June 2017

Vision Zero Labs: Using Data Science to Improve Traffic Safety

The central idea behind the global Vision Zero movement is that traffic crashes are preventable.

At Microsoft, we believe that data science and complex machine learning can aid cities in their life-saving Vision Zero commitment. That’s why we partnered with Datakind in 2015, and since then, we’ve worked with them to use city-specific data to identify where traffic safety conditions could be improved to ease traffic and protect citizens.

Today, we are releasing this video case study to showcase the project, its learnings, and its future potential. Take a look below:

As you can see in the video, the project was initially focused on New York, Seattle, and New Orleans. This allowed us to consider each city’s unique needs and tailor our analysis accordingly. By utilizing new and existing data from each city, we built an exposure model to determine block-by-block traffic congestion levels. This exposure model is an essential tool for city decision makers tasked with targeting policy and projects to meet their Vision Zero goal.

Ultimately, this collaborative project provided municipal transportation departments with resources that they would not have had access to otherwise and helped bring Microsoft together with community organizations and local governments in a public-private partnership model that has the potential to be utilized in other cities across the globe.

Learn more about our work with DataKind and Vision Zero and follow-up activities:

Meet the Eight Data Science Summer School (DS3) Students!

This time last summer, I was part of Microsoft’s Data Science Summer School (DS3) and now I have the pleasure of introducing you to this summer’s incoming class. This is the fourth annual class of the DS3 program, which is an intense eight-week journey into the wild world of data science that culminates in students writing an original research paper. Keep reading to learn more about them!

Read more >

Microsoft Store and B~STEM Host One-Day Only Events

Microsoft stores, U Village and Bellevue Square.According to BestColleges.com, only 6.7 percent of women are graduating with STEM degrees. With this we have a responsibility today to educate and inspire females of all ages to advance our world by pursuing careers in traditionally male dominated industries.

B~STEM Project and Microsoft Store understand this responsibility. B~STEM Project is an organization focused on helping young girls and women to engage, learn and grow within business and STEM-related disciplines across industries. From June 23 – 30, B~STEM will host We Hack Too, an eight-day virtual hackathon. Select Microsoft Store locations are excited to host kick-off events on Friday, June 23, and set everyone up for a week of fun with a Business Development and Design Incubator.

The events will give high school and college women opportunities to collaborate with professional mentors to design products and develop business strategies, while 8 to 12-year-olds will be invited to attend coding and gaming workshops.

These free events will take place in the following store near you:

Each store event will have its own unique theme spanning STEM-related topics including clean energy, gaming, entertainment and digital media, biotechnology and tech startups. To learn more about the topic of the event at your local Microsoft Store and to register for the event, please visit bstemproject.org.

Not located in a city with an event? Microsoft Store offers a range of free programs, year-round that empower youth by providing direct access to technology and hands-on learning. If you haven’t been to a Microsoft Store program yet, take a look at the video below that captures Microsoft Store YouthSpark camp energy and testimonials from real student and parent participants.

To see a full list of available in-store events and programs at your local Microsoft Store visit, Microsoft.com.

A Summer of STEM at Microsoft Store

Launch into summer with skills-based training at the Microsoft Store!

Our Flagship Microsoft Store at Fifth Avenue is bringing STEM skills to students with a series of FREE YouthSpark summer camps for students aged 6 and up.

This summer series kicks off with an 8-hour hackathon called B-STEM: We Hack Too. We Hack Too is an 8-day virtual hackathon that includes a FREE 1-day launch event inside our Microsoft Store on Friday, June 23. The 1-day event is a Business Development & Design Incubator where girls ages 8-13 attend 2 hours game design workshops (9 am, 12:30 pm and 5 pm).

In addition, high school and college level women collaborate with professional mentors to design products and develop business strategies (8:30am – 7:30 pm). Mentors, Speakers, Food, Swag, Tech Prizes and more. Pre-registration is now open and space is limited. To register and for more information visit www.wehacktoo.org.

