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    The world needs more geek girls

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    IMG_5169Yesterday I had the pleasure of being involved at an event that exposed grade 5 & 6 girls to science and technology, the event was fun but it does address a serious issue: the shortage of girls in computer science and engineering.

    My son covered his ears as the girls screamed, cheering on their teacher and classmate competing in the 50 metre sprint in Kinect sports on the Xbox. My son was seriously outnumbered yesterday as 218 girls from grades 5 & 6 descended on McGill university for the 4 girls event organized by Clumeq and GenInc and sponsored by Microsoft. The girls spent the day going to different sessions to learn about science and technology.

    The day was kicked off by Marie-Jo Leroux of Ubisoft who talked about life as a video game producer. I think I may have enjoyed that presentation more than the girls as she gave us a behind the scenes look at making games like Driver: San Francisco and IronMan. She delivered a great message: my job isn’t easy, but I love what I do, so I don’t mind! Find what you love, your career will choose you!

    So why doesn’t the technology career path choose more women? I don’t know the answer, they were asking that question when I went to university years ago as well (I won’t admit how many years ago). Maybe events like this will help. Some of the girls may have been surprised by how cool and fun science and technology can be hopefully they will come to love technology as so many of us do.

    McGill student Genevieve L’Esperance, former Microsoft Student Partner and intern, did a workshop using SmallBasic that gets kids to explore programming. She has delivered this workshop at many Teaching Kids Programming events outside of Canada and was very happy to finally have a chance to do it in her hometown! Quoted in the Montreal Gazette she says “I have one or two girls in my classes, I have no biases toward anybody, but' it’s nice to have like a sister in class”

    In my workshop I talked about the different ways to interact with computers, and we discussed how programmers have many tools to choose from and you have to figure out which tool is right for each solution. The kids compared drawing with a mouse to drawing with touch on Windows 8 and Windows Phone, they compared using calculator with a keyboard vs a mouse, we tested the accuracy of voice recognition on the Windows phone and of course they thoroughly enjoyed testing the motion recognition of Kinect. We finished on a more serious note talking about how these new capabilities of voice and gesture open up new possibilities and truly give those of us in the technology field a chance to change the world for the better.

    Hopefully reaching girls early in their education and exposing them to the capabilities of science and technology will draw more girls into the field. For Canada to compete globally we need a strong pool of students entering science and technology. Depsite above average wages the computer sector struggles to fill many positions. There is a decrease in university enrollment in fields such as Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Software Engineering. Girls are a source of talent that could help fill these gaps.

    As a student, or a working professional you can help! Speak at a high school, speak at an elementary school, show them what they are missing. Here are a couple of great resources you can use when speaking to school kids about the computing field: Computers unplugged, Teaching Kids Programming. I may be an evangelist for Microsoft, but we can all be evangelists for a career in science and technology!

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    Your Windows 8 Update!

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    Windows 8 Start ScreenMore Windows 8 events are coming to a city near you! Don’t miss out on these great chances to be one of the first in the Windows 8 store!

    More dates and cities have been added to the Windows 8 event list. Don’t miss out!

    • Hackathons are a chance to do some serious coding with help from onsite proctors
    • Design Clinics are 1-3 hours long and will help you better understand Metro Design
    • Camps are usually full day events, exact content will vary, but they are great for getting started building your first Windows 8 app.

    To get the most from the events, or to help you get started if there is no event near you:

    • Go to the Windows Developer Center to download Windows 8, Visual Studio 11 Express beta and find resources to help you get started building Windows 8 apps.
    • Check out the keynote and breakout sessions from Build
    • Follow the Building Windows 8 blog so you have the most up to date information about Windows 8 direct from the source!

    Vancouver

    Toronto

    Montreal

    Calgary

    If you come to the Design Clinic or hackathon in Montreal, stop by and say hi, I’ll be there Smile

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    George Brown College fighting climate change with Kinect

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    Project Greeni was the first place entry in the software design category at the Canadian Imagine Cup Finals, let’s learn more about how they want to help change the world!

    The Problem:

    Global Warming and toxic pollution from power plants

    The Solution:

    Save energy by only running lighting and ventilation systems as needed

    Technologies Used:

    Kinect, Azure, Windows Presentation Foundation, .NET 4.0 Framework, Phidget Library

    What did they do?

