STEM

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/.

#MakeBetterHappen — City Year AmeriCorps Member Appreciation Month

Do you know that March is City Year AmeriCorps Member Appreciation Month? Well, if you don’t, let me tell you a bit about City Year New York and the amazing team we sponsor at JHS218 James P Sinnott in Brooklyn. This will help you understand why there is an entire month for us to show our appreciation for their work.

City Year works to bridge the gap in high-poverty communities between the support students actually need, and what their schools are designed to provide. Their teams of AmeriCorps members work as tutors, mentors and role models to help students reach 10th grade on time and on track, making them three times more likely to graduate.

I had an opportunity to speak with City Year Impact Manager, Matt Davidson, and he shared with me some of the exciting events and programs that he and his Corps members are providing at JHS218, which are having such a positive impact on the students, school and community.

During the month of February, the team hosted a social affirmation event to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Each student was asked to write something positive about themselves, their school or their community. These writings were anonymous and were posted in a common area to create positive awareness on the Wall of Appreciation for the entire month.

For Pi Day, 3/14, the JHS218 team planned a carnival of different math activities to use as an alternate way for the students to get excited about math. Since the New York area experienced a snowstorm on Pi Day this has been rescheduled. I look forward to hearing the outcome!

STEM week will be hosted at the end of April. This will be an all week-long event where students will conduct science experiments as a way of learning in a different way and practicing mindfulness. It will also provide a positive distraction from the stress of their standardized tests.

The Corps members also lead several clubs after school such as coding, science and dance. These clubs will run through spring break. They also oversee a college and career readiness program.

Wow, right!? And this is just a sampling of what they are doing to make an impact at the school. They are really making better happen!

As the Corps members reach the end of their year of service, some of them will be moving onto graduate masters programs. One Corps member will be attending Fordham University, another will be going to the University of Southern California and a third will be attending the University of Minnesota. Impressive! Not only are they currently making better happen for the students of JHS218, they will be making better happen for themselves. I can’t wait to see what is next for them.

Additionally, a current Corps member is looking to stay on at City Year to be a team leader. True dedication.

Thank you to the entire AmeriCorps team at JHS218! Not only do you give a year of service, you also give your heart and soul to the school and students, and are truly making a difference.

  • Chelsea Bowens
  • Lily Cannon
  • N’Dia Dugue
  • Bri Fisher
  • Liza Gerwig
  • Alyissa Gooding
  • Brian McGovern
  • Nikita Stewart
  • David Tom
  • Michael Ventura

# THANKYOUCORPS!

Looking Back at Computer Science Education Week 2016

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Last week, we joined a revolution as Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) launched worldwide, inspiring students to incorporate CS education into their daily lives. We celebrated by sharing stories like CoderDojo‘s special computer science lessons for children, and by participating in Hour of Code events throughout the New York Metro area.

Meanwhile, our community engaged on the same level, hosting Hour of Code events at New York Public Schools and beyond. We’re thrilled to see our neighbors committed to the future of education, honoring the importance of computer science for all.

A look at local celebrations of CSEdWeek:

Find out more about #hourofcode here: hourofcode.com/us.

Coding Outside the Classroom: CoderDojo NYC Teaches Children Computer Science Fundamentals

CoderDojo NYC students work at the Microsoft Store on 5th Ave. Photo from CoderDojo NYC.

Computer Science Education Week is a nationwide initiative suggesting that every student try coding for one hour. Learning the basics of computer science prepares students for a world that is increasingly dominated by technology90 percent of parents want their children to study computer science, and computing jobs are the number one source for new income. Despite 517,393 open computing jobs nationwide, only 42,989 computer science students graduated into the workforce last year. As technology continues to permeate our lives, the demand for employees in the tech sector grows with it, with one million more computer science jobs than people qualified to fill them by 2020.