Then, the Store starts its summer series with weekly camps for students:

For students aged 6-8:

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Make Your Own Story with PowerPoint and Word

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 6 to 8 will learn how to create and tell a story using Microsoft PowerPoint and Word. They will explore using drawing tools, selecting and sizing images and icons, creating backgrounds and changing fonts. Activities will focus on learning through hands on guided experiences and collaborative learning in small groups.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with key tools in PowerPoint and Word
  • Feel confident using a Surface Device and Pen
  • Create an original story with text and images in a small group

For students aged 8-12:

Code and Create Games with Ozobot Robotics

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8–12 will learn to code and create games with Ozobot robotics. They’ll explore programming the Evo robot with block coding, from completing simple commands right through to creating a dance game. They’ll also learn how robotics are used in the 21st Century and be inspired with how they can be involved.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with how robots work
  • Have hands-on experience with block coding and how to program the Evo robot
  • Understand the importance of robotics

Code and Create with Collage Me

Learn how to code in this hands-on programming camp. During the free two-hour Camp, students ages 8 to 12 will work in a real software development environment, gaining experience with Touch Develop. Participants will use their creativity and imagination to develop a unique personal collage that can be shared with family and friends.

At the end of this camp, participants will:

  • Have increased confidence in their technical and coding skills
  • Improve their computational and creative thinking
  • Read and understand code in the Touch Develop environment
  • Create and publish a coded script containing a personal collage

It is recommended that your student bring their own set of headphones for an optimal experience.

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

In this free hands-on 2 hour camp, students ages 8 to 12 will learn to create and share their own digital art with the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. They’ll explore the basics of Fresh Paint, using lifelike oil and watercolors, pastels, and more to craft their own creations. They’ll also get a sneak peek of advanced digital art skills like mixing paint and layering media.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the creative possibilities of digital drawing and painting
  • Have experience with the Fresh Paint layout and tools
  • Create original artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share their art with the swipe of a finger

Minecraft Hour of Code

Students ages 8 and older can save the day and program Minecraft mobs how to behave in our free 90 minute Minecraft Hour of Code. Participants will learn coding concepts such as randomness, entities, loops and events. No previous coding experience is required.

Students will also learn:

  • How computers perform instructions in a sequence
  • How to create a list of instructions to complete a task
  • How to iterate on solutions to complete a task

Kodu Makerspace Event

Create rich and exciting games with Kodu Game Lab in this free, beginner-level coding camp for students ages 8 to 12.

They’ll work on Kodu games like Boku’s Amazing Race, Flashy Fishbots, and Air Delivery. In the process, they learn how interesting and powerful games can be created with simple building blocks and techniques. Participants will: analyze and revise game character, write code to create game action, collaboratively plan and create a Kodu game, give and receive peer feedback, and explore the iterative design process. Some activities will be interactive tutorials, while others entail hands-on, open-ended game design. Every session will include collaborative design and development activities.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Get Creative with 3D in Windows 10 Camp

The world we live in is multidimensional, so shouldn’t our art be as well? Students ages 8-12 will bring their imagination to life by learning new Paint 3D in Windows 10. This free 2-hour field trip offers a high-energy, collaborative environment for participants to fuel their creativity and learn key tools and features of the 3D app.

At the end of the field trip, participants will have:

  • Learned the fundamentals of the Paint 3D app and all about Remix3D.com community
  • Learned how to express their ideas in three dimensions by creating their own 3D designs
  • Hands-on experience with Microsoft devices and software via a scavenger hunt through Microsoft Store

For students 13+:

Learn to Code with Flatverse

In this free coding camp, students ages 13 and over will use Touch Develop, an interactive programming environment website, to create and publish their own video game called Flatverse.

As they build their game, they learn about various computer programming and coding concepts, including screen coordinates, random numbers, objects and functions, and more. Throughout the camp series, they will take a deeper dive into these programming and coding concepts to gain more confidence and skill. The ultimate goal is for participants to gain an appreciation for coding’s role in the games they may play in their daily lives, and to provide an inspirational foundation for pursuing their interest in computer science.

This four-day camp lasts two hours per day, and students must attend the days consecutively.