    Save energy. It sounds simple enough, but how do you actually do it? That’s what Team Greeni: Timur Sharaftinov, Dmitry Zhivotovsky, Vasily Gurin, Alecsander Granger and their mentor Leo Salemi set out to figure out.IMG_1442-008

    You’ve seen it yourself, you walk down a city street at night and the skyline is lined with nearly empty office buildings lit up like Christmas trees. We’ve had motion sensors you could install in office buildings for years, but they are purely based on motion (have you ever sat too still in a meeting room and had the lights turn off?) and they don’t always integrate well with existing building automation systems. In addition, they only control lighting, not ventilation systems.

    Team Greeni decided to use a Kinect, carbon dioxide, and light sensors to collect data then process that data in the cloud using Azure and determine when to turn lights and fans on and off.

    image

    The team did a live demonstration at the Imagine Cup finals of the motion sensor controlling the lights and the Carbon dioxide detector controlling the fan. They have done a test of the system at the iCREST lab at George Brown to show how easily you can reduce electrical consumption using intelligent sensors. The red line below shows the original energy usage based on traditional time controlled environmental systems. The White lines show the energy consumption using the Greeni System.

    image

    The system also includes voice control and can be used for someone in an assisted living situation.
    As the winners of the software design category, Team Greeni will be travelling to Sydney, Australia July 6th to represent Canada at the world wide Imagine Cup Finals. Wish them luck in Australia! I promise we’ll let you know how things go!

    Next year you could represent Canada at the world finals! The Imagine Cup is an annual event. We’ll be announcing categories for Imagine Cup 2013 this summer. Got a project course coming up this year? Why not build a project that you can enter in the Imagine Cup? Hopefully this time next year I’ll be writing a blog about your work!

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    Vancouver Tech Fest 2012

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    Fast, flexible and easy to use. Since a few years, these are the words everything moves around in the tech world. With a great line up of speakers the Vancouver Tech Fest 2012 approached the topic from many perspectives.

    Working environments will change dramatically. They no longer have to be built around machines. Tablet are getting more and more practical these days. The industry is starting to understand how important the user interface is and that if everything works, technical specifications are not the priority for the user. In his welcome speech Richard Campbell described how tablets will cause changes in businesses. He mentioned new ways of communication that will change companies from the inside to the point of having them resemble cafés in future. Is it bad? Richard Campbell doesn’t think so.

    There were many other speakers covering topics ranging from cloud computing with Microsoft Azure, over to CMS solutions with DotNetNuke or Joomla, operating systems and Windows Phone 7 to Development and Databases. No matter what you were interested  you could find an interesting speech on that topic.

    The highlight of the event was the Keynote by Scott Guthrie, the Vice President of the Microsoft Developer Division. In the packed Telus Theatre at the BCIT Burnaby campus he showed an impressive presentation on Windows Azure. Within a few minutes of live coding he created a cloud app, which easily could be published to a million of users thanks to the windows new cloud service. Flexibility and agility reaches another level with services like this. With pay as you go pricing models computing power no longer is a huge investment. Applications can be scaled up to hundreds of servers within minutes during uptimes and scaled down to one server when they’re not used. With an intelligent server and resource management, the data is safer than ever while keeping the servers being energy efficient.

    The fun presentation Scott Guthrie showed how companies can gain an edge in the market by setting up short publishing times, shorter development cycles and more flexible pricing plans.

    Definitely another highlight in the software development talks was Thomas Lewis’ presentation on responsive web. Known as a great speaker he showed how web developers can deal with the huge variety of devices and screen sizes. By not addressing special devices or browsers, developers should think about in which context and at which screen size it makes sense to show your website in a certain way. With CSS3 it is possible to get to know the users device and to present your content in an appropriate way. Thomas Lewis fights with an incredible passion for a better-looking web and his presentations are for sure a great step in this direction.

    I learnt that Scott Guthrie and his team bet on user response based on A/B testing and that Thomas Lewis is obsessed with changing his browser window size on every website he lands on in order to find great design examples for responsive web. Since I am not yet 100% confident with my north American networking skills, I grabbed a beer and some food at the buffet and sneaked out of the networking event. At home I felt a strong desire to get my hands on all the stuff I learned during the day. It was a great, inspiring and well organized event.

    Have a great week!

    Martin Schueller

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    Imagine Cup Canada 2012 Winners! Changing the world!

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    Check out the amazing entries and winners of the Canadian 2012 Imagine Cup!

    Wow! That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of the presentations I saw Monday at the Canadian finals. Congratulations to all the students who took the stage to talk about their solutions to help healthcare, the environment, and medical research. Your work was nothing less than inspiring!

    For everyone who couldn't be there in person, enjoy this video sharing some of the highlights of what was truly an inspirational day and scroll down to find out about the Canadian winners!