American schools, however, don’t seem to be ahead of the trend. While the CS For All initiative has led some districts to see the importance in computer science classes, 40 percent of schools still don’t teach computer programming, and only six states have created computer science standards for grades K-12. The reason? Officials don’t think kids have interest in learning computer science. Although New York announced plans to offer all students programming classes by 2025, fewer than 10 percent of city schools currently offer any form of computer science education, and only 1 percent of students are currently in CS classes.

But students do have interest.

Living proof is CoderDojo, a global network of programming clubs for young people. More than 1,400 New York families have annually attended CoderDojo NYC since the chapter opened. At CoderDojo NYC, the mission is to create a fun, creative and collaborative out-of-school environment to explore STEM, where students can build memorable experiences with mentors to ignite passion for technology at an early age.

Coding bootcamps and specialized workshops can get expensive. But CoderDojo NYC, like all the Dojos, is completely free, volunteer-led and open to anyone age 7 to 17. The monthly workshops in the greater New York City area serve as an informal, creative and social environment for young people to learn to code and explore web, game and app development.

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Photo from CoderDojo NYC

The NYC chapter of the nonprofit was co-founded by Carl Sednaoui and Rebecca Garcia in 2012. Garcia took to technology at a young age, teaching herself to code when she was 14. She’s now a Program Manager for Tech Jobs Academy as well as the CoderDojo NYC co-founder.

Garcia explained that there are more than 1,000 chapters of CoderDojo in 60 countries.

‘The idea is that anyone can start a CoderDojo chapter and provide open and accessible education for youth around the globe,” Garcia told us. “Any Saturday, type ‘#CoderDojo’ on Twitter, and you can see chapters from all over the globe coding and tinkering.”

At CoderDojo NYC, children create and build at the half-day hackathon-style workshops through project-based learning, Garcia explained. Projects are sometimes civic-themed or themed for the season. CoderDojo NYC will host a special all-ages event for Hour of Code on Dec. 10 where the theme will be climate change.

What makes the CoderDojo experience so successful is that students receive one-on-one guidance from a mentor, Garcia said.

“The special thing is that there’s only one volunteer for every student,” she said. “It’s very different from a standard classroom environment with one teacher and 30 students.”

Photo from CoderDojo NYC

These CoderDojo NYC volunteers range from more seasoned technology professionals to educators, designers and even students themselves learning to code.

“These people give back to the community through providing guidance and mentorship. They find it very rewarding,” Garcia said.

Children learn using MIT’s Scratch and Arduino’s littleBits programming tools. While students are definitely learning computer science fundamentals through visual programming, Garcia stressed the importance in sparking love of learning at an earlier age.  

“It’s more about exploring creativity through technology,” she said.

Many students move on and learn more coding skills at longer-term programs that CoderDojo NYC has partnerships with, such as Girls Who Code and Nano Hackers Academy. One CoderDojo NYC student, Kiera Cawley, started coding when she was nine and went on to be the youngest person to receive a WWDC scholarship at 12 years old.

CoderDojo NYC maintains partnerships with schools in underrepresented areas and has a naturally occurring 50-50 gender ratio and ethnic diversity. The median age of attendees is 12 to 13.

One seventh grader from Queens, Rebecca Feldman, told the New York Times that she started going to CoderDojo NYC after she became discouraged at her robotics after-school program.

“I was one of two girls in the class,” she told the Times. “We kind of had to fend for ourselves.”

Garcia became a mentor for the student, who became known as Little Rebecca. Garcia recalled that Little Rebecca had never heard of computer science before, but after her first CoderDojo NYC session, she told her parents, “I really like this. Is this something you can do for a living?”

Learn more about CoderDojo on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week.

Drive Digital Literacy This Computer Science Education Week With The Hour of Code

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Every December, something special happens for students around the world. Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), held annually in December in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Grace Hopper (December 9, 1906), is a grassroots campaign dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science. The campaign, originally conceived by the Computing in the Core coalition, is now spearheaded by Code.org alongside 350 partners and 100,000 educators worldwide.

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Stats via Code.org.