Shoot Edit & Share with PicsArt 

Increase your photo shooting and editing creativity with this free YouthSpark Camp. During this camp series, students ages 13 and older will learn how to use PicsArt, an interactive editing, drawing, and collage app. This app, which is available on Windows 10 devices, includes numerous photo-editing features, customizable filters, text options, a collage maker, and a camera. Learn how to transform photos into works of art with just the tip of your finger.​​

At the end of this Workshop, participants will:​​

  • Know how to use a powerful photo-editing software​​
  • Understand composition and best practices for photography​​Learn to sketch and turn anything into a drawing
  • Create easy graphic design edits​​
  • Create amazing photo edits ​​
  • Leave with a certificate of completion and an image portfolio​​

Create Digital Art with Fresh Paint

Explore the freedom and power of creating original digital art with this free 2 hour camp on the Fresh Paint app for Windows 10. Students ages 13 and older will use an array of tools to create lifelike paintings, original drawings, collages, and so much more. They’ll take a tour of Fresh Paint basics, then explore more advanced skills like blending paint colors and layering mixed media to create their own unique works of art. Activities and experiences are a central part of the class, with opportunities to share artwork and to learn along with peers.

At the end of the camp, participants will:

  • Know some of the creative possibilities of digital art
  • Be familiar with brushes, mixing palettes, canvas options, and more
  • Explore features like switching tools, mixing colors, and importing pictures
  • Create meaningful artwork and share it with peers
  • Learn how to share art with the swipe of a finger

Start Your Own Business

Success has no boundaries. This free four-session camp series helps students ages 13 and older turn their passion into a great entrepreneurial business idea. Participants get guidance developing their ideas into a robust business plan and a polished pitch ready to share with the world.

Each two-hour session takes students through a series of engaging hands-on group activities to introduce key business concepts, including:

• How to create a product or service
• Marketing and promotion
• Pricing and costs
• Manufacturing and distribution

During the final session, participants will have the opportunity to present their complete business plan for feedback and insight.


Register today to reserve a camp spot at microsoft.com/youthsparkcamp.

Fellow Profile: Aasha Shaik

Where are you from? Plainsboro, New Jersey (in Central Jersey, near Princeton!)

School/grad year/major: I just finished my first year at Rutgers University, so I will be graduating in May of 2020. I am majoring in Political Science, Business Analytics & Information Technology, and Middle Eastern Studies, with a possible minor in International & Global Studies.

Last thing you searched on Bing: NJ Transit train schedule (boring, I know)

Why did you choose Microsoft’s fellowship program? I have done gender equality advocacy work at the United Nations since my junior year of high school, and I actually met John Paul Farmer at a UN event I was asked to speak at back in September during the opening week of the UN General Assembly. He is the one who told me about the team and the fellowship, and it immediately interested me because most of my experience has been on the political science/international affairs side of things until now — so this seemed like an amazing opportunity to explore a multi-disciplinary field that intersects with both business and politics. Most important to me, it has a very real impact on communities.

What’s your favorite civic project in the New York area? I admire HeatSeek NYC a lot because it does important work that addresses a lot of overlooked groups of people who need it, and has a tangible effect in terms of aiding related legal work. Although not all strictly civic tech, I’m also a fan of the work that Elizabeth Demaray does; I did a winter course on STEAM (intersection of STEM and art) and we met with Elizabeth about her work. It includes the Hand Up Project, which involves 3D printing shells for crabs who are running out of natural homes. We also did a workshop relating to her upcoming Manhattan Tundra project, which has to do with the use of rooftops in NYC — I know there are other groups working on the idea as well, and I think the concept as a whole has an immense amount of potential. Many parts of the STEAM movement as a whole seem to overlap with civic tech.

Who is your civic tech mentor/idol? I work under John and Matt Stempeck, and I honestly would not have known very much about civic tech as a field at all if not for meeting John at that UN event. Now that I have joined the team, both of them have been amazing at helping introduce me to the civic tech space, and are also super inspiring with the work they do both within and outside of the team!

What projects are you working on for your position as tech fellow for Microsoft New York? So far I’ve been updating data on civicgraph.io, specifically researching more international entities. For the new projects we are working on this summer, we have decided to focus on two areas: the environment and women’s empowerment/gender inequality. Both are extremely relevant and critical given current events and are personally really important to me, especially women’s empowerment. I’m very excited to see where we can take them!

What excites you about civic tech? The immense amount of impact it can have, and the dedication of the people involved in the space to serving people and furthering good.

