Looking for a Mentor for Imagine Cup?


    IC12_Logo_GenericSo got you curious about Imagine cup yet? If you are considering taking part, it helps to have a mentor, your mentor can be a faculty member or someone from industry. If you are talking to a faculty member about being a mentor, you can point them to this blog for some reasons they might want to mentor a team in Imagine Cup. There is also a great article here written by a faculty member who mentored a team and wrote about the experience.

    Mentoring a competitive Imagine Cup team is incredibly rewarding and, according to one mentor, slightly addictive. As a team mentor, your role is to act as an advisor who helps your students work together efficiently and effectively as a team. It takes discipline and knowledge to focus others on creating a world-changing solution – not an easy task - but we know that you’re up to the challenge.

    Obviously, you can't do your team's work for them or solve any problems they encounter; however, you can discuss technical issues with your students and refer them to the valuable resources and what better way to help students understand the relevance of what they are learning in class then by helping them apply it to solve real world problems.

    Here are a few FAQ about mentoring from the Imagine Cup website

    Can anyone be a mentor?
    Anyone can do it — an industry professional, faculty member, Microsoft student intern, a not-for-profit organization member or a private sector company employee, or even a former competitor. The only people who can't be mentors are current competition judges

    What is my role as a mentor?
    Do what you can to help your team. You might help brainstorm for project ideas, talk about progress, or even moderate discussions and clarify answers. You'll also want to help your team organize tasks and timelines, and figure out roles and responsibilities. What you don't want to do is lead discussions, control the group in any way, or contribute to any of the work related to the team's competition entry.

    How much of a time commitment is mentoring?
    It depends on your skills and the needs of the team. In general, you should expect to spend between half a day and one day per week with your team as competition deadlines approach.

    What about remote mentoring?
    You're not required to be in the same geographic area as your team, but it does make day-to-day coaching easier.

    Does every team need a mentor?
    No, but having a mentor is a good idea so that teams have steady access to advice, information, and support.

    It is recommended, but not required, that each team have one (1) mentor in addition to your Team members. Limit one (1) mentor per Team. A mentor can be from an educational institution, a not-for-profit organization or a private sector company. Please note: IT Challenge is an individual competition and does not have mentors.

    Can I mentor more than one team?

    Okay I’m convinced, how do I become a mentor?
    Start by registering as a mentor. Or, visit the Mentor Forum to learn more and meet other mentors.

    Mentoring a team can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and having a mentor really does increase your chances of success. Work together and lets show the world the potential and passion of Canadian students at the 2012 Imagine Cup!

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    Yup time to do the Hello World App – Susan’s first phone app Part 2


    If I can publish a phone app, anyone can, at least that’s my theory! So if you have ever thought about it, try it yourself as I blog. There are always roadbumps on the way. With the pressure of having you doing this with me I think I can do this. Last blog I managed to get the tools up and running. Today my goal is to get some code running.

    As cliche as it is, I am going to build a Hello World app, if I am going to build a phone app, I need to make sure I know how to use the tools, that way when I start to get weird error messages on the screen, then I know it’s my code, and not because I don’t even know how to use the tool! By the way, this may look like a long blog, but that’s just because I have a lot of screenshots to help anyone who is new to Visual Studio.

    If you don’t already have the tools installed you can check out Part 1 – Installing the Phone tools (the title doesn’t match but that’s what I did in the actual blog post)

    Okay let’s go.

    I have Visual Studio installed on my PC, you may have to launch Visual Studio Express for Phone, but once you are in the tool the steps should be nearly identical.

    Step 1 – Launch Visual Studio 2010 (Start | All Programs | Visual Studio 2010 | Microsoft Visual Studio 2010)

    Step 2 – Create a phone project (Okay I admit it, I like VB .NET better than C#, I can write C# but I have to think harder to do it, if I am going to embarrass myself by sharing my code with you, I might as well go all out and use VB.NET, all you C# aficionados can scoff if you wish, but I like it)

    Choose File | New Project | Installed Templates (either pick Visual Basic or Visual C#) | Windows Phone Application

    Sure there’s a bunch of other project types there, but I figure the first one will work for a Hello World application. I’ll have to figure out the difference between all those other ones later.