This year, CSEdWeek runs from December 5, 2016 through December 11, 2016, and we’re ready to once again be on board. With over 500,000 open computing jobs nationwide — despite the fact that only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce in 2016 — we’re ready to engage the next generation of coders and drive innovation throughout the world. Organizations like CSNYC are helping to make this happen, by providing programming in key areas to bring access to high-quality computer science education to all of New York City’s 1.1. million public school students. The Computer Science for All Initiative (CS4All), initiative to scale computer science education (CS) to 100% of the City’s public schools plans to bring computer science to all NYC students by 2025.

But that’s just the first step. Computer science is a foundational skill and it’s up to us to ensure that every 21st century child gets the chance to learn how technology works.

So how do we get this done?

The centerpiece of CSEdWeek lies within a program devised by Code.org named the Hour of Code. An Hour of Code is a basic coding tutorial that new coders of all ages — and over 45 languages — can use to begin their journey in computer science. In over 180 countries, 305,078,080 students have performed an Hour of Code since its inception. It’s time to add to this total.

This CSEdWeek, we’re inviting you to take the coding challenge: give a child the gift of computer science and join them in an Hour of Code.

Local Hour of Code programming this CSEdWeek at the Microsoft Store:

YouthSpark: Hour of Code

Join us for this free, 90-minute workshop to take part in the global Hour of Code movement during Computer Science Education Week. Go behind the scenes to learn how to code, program, and play in your own gaming world. You’ll use fun, interactive coding to learn how creativity and problem solving come together to make something all your own. Workshop designed for ages 8 and older.

Monday, December 5, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Tuesday, December 6, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Thursday, December 8, 2016 | 4:00 PM

Friday, December 9, 2016 | 4:00 PM

MInecraft Build Challenge

This free Minecraft workshop at your local Microsoft Store offers a fun, hands-on experience for players of every age. Join a team to create something epic before the clock runs out. Prior Minecraft experience is recommended but not required.

Saturday, December 10, 2016 | 11:00 AM

Minecraft Hour of Code

Join us for this free, 90-minute camp to explore a Minecraft world through code and to take part in the global Hour of Code movement. Use blocks of code to take Steve or Alex on an adventure through a Minecraft world. You’ll use kid-friendly programming to learn how creativity and problem solving come together to make something all your own. Curriculum designed for ages 8 and older.  It is recommended that your student bring their own set of headphones for an optimal experience.

Sunday, December 11, 2016 |  2:00 PM

City Year New York Makes a Difference at JHS218 James P Sinnott Middle School

City Year New York and JHS218 James P Sinnott Middle School

It was a bright sunny day as we approached JHS218 in Brooklyn, NY. Laura Clayton McDonnell, GM of Microsoft New York, Antuan Santana and I were scheduled to visit our City Year New York Corp Member team at our “adopted”school, JHS218.  We were cheerfully greeted by the City Year New York leads for the school and started our school tour with City Year’s First Circle.

Our first stop, a visit outside to see the beautiful playground that use to be a parking lot. As we moved back inside, we had an opportunity to briefly meet the school principal, Lisa Ann Hermann. We were touched by a poster that was on the wall just outside of the principal’s office — it read:

A

DREAM

written down with a date becomes a

GOAL

A goal broken down into steps becomes a

PLAN

A plan backed by

ACTION

makes your dreams

REALITY

                                         ~Author Unknown

While we continued our tour, we met a teacher who was a student years ago at the school. During the introduction it was shared that she was from Panama, which is where Laura’s parents are originally from. Such a small world!

As we made our way to the classroom on the second floor, which the Corp Member team uses as their office space, we sat down as a group, did a round of introductions, and then moved onto table topics. Table topics is a fun way to get to know about people in a short period of time that you are just meeting.

We approached the close of our visit with some Q&A and wrapped with a group photo. It was a great opportunity for Laura to see Microsoft’s sponsorship in action; it makes it real, seeing the positive impact that City Year has on youth.  Thank you City Year for making a difference.