What’s one problem you hope civic tech will solve for cities? Definitely greater accountability of public officials, whether it be the police or government. As a whole, I hope it will help empower traditionally marginalized communities, whether through that accountability or access to tools and resources.

Looking Ahead to Personal Democracy Forum, June 8-9, 2017

As we gear up for #PDF17, we thought it would be a great time to revisit some of the highlights from last year’s Personal Democracy Forum! For background, the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) is an annual conference that began in 2004. The conference aims to bring technologists, campaigners, hackers, journalists, academics, activists, and more together to focus on solving society’s biggest problems.

Last year, in the heat of the 2016 election, panels and workshops covered everything from “Government as a Digital Service” to how technology was being used by peer-to-peer organizing networks to support female candidates for office. A highlight of the event was the launch of Civic Hall Labs, the non-profit R&D branch of NYC’s Civic Hall, a center for civic tech innovation.

Get ready for PDF 2017 by watching a few of the talks below and be sure to take a look at the exciting line-up for this year’s conference, June 8-9.

Comedienne Luna Malbroux discusses her app and  how humor is a critical way to to broach heavy topics.

Jason Mogus, principal strategis at Communicopia explains “How Advocacy Campaign are Won in the 21st Century”

danah boyd of Microsoft Research cautions against the risks of bad coding from an environmental and social justice perspective

Follow along for updates from this year’s conference and join the conversation on social media using #PDF17 and @CivicHall.

Register for Personal Democracy Forum 2017 here.

June’s Civic Tech Events

Summer is finally fast approaching. Join us at these top events in the NYC area this June:

June 3

Civic Imagination: Designing and Building a Better Future

Join Boston Civic Media’s third annual conference for a day of inspiring keynotes, presentations and networking with peers and community leaders around igniting civic creativity. Dive into topics including media literacy, youth-led advocacy, DIY activist technologies, and creative storytelling. We’ll also be announcing the first ever inter-campus curriculum addressing climate change.

Each year, Boston Civic Media convenes its growing network of faculty, students, activists, journalists, policymakers and nonprofits all invested in “civic media,” or media that creates social change through art, design, and technology. Our theme for this year’s conference is Civic Imagination and we have an incredible lineup of presenters to share new strategies, insights and approaches for collectively re-imagining public life in Boston.

Some of our team will be up in Boston for the Civic Media Consortium’s Civic Imagination conference on Saturday, June 3rd. It’s free, and you should join in!

June 6

June 2017 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty

This month’s NY Tech Meetup will feature a roster of civic tech demos, organized with Civic Hall.

Writing Government Information for People with Cognitive Disabilities

No one likes unclear information about rules and laws – but for people with cognitive disabilities, badly written and formatted information is itself a barrier to accessibility. So, how do you write so that people with cognitive disabilities can read, understand, and use your content? In this presentation, we will look at how simply written and properly formatted content can help improve accessibility for everyone, including people with cognitive disabilities. We will also look at how challenges faced by people with cognitive disabilities in accessing information are caused by bad writing or formatting. Finally, there will be examples of good and bad information about regulations.

June 8-9

Personal Democracy Forum

This conference will bring together top technologists, campaigners, hackers, government officials, journalists, opinion-makers,  and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities – celebrating the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.

Our entire team will be at Personal Democracy Forum at NYU on June 8th and 9thRegister now!

Come join us at our sessions, including:

  • June 8th, time TBA: Measure globally, act locally: What can data do for neighborhoods?
    The open data movement has matured from national mandates to serving true needs at the neighborhood level. Come discover groundbreaking local projects to help neighborhood groups and community boards leverage data to improve decision-making and create tangible outcomes for residents.
  • June 9th, 2pmA 2016 Bright Spot: Breakthroughs in Voter Information
    Featuring yours truly, plus civic tech superfriends Donny Bridges, Carmen Hicks, and Elana Berkowitz.
  • June 9th, time TBA: Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft

June 11

Open Data for All Workshop in the Bronx

The City of New York shares more than 1600 datasets with New Yorkers – these datasets hold information about where we all live, work, play and pray. Come learn how to use the NYC Open Data Portal (where this data is available) in a free Open Data for All Workshop at St. Mary’s Recreation Center in the Bronx on Sunday June 11th from 9-3:30pm.