    Now I get a window popping up asking which Windows Phone Platform I want to target for the application. I am going to choose 7.1, because 7.1 is the Mango release, I know there are some nice new features in that release and I want to be able to use them in my application. I also know that pretty much all Windows Phone users in Canada have the Mango update so I am not limiting who can use my application.


    Okay now I see a screen with a whole bunch of scary looking XAML. I just want to create a hello world app, so let’s hide that XAML stuff for now. There is a tiny double arrow you can click on to hide the XAML pane.



    Now I just have a page in front of me which says MY APPLICATION, and page name.

    Let’s start by changing the text “MY APPLICATION” to “HELLO BONJOUR APPLICATION”. If you click on the text that says My application it will select the TextBlock control that displays the text. That TextBlock control has properties that affect how it is displayed. When you select the TextBlock you can see the property window displayed in the bottom right hand corner.

    TIP:  if you like you can click on that property window and drag it out and resize it so it is easier to see. If you close the property window, you can get it back by:

    • selecting a control and hitting the <F4> key
    • selecting View | Properties Window from the menu
    • right clicking the control and selecting Properties from the pop-up menu.


    Go into the property window and change the Text Property to “Hello Bonjour Application”. The text on the screen should now show your new application title. I know from developing windows and web applications that you spend a lot of time editing properties, so good to get used to that right away.


    Now let’s add a Button, a TextBox, and a TextBlock to the screen. In order to add controls to the screen I need to display the toolbox window. On the far left of your Visual Studio window you will see a little tab called toolbox. You will need to click on that so that you can see the toolbox and add controls by dragging them to your screen. Lucky for me, although I have never built a phone app, I have used Visual Studio so I can actually help you out there if you haven’t.


    Once you can see the toolbox, drag a TextBox control, a Button Control and a TextBlock control to the screen and put them under the page name textblock. When you are done your screen should look something like this.


    Tip: If you find it annoying the way you have to keep re-opening the toolbox, there is a little pushpin icon that allows you to pin it in place so it stays there all the time. The pushpin is a toggle, so if you want the toolbox to go away again you can just click on that pushpin icon again.



    When you add controls, it is always a good idea to rename them, having controls called Button1 and textBox1, textBox2 is not very easy to keep track of later. I use a prefix to remember the type of control (e.g. txt, btn, blk) and then a meaningful name of some sort for each control. Let’s rename our controls. Button – btnDisplayMessage, TextBox – txtName, textBlock – blkMessage. You will find that makes life easier when you start adding code as well. To rename a control, bring up the properties and click on the control name, then you can type in a new name.



    Let’s also change a couple of properties to change how they are displayed.

    • BtnDisplayMessage set Content = Click Here
    • TxtName set Text to blank
    • BlkMessage set Text to blank

    Now we need to add some code, what we’ll do is have the user type their name into the text box, then click on the button. When you click on the button we’ll display a message saying Hello <insert name here> on the screen.

    Since we want our code to run when you click on the button, we can add an event handler to the button by double clicking on the button. That automatically creates a click event handler where you can write code that will execute when you click on the button. We are going to write code that says get the content of the Text property of the TxtName field (that will contain whatever the user types in) and put that value into the text property of our textblock concatenated to a string that says “Hello/Bonjour”  so basically you need to add the following code to your event handler.

    BlkMessage.Text = "Hello\Bonjour " & TxtName.Text

    When you are done it should something like this (I reformatted a little bit to make it more readable)

        Private Sub BtnDisplayMessage_Click(sender As System.Object,
                                            e As System.Windows.RoutedEventArgs
                                            ) Handles BtnDisplayMessage.Click
            BlkMessage.Text = "Hello\Bonjour " & TxtName.Text
        End Sub

    You now have two windows open, one is the designer window (MainPage.xaml) where you can add more controls and change properties. The other is the code window (MainPage.xaml.vb) where you can add and modify code. You can move back and forth freely between the windows by clicking on the tabs.