To Code And Beyond — Computer Science at Play at Cornell Tech

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Photo via Microsoft YouthSpark

It was an honor to join Cornell Tech as they hosted the second annual To Code and Beyond: Computer Science at Play Conference. This conference brings together organizations and contributors to K-12 Computer Science (CS) education who deliver impact not only in the Greater NYC area but across the US and globally.

With over 1.1 million youth in NYC public schools, there are less than 5% receiving computer science (CS) education. New York City Deputy Mayor Richard Buery asked, “How do we spark a love of computers and technology among our young people? The economy demands out young people grow these skills [to] thrive in the economy. How do you create excitement?”

Debbie Marcus from the NYC Department of Education also raised the question, “How do we provide computer science education to every student regardless of age, gender race, and to see computer science as a literacy?” The idea is not only to create a pathway for youth to explore CS careers, but to see it as a valuable skill that opens opportunity in other fields as well.

Earlier this year, CSNYC announced the CS for All Initiative, a 10-year, $80 million plan to bring computer science education to every student in the New York City public schools. After two years of operation, CSNYC now reaches 7% of the City’s schools and 10,000 students who fully represent the economic, ethnic, and gender diversity of the City.

To Code And Beyond was a culmination of not only sharing years of technology education work, but sharing resources and an open forum for ideas and collaboration. The conference consisted of keynotes, panel discussions that highlighted innovative ways to engage youth not only through CS curriculum, but out of the classroom; per Diane Levitt of Cornell Tech, ‘the vibrancy of informal education’.

The conference highlighted initiatives such as CS4All and organizations across the Greater NYC Area including CSNYC and its CS4All Consortium, NY Hall of Science, Lower East Side Girls Club, and FIRST Robotics NYC supported by national tech companies.

Currently in 23 high schools across the Greater NYC Area and around the US, Microsoft TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) helps high schools build sustainable computer science programs by pairing trained computer science professionals.

What can NYC local organizations and schools do to access CS education and reach more youth?

Local NYC organizations and schools can join the CS for All movement and attend CS NYC pedagogy meetups, joining the NYC STEM education network, STEM Funders Network, CS for All Consortium, or Hive NYC.

Next month, we’re excited to celebrate Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week). From Dec 5th-11th across the globe, anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 45 languages. No experience needed for this training geared toward new coders ages 4 to 104.

Start now: Find a local YouthSpark or Minecraft Event near you.

Rebecca Garcia is a Program Manager for Tech Jobs Academy. Previously she was awarded as a U.S. White House Champion of Change for ‘Tech Inclusion’, named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 35 Women Under 35 Changing the Tech Industry’ and Hispanicize’s STEM Star for her non-profit work as Co-founder of CoderDojo NYC.

Meet High School Intern: Sagar Punjabi

This summer, we’ve been thrilled to host high school students as part of our NYC Microsoft High School Summer Internship Program (HSIP). The HSIP is a 6 week internship for junior and senior high school students providing an opportunity to explore the technology industry while expanding engineering skills. Microsoft is committed to developing junior talent and championing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields. HSIP sets out to inspire students to pursue collegiate degrees in computer science or STEM through exposure to those career paths. In addition, HSIP strives to attract a diverse pool of students with a technical background and a passion for technology.

Sagar PUnjabi (1)Where do you go to school? When are you graduating?

I am going to be a senior at Forest Hills High School this fall. I will be graduating in 2017.

Where are you applying to college? What do you plan on studying? 

I’m still currently looking into schools, but so far I’m interested in Cornell and Brandeis. I want to major in Computer Science.

What brought you to Microsoft’s internship program? 

I first learned about it through The Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship. Microsoft’s vision of empowering every person and organization to do more is something that stuck with me, and I knew a summer here would be a summer I would not forget.

What’s your favorite piece of Microsoft technology?

The Xbox One. It has so many capabilities and functions, what can’t you do with it?

What work are you most excited about this summer? 

I loved to work with all of the different types of technologies Microsoft has available.

What’s one thing you learned with Microsoft? 

I’ve learned how useful the cloud can be and how to utilize it. This is something that has made my life a lot easier.

