The big news for me yesterday was at Finalists Announced for Round 1 of the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 US Forum. I attended this event as a judge last year and learned an incredible amount from these amazing teachers. This first round announced 44 teachers representing 32 projects from across 15 states. Applications are still being accepted for the second round. What I did below was to pick out the computer science related projects to give you a taste of what people are doing and perhaps spur you on to applying. The projects below include several Kinect based projects, a Kodu project with second graders and a Windows Phone class using TouchDevelop. The best part for me is that almost all of these have a cross curricula component. This really excites me. I hope you are inspired as well.

If you would like to track the progress of the 2012 US Forum follow the project team at @TeachTec on Twitter and the official Forum hashtag is: #pilus and “Like” us on Facebook to get status updates.

The final deadline to apply to the 2012 US Forum is May 15th, we look forward to hearing what you’re doing in the classroom.

Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 US Forum logo

Daphne Bradford & Jacqueline Lopez Crenshaw High School (Los Angeles)

Project: Gaming for STEM & Health

In an effort to engage students in biology, students were tasked with designing a simple Xbox Kinect Game to educate kids, parents and K-12 school districts about the importance of healthy eating and exercise to help fight the global childhood obesity epidemic and Type 2 Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, often called non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90% - 95% of the 21 million people with diabetes. The game illustrates what happens when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and glucose (sugar) can't get into the body's cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, the body's cells are not able to function properly. The project included student-led game development for the Kinect using the Kinect SDK, Visual Studio, Silverlight, in addition to Microsoft Office tools in the planning and development process.

James Bell & Denise Spence, Dunbar High School (Fort Meyers)

Project: Kinect-the-Dots Motion Capture for 3D Character Animation

Students in Dunbar High Schools Academy for Game Design and Programming Excellence are creating complex video games that enable the educator to teach a variety of higher order thinking skills, such as, strategic thinking, interpretive analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and project execution. This project’s innovation is how the use of Xbox Kinect has helped students to connect the dots with respect to how to bridge the gap between real-life movement and computer generated movement. As a unique and innovative part of the program, the students are able to utilize the Kinect system to solve the problem of creating 3D real time character animation without the major complexities involved in time lining the events. Students enrolled in the program have the opportunity to earn industry certifications such as Microsoft Office Specialist: Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, Autodesk Certified Associate: 3DS Max, and Adobe Certified Associate: Photoshop and Flash.

Rodrigo Anadon, Penn High School (Mishawaka)

Project: STEM Gaming Challenge

By using video game development to tackle a problem in STEM, secondary students generate software that is fun, engaging, and educational using software development tools. Students have the option of using Visual Studio, Visual Basic, C++, C# (with the XNA Framework), or a different programming environment to generate a video game that can be incorporated in classes of STEM or other disciplines to engage students in learning. Student-lead teams of four allow for the challenge to incorporate competition, collaboration, and computation among students. Each team consists of a team leader, lead programmer, lead digital artist, and lead audio engineer. Each role must be filled by each student. At the end of the program development cycle, teams will present their STEM game to the class and present their experience in the process.

Pamela Volakis, West Allegheny High School (Imperial)

Project: Shapes, Letters, and Numbers; XNA Games for the next generation

As enrollment in computer science classes declined this project introduced a new approach to teaching traditional programming concepts combining critical thinking, creativity and business thinking. Prompted by student use of computer gaming, this concept was incorporated into the computer science curriculum. Students worked directly with Preschool and Life Skills teachers to join forces by creating games to teach preschool and life skills students specific skills through student-developed games. Programming students observed and worked with students as “customers” in the preschool and life skills classes. Collaborating increased student communication skills and enabled students to design games meaningful for the preschoolers and other students using Visual Studio, XNA Game Studio and Xbox 360.

Joli Barker, Slaughter Elementary (McKinney)

Project: XBOX 360: the iConnect Project

Using Kodu gaming, gaming vernacular and concepts, 2nd grade students utilized ePals, Edmodo, Skype, and Microsoft Office, PhotoStory, Skype, and Xbox 360 to participate in a global literary book study and multimedia festival. The class connected with over 8 classrooms across the world who read the Magic Tree House books with us and participated in creating multimedia reports and Kodu games to extend and express their learning. When the book series took us to a new country, the classroom from which the book was set "hosted" the Q&A for that book via Skype. The overall result was an extraordinary literary experience that transcended reading comprehension into a cultural study and a global connection that far surpassed the original goal.

Michael Braun, Rainer Beach High School (Seattle)

Project: Exploration of Computer Science on Smartphones

In collaboration with Rainier Beach High School, Southshore Middle School, Seattle Public Schools, and Microsoft TEALS, our class is designed to teach students app programming. By using Windows Phones and the Windows Phone SDK students learn how to create apps for a phone with TouchDevelop. There are no separate PCs in this course. Students develop scripts to perform various tasks similar to regular apps. Students use TouchDevelop to install, run, edit, and publish scripts.