech companies. Microsoft submitted two Xbox One units to be raffled off. Check-ins proved to be hugely popular; By the end of the fair, students had checked into booths 8,100 times!

A very excited winner of an XBox One (photo via csfair.nyc)

Various guest speakers also came in throughout the day for a series of networking, panels, and tech talks. Participating groups included the Tech Leaders Panel, CS@College Panels, Music and Tech Panels, and Lightning Talks. Lightning talk speakers discussed entrepreneurship, data modeling/visualization, computer vision, cloud solutions, online privacy, user research, product management, and more.

Microsoft Tech Evangelist, Adina Shanholtz, demoing HoloLens (photo via csfair.nyc)

Students who wanted more hands-on activities could put their tech skills to work by contributing to one of the four maker space projects. The stations offered students the ability to connect LED diodes to lithium batteries, create electromyography drawings, build real-world Minecraft creations, or engineer CS puppet animations.

Perhaps the most exciting new program addition this year was the first-ever student showcase. Numerous students from around the NYC area submitted computer science projects to be reviewed for participation. Eight outstanding projects were selected as finalists to pitch to a judging panel comprised of notable tech leaders and Department of Ed administrators. After thorough consideration, two winning teams were chosen: CODEX, who compared A* performance using various paradigms, and Digital Dance, who used Sphero robot balls to program a mixed-media performance.

Through interactive and hands-on experience, young New Yorkers had a plethora of opportunities to begin to explore their professional interests. Hardware enthusiasts battled robots, physics fanatics learned about quantum computing, and internet of things aficionados played with wearable electronic devices. Companies and universities varied in size, allowing participants to experience differences and weigh which options might seem most appealing as they launch into postsecondary education. Most importantly, it exposes youth at an earlier age, giving them more knowledge, more options, and more resources with which to build a career.

We extend a huge thank you to all of our volunteers and partners who helped us make this event useful and fun for both students and staff. For more information about the CS Opportunity Fair, check out their website at http://csfair.nyc/.

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