    We’re done! Now we can test our application! 

    You can launch the application a couple of ways, you can click on the debug button in the toolbar. you can choose Debug | Start Debugging from the menu, or you can right click on the project name in the Solution Explorer window and choose Debug | Start new instance.



    Now you wait a few little while for the emulator to load, dum de dum, (it takes a little time the first time you launch it) and then the application appears in the emulator.


    If you have a touch screen you can actually touch the textbox and the on screen keypad will appear in the emulator. If you don’t have a touchscreen, you can use your mouse to click inside the textbox and the onscreen keyboard will appear. This is where I go a little batty. You have to use the on screen keyboard by clicking the keys with your mouse, or tapping it with your fingers. You can’t use your desktop or laptop keyboard. Maybe they did that on purpose to remind us what it will be like for a phone user who doesn’t have a real keyboard Smile



    Now you can click on the button and ha! I just realized, when I screwed up my project and had to restart that I forgot to change the label on the button! So in the screen shots you will see that the button label is not set to “click here”!  Man, I should really go fix that shouldn’t I…I am not going to go recreate all the screen shots though, forgive me! Hey i guess I get to show you how to go back to your code,

    tip: DO NOT click on the ‘X’ beside the emulator. That works, but it unloads the emulator and then you have to wait for it to reload again. Instead go back to Visual Studio and choose Debug | Stop Debugging from the menu or click on the Stop debugging button in the toolbar. Then when you start debugging again it will be faster.


    Okay go back, select the button, <F4> to bring up properties, Change Content to “Click Here”. Now run it again to test <Start Debugging> Ha! fixed it! Now Type “S u s a n” into the text box, click on the “Click Here” button and cool! the textblock now says Hello/Bonjour Susan. I love it!


    So now that I have a very very simple application that I can run in the emulator I can play around a bit, start adding more controls to see what they look like, figure out how to line up the fields so they look nicer, play around with font sizes, explore the emulator buttons. That is why I like Hello World apps. They get me just far enough that I can start to explore. Next blog…I’m going to figure out how to put the application on my actual Windows Phone! But I got my Hello World finished, time to go celebrate with chocolate (I hope my kids have some Halloween candy left)

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    MSP Voice: Windows Phone Tips and Tricks by Alaa Shaabana


    I’ve always been a fan of the little tips and tricks in electronics that make our lives a little easier (than it already is!). So I’ve compiled a top-10 list of tips and tricks for you to try out on your new phone!


    To use the windows phone 7 voice controls, simply hold the windows button on your phone and talk to your phone. Try saying something like “Calories in a California roll”.


    You can add more apps to your start screen (or “pin” them). When you are in the long applications list, touch and hold an app you want to pin to the screen. And when the menu appears, click “pin to screen”.


    You’ve tried an app, and you don’t like it. You can certainly uninstall it by heading over to the long apps list, touching and holding an app you want to uninstall, and clicking “uninstall”.


    You can customize the look of your phone by changing the theme! Swipe on over to the menu list, select settings and choose theme. Here you can choose the color of the background and the accent. Background options are black and white, and you get a whole arrangement of colors for the accent!


    Windows phone 7 is built with the concept of panoramic tiles that you swipe to reveal more content off screen. So it’s always a good idea to try swiping to the left as there might be more stuff waiting for you to see.


    It’s not just about adding apps to the start page, you can also add people! You can find them in your contacts book, click on the “pin” icon (HINT: It looks like a thumbtack). And they’ll be added to your start page! Happy speed dialing!


    It’s easy to make mistakes while dialing, and can easily call long distance on accident. Windows Phone 7 can worry about that for you, head over to Settings, swipe over to Applications, and choose Phone. Turn on “International Assist” to automatically correct some common mistakes while dialing internationally or dialing while abroad.