How are you utilizing entrepreneurship skills at Microsoft this summer?  

Every entrepreneur must be able to solve the challenges that come his or her way no matter how big they might be. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve been given work I’m not familiar with, but that hasn’t stopped me from completing it.

Meet High School Intern: Sejal Mehra

This summer, we’ve been thrilled to host high school students as part of our NYC Microsoft High School Summer Internship Program (HSIP). The HSIP is a 6 week internship for junior and senior high school students providing an opportunity to explore the technology industry while expanding engineering skills. Microsoft is committed to developing junior talent and championing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields. HSIP sets out to inspire students to pursue collegiate degrees in computer science or STEM through exposure to those career paths. In addition, HSIP strives to attract a diverse pool of students with a technical background and a passion for technology.

Sejal MehraWhere do you go to school and when are you graduating? I go to school at Division Avenue High School in Levittown, NY. I will be graduating this coming June 2017.

Where are you applying to college and what do you plan to study? I will be applying locally (New York City) and to MIT. I plan on studying computer engineering.

What brought you to Microsoft’s internship program? The excitement of getting to know the real technology world brought me to Microsoft’s internship program.

What’s your favorite piece of Microsoft technology? My favorite piece of Microsoft technology is the Surface Pro and Microsoft Band.

What work are you most excited about from this summer’s program? I am most excited that we were able to work on IoT (Internet of Things) this summer.

What’s one thing you have learned with Microsoft? One thing I learned with Microsoft is how much more there is to Office 365 than Word and PowerPoint.

How has Girls Who Code empowered you to use technology? Why is coding important? Girls Who Code empowered me to express my passion for technology. Coding is important because it’s something that is all around us and everything can be programmed, from the smallest toy to the biggest building.

Microsoft Girls Who Code Class of 2016 — Make What’s Next

Girls Who Code NYC 2016

Wow, I cannot believe that seven weeks have passed already. It seems as though the Girls Who Code cohort just arrived at the 11 Times Square office, and on the evening of August 18, I had the pleasure to watch each of them graduate. As part of the ceremony, the girls had the opportunity to showcase their final projects to their parents and invited guests. It was an amazing evening. The best part was the surprise! Microsoft New York General Manager Laura Clayton McDonnell was the Microsoft keynote speaker and she had the honor to announce to the 20 students and their three teachers that they each get to keep the Surface devices that they have been using over the course of the program. The news was received with such excitement! I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room, it was magical moment.

During the coders’ time at Microsoft they learned programming in Scratch, an introduction to Python, Object-Oriented Programming, Web Programming and Robotics.  They used these learnings to work on their final projects that included:

  • one website (called Poll Me) that provides useful information to new and young voters, such as voting locations and ways to register to vote
  • one website / mobile application (called Organize Yourself) that allows students to organize their assignments and classes by adding tasks to specific categories they create
  • one website (called Volunteens) that allows teenagers to search for volunteer opportunities, and it allows organizations to post volunteer opportunities that would be open to teens
  • one website (called Study Drop) that provides a space for students to answer questions related to their school curriculum (ex. 3rd grade math questions), and for every 10 questions answered correctly some amount of water would be donated to communities in need
  • one game that raises awareness about the street harassment that many women face every day in cities such as New York
  • one game that gives new or expecting mothers’ tips on best practices for raising an infant

Some of the other projects that are highlights in the curriculum and that all the girls completed include:

  • An animation of a city scene using Python
  • Choreographing a robot dance by programming in Arduino
  • Creating a portfolio website that shows off the work that each student did during their time at Girls Who Code

An impressive list of accomplishments for these young coders!  

In addition to their coding activities this summer, the girls attended several field trips, including one right here in the office — a visit to the Microsoft Technology Center. They also spent the summer hearing from a variety of speakers and participating in several in-class workshops.

As we close the chapter on this year’s class, I wish all of our coders the absolute best on their bright futures that they all have ahead of them.

Congratulations to the Microsoft Girls Who Code Class of 2016!  Keep Coding!