June 12

Tech Trends And Geo: Today And Tomorrow

The theme of this meetup is to look forward, to experience and discuss innovations and trends happening across the technology landscape today, things we’re reading about in tech magazine articles, watching go viral in the business and consumer space, and think about how we can use them to improve the capabilities of our geospatial tools, enhance our geospatial data, do better spatial analysis, manage our data better, make better maps and better decisions in our work.

June 13

LMHQ Women’s Breakfast: Who Run the World? Girls.

Join us at LMHQ for our final women’s breakfast of the season, in partnership with Civic Hall’s #CivicWomen network, on Tuesday, June 13th for a discussion about tools to help more women run for elected positions. We’ll talk about what’s worked, and where there’s room for improvement.

Hear from Marya Stark, CoFounder of Emerge America, the premier training program for Democratic women who want to run for public office with programs in eighteen states, and Alexis Grenell, CoFounder of Pythia Public, a New York-based communications, government and political strategy firm providing strategic planning services to non-profit, political, and corporate clients, in conversation with our own Jessica Lappin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York and former member of the New York City Council.

Community Transitions: Making A Difference In Military Reintegration

Only approximately half of the 21 million Veterans and their families nationwide are accessing care from the Veterans Administration. Despite over 1 million community and non-profit resources available, even fewer are taking advantage of these opportunities, leading to higher rates of Veteran suicide, homelessness, and seclusion. Changes here can lead to changes in every under-served population. Come hear what makes for a successful reintegration from the military to civilian sectors, courtesy of a panel of local Veterans and military spouses who navigated transition. Find out what is working in the local community, ask your questions, and help like-minded individuals find solutions on how we can do things better for each other.

June 14

Green Infrastructure Grant Program – Summer Workshop

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection offers a grant program for private property owners in combined sewer areas of New York City. The minimum requirement is to manage 1.25″ of stormwater runoff from the contributing impervious area. If selected, DEP will provide funds for the design and construction of the green infrastructure system. Eligible projects include blue roofs, rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement and rainwater harvesting on private property in combined sewer areas.

June 15-16

Collective Intelligence Conference

CI is the fifth annual interdisciplinary conference dedicated to advancing our understanding of collective intelligence and the workings of groups. The conference will take place at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering on June 15-16, 2017.

Collective Intelligence 2017 will emphasize research in service of the public good and projects that address societal problems. Together we will explore the impact of Internet technology and big data on the ways in which people come together to communicate and combine knowledge and skills. Coming from myriad disciplines and fields, conference participants share how connecting groups of people, information, and machines can lead to more intelligent behavior and more effective problem solving.

The event brings together researchers from academia, business, non-profit, and government to share insights, ideas, and experiences and to collaborate on the design of better approaches for fostering the use of collective intelligence. This year’s conference will place special emphasis on public interest applications of collective intelligence, namely the role of groups and collective intelligence in governing and in solving societal challenges.

*tickets start at $299*

June 19

Dev Week Conference

Details TBA

June 21

ioby Summer Party

Come celebrate with a community of fellow changemakers – and officially kick off summer in style – at ioby’s Summer Party! We are delighted to recognize the work of our amazing honorees:

Micah Sifry, Executive Director of Civic Hall and Co-Founder of Personal Democracy Media,

Partnerships for Parks, a public and private partnership that supports and champions a growing network of leaders caring and advocating for neighborhood parks and green spaces,

And Indianapolis-based ioby project leader, master gardener, and Program Manager at Urban Patch, Joyce Moore.

June 22

Purpose x Design

Work is work, right? We don’t need to like it – just need to collect that paycheck.

Obviously not! Our careers are meant to be the manifestations of our dreams come true. We commit ourselves, work hard, and dream big – so why do we often struggle to find purpose in our work? Why does the grass always seem to be greener on the other side, even when we’ve made great efforts to get where we are?

In this Designers + Geeks, we’re bring together a distinguished group of speakers to look at the topic of “purpose.” We’ll discuss ways to find meaning in your work, and lessons learned along the way. Our speakers have lived, learned, and worked hard to build great careers – they’ll share how they did it.