Four students from Howard University were invited to a meeting between Microsoft and the HBCU Whitehouse team this past week.

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Shamir Saddler, Kyle Simmons , Lenon Thompson, Rashad Rose of Howard University present their Imagine Cup submission with Robert Youngjohns (seated), President of Microsoft North America and John Brown, Director of the HBCU Program for the Whitehouse.


The purpose of the meeting between Robert Youngjohns, President of Microsoft North America, and John Brown, Director of the HBCU program for the Whitehouse was to discuss the Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan and how Microsoft’s student and faculty programs can support this ongoing initiative.

Kwasi Asare, Associate Director of the Office of Education Technology, presented an overview of the NETP.

The NETP calls for applying the advanced technologies used in our daily personal and professional lives to our entire education system to improve student learning, accelerate and scale up the adoption of effective practices, and use data and information for continuous improvement.

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Kwasi spoke about the five goals of the program. Each goal addresses one of the five essential components of learning powered by technology: Learning, Assessment, Teaching, Infrastructure, and Productivity. You can download a copy of the plan here.

Robert Youngjohns then spoke about Microsoft’s commitment to students and faculty. Robert’s passion for this topic comes from both a moral imperative as well as a deep desire to nurture the smartest minds in America to help them find their path to leveraging technology to change the world.

He spoke about Imagine Cup, the premier international student technology competition that inspires students to leverage technology to solve difficult world problems like the spread of disease, child mortality, women’s rights among others. Robert also spoke about other programs that Microsoft provides students and educators such as DreamSpark, Kodu, InterroBang, Small Basic and many more.

IC-Howard-RY 008 The highlight of the meeting though was the presentation by the Imagine Cup Team Howard University Bison; Shamir Saddler, Kyle Simmons, Lenon Thompson and Rashad Rose.

They created a game called  Better Life targeted at young students that would teach them about nutrition while having fun.

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The Better Life game contributes to universal education through a series of challenges whose mastery improves decision making skill leading to a better life.  The game is extensible allowing incorporating new challenges with scoring reflecting local culture, traditions and behavior. The first game challenge is designed to improve eating habits for players 8-15 years old. In the game challenge a player must choose among food options with more nutritious foods providing more game points.

The Howard University team, mentored by Dr. Todd Shurn, demonstrates how gaming can be leveraged by high school and college educators to teach computer science while the games being created can be used to teach younger students about key issues like nutrition, the environment or other important topics of the day.

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Left to right: John Brown, Donna Woodall (Microsoft), Robert Joungjohns, Shamir Saddler, Kyle Simmons, Lenon Thompson, Rashad Rose.

At the close of the meeting, John Brown who heads up the HBCU Program for the Whitehouse, spoke to the students about the importance of their ongoing work and how they must become role models for their fellow students at Howard as well as for the community at large to demonstrate the importance of learning and more importantly learning technology to help change the world for the better.