     

    I can’t possibly sum up the day in a single video or blog post, so you’ll be seeing a series of blog posts highlighting different aspects of the Imagine Cup. But I can sum it up in 2 words: Students rock! I think their work challenges the rest of us to raise the bar a little higher for ourselves.

    Now without further ado, here are the results

    Software Design

    This category requires the use of Visual Studio and the .NET Framework plus one additional Microsoft technology such as Azure, Kinect, Windows Phone, Windows 8, or Windows Embedded. Teams may also integrate additional technologies into their solutions including non-Microsoft technologies to create their solutions. The winner of this category will represent Canada at the world finals in Australia.

    First Place
    Team Greeni- George Brown College
    Team Greeni is tackling the challenge of climate change. Energy is wasted every day when office buildings leave on lights and fans to keep air circulating. Sure we have motion sensors in meeting rooms, but don’t sit still too long or the lights go out.
    Using a Kinect sensor, light sensors, CO2 sensors, the Phidget library, some ingenuity and code running on Azure, they have created a sensor system that will determine when to turn fans and lights on and off. Controlled by sensor or by voice this system is already proven to save electricity in their lab at school. The voice control also makes it suitable for someone with a disability to control their environment.
    IMG_4409-048Team Greeni (Dmitry Zhivotovsky, Alecsander Granger, Timur Sharaftinov, Vasily Gurin and mentor Leo Salemi)from George Brown College will represent Canada in Australia at the World Wide Finals.
    Second Place
    Team Nimbus - University of British Columbia

    Black market drugs and overpriced drugs caused by drug company monopolies are making it difficult for citizens to access important drugs to treat even commonplace diseases like Malaria in many countries. Team Nimbus developed an ASP.NET MVC website, a Windows Phone application for remote access, and leveraged the power of Azure and Bing Web Services to implement a solution that would allow pharmaceutical companies to sell and ship their drugs to doctors around the world. This would create competition in monopolized markets and reduce drug costs and the need for the black market making essential drugs available and affordable to those in developing countries.
    Team Nimbus (Pavel Islam, Caleb Ho, Matthew Park, Amin Ali) present their solution Global Pharmacy Connection
    Third Place
    Team D19 - McGill University
    How do you get treatment to patients in rural villages in India? Doctors prefer to work in the cities, but that leaves a large portion of the population with no health care services.
    Team D19 developed a Windows 8 application and a Windows Phone application that allows you to give minimal training to someone in a village to act as a Health Care Worker. Armed with a phone they can interview patients in villages and send information back to the doctor in the city who can suggest treatment. Abhijeet and Shravan will be travelling to India this summer for a pilot of their idea.
    IMG_1469-011Team D19 (Abhijeet Kalyan and Shravan Narayan) present their solution to rural health care in India

    Windows Phone Game Design

    In this category students are limited to using a Windows Phone Game to help solve one of the world’s problems. The teams at this year’s finals did an amazing job trying to inspire and educate through their games

    First Place
    Team Project Beacon – Carleton University
    Project Beacon built a Windows Phone Game called Breathe. The game premise is an astronaut who has returned to earth only to discover that pollution has destroyed our precious planet and he must solve puzzles to reduce the pollution before his oxygen runs out.
    IMG_4422-050Team Project Beacon (Eva Demers-Brett, Curtis Field, Gar Lam, Clark McGillis and mentor Jean-Sylvain Sormany) celebrate first place in the Windows Phone game category
    Second Place
    Team Novarum – Carleton University
    Many countries receive aid to try and feed the hungry, but getting that food to those who need it is harder than you would expect. Team Novarum built a game called Feed The People which reminds us of the challenges in getting food to those who need it.
    IMG_1474-001Team Novarum (Ryan Bottriel, Zara Tooth, Skye Gagne and Matthew Fournier who couldn’t attend the finals mentored by Jean-Sylvain Sormany) present their game Feed The People.
    Third Place
    Team Phylo – McGill University
    Imagine if solving a puzzle in a game actually helped genetic research! That’s the premise behind the game Phylo. One of the things humans still do better than computers is recognize patterns. Patterns are key to analyzing genetic sequences and identifying mutations. Phylo presents puzzles that represent actual genetic sequences and asks you to match the patterns. When players solve the puzzles their results can be sent back to the McGill bioinformatic department database analyzed and applied into active research.
    IMG_1492-013
    Team Phylo (Chu Wu, Alfred Kam with help from David Becerra and mentored by Jerome Waldispuhl) present their game to the judges
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