    It’s always good to keep a backup of your pictures, and windows phone 7 comes with SkyDrive to let you do just that. If you haven’t already done so when you set up your phone the first time, just head over to Settings, swipe to the left and then scroll down to Pictures & Camera. You’ll find the option to set the Auto Upload feature on.


    Want to know if your text got to its destination? You can turn on SMS delivery confirmation by going to Settings, swipe to Applications, Messaging and flicking the On switch for SMS delivery confirmation.


    Internet Explorer on Windows Phone 7 has a “find” feature that allows you to find a word on a page (Yes, just like Ctrl+F). Simply press the three dots, click on “find on page” and then type in the word you’re looking for. Just press the back button to get back to the page without the search words highlighted.

    - Alaa Shaabana

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    Intern Voice: Wired by Jessica Pellow


    I'm wired, literally. That's right. My phone is currently plugged in, working it's little heart out as it attempts to update all that I hold dear. Which is mainly my email and Facebook. Sad, I know. "Wait, wired?" You say? Yes, I share your shock and sadness. You'd think that in the 21st century having to plug my phone in to update my email would be behind me, but no. I could blame my phone, but I've recently discovered that it's not its fault. So who's fault? The blame has to lie somewhere, correct? I'm going to blame my service provider. I'm not going to name names, in order to protect the incredibly guilty party, but said service provider happens to not support my Windows Phone.

    I’m just going to let the full force of that statement sink in. Shocking eh? What kind of depraved service provider would do such a thing? One with a heart like the Grinch, "two sizes too small". No data! You think to yourself, that can't be! Everyone provides data. Well, apparently they were perfectly willing to accommodate me should I have a Blackberry or an iPhone but aren't so willing to take the next step and support the Windows Phone.

    Where does this leave me? Sitting at my computer as my phone updates. While plugged in, this baby is a whole new world of awesome with cool apps and features that let me roam the internet. Unplugged I feel constrained, caged. Sure, there's lots of features that can be used without the internet or data but I like to roam free, spread my wings.

    Speaking of roaming free, I'm sure you're thinking "I thought we were gonna hear about FearFest Jess! What's the deal?".  To you I would say "Hold your horses! Patience is a virtue." But I'll try to make up for  forcing you to wait so long for an update.  Did I go to FearFest? No. Why? Because at 11pm Thursday the world appeared to spin on its ear and instead of Wonderland I ended up in my hometown.

    Now in all seriousness what I'm about to say is going to sound like I'm plugging the phone but the truth is that the way that I've organized my phone allowed me to navigate the confusing emails and texts I got that night and assemble them into a vague plan that helped me get home. By sorting my contacts into groups I was able to keep everyone's texts and emails together in one view by coordinating them under a group I named Family. On my old phone, my texts were never sorted and I couldn't even search in them to find what I needed. I had to try to think back chronologically to see when the last text was received. It was like playing Where's Waldo. This way I was able to see which plans were cancelled, who was coming when, and what I wanted to do once I got home plus set up my calendar so I knew where to be and when. Crisis averted.

    What's that? It's a bird! It's a plane! It's my Windows Phone.

    - Jessica Pellow

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    31 Days of Mango: #31AwesomeWPDevTutorials


    31If you’re looking to start learning Windows Phone 7.5 development, this could be the perfect place for you to start!  Jeff Blankenburg from Microsoft has compiled (or rather, at the time of publication of this post is compiling) a series of 31 tutorials on how to implement Windows Phone 7.5 Apps.

    The tutorials are “snack-sized”, meaning they won’t take you three hours to go through and they have been laid out to provide you with a learning path to getting comfortable with Windows Phone 7.5 development so you can create awesome apps for Windows Phone.  Basically, Jeff is providing a new tutorial every day in the month of November (2011).  Below is a list of these tutorials:


    Check them out and let me know what you think of them!

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