We've had a great time here on the Microsoft UK Student blog over the past few years, but it's time to move to a new home. We've thought long and hard about how we run social media for tech-mad students as well as developers in the UK, and have decided to create a brand new site for all UK developer content. This will include how to's, industry news, events coverage and peer to peer stories. Why not take a look?
We know many of you are developers first, students second, but want to make sure you still get all the content specific to life as a student that’s relevant, interesting and useful to help you through your chosen course. We’re migrating the content from the Microsoft UK Students blog across slowly but surely, and you can find all the student specific articles on the new site here http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/developers/articles#students/ As part of the move we have a new Twitter handle, @msdevuk, and we'll be retiring @msukstudents. We will make sure we highlight student specific content on the new site. Within the next few weeks @msdevuk will become the single account on Twitter related to everything from the Microsoft dev team in the UK – including the Microsoft Academic Team. Make sure you're following @msdevuk to keep on top of events, news, views and discussions.
You can still connect with the UK Academic team – Phil, Rebecca and Lee below - on their Facebook page as we want to keep the conversations focused on you, as a student who loves technology.
We'd welcome your thoughts on the change - please comment below or email us and tell us what you think!
Think you can’t create a brilliant app with free software? Think again!
A month ago, we interviewed James Mundy, a student developer from the start-up app company Menzapp. James was mid-way through his computer science degree at Sheffield University, when he came across an idea. He wanted to build an app.
Together with his friend Alfie, now studying part-time at Kent University, they created Menzapp and they have just launched their first major app on Windows Phone, called Foundbite. Foundbite is an application that combines photos and sound to capture the real atmosphere of an event or experience in a new and unique way. You can download Foundbite from the Windows Store.
James created Foundbite using tools provided through his subscription to DreamSpark – a Microsoft program, which gives student developers free development software to create their apps and websites. Before James started developing Foundbite, he had several smaller Windows Phone apps and was encouraged to begin to develop Foundbite full-time. James was later accepted onto the Microsoft and Nokia funded AppCampus program, which provides funding for developers bringing apps to Windows Phone.
If you’re a student developer, you too can access DreamSpark. You just need to be a student registered at a UK education establishment and you can download the software for free.
All you need to do for register for Dreamspark is the following:
1. Got to DreamSpark.com and create an ‘individual account’ – we recommend registering using a Windows Live ID if you are planning to build Windows or Windows Phone apps or games and want to sell them on the app store, as you need a Windows Live ID to login to the development areas.
2. Once registered, you will need to verify your student status. This software is only available for free to students registered at a UK education institution on the date of download. You can verify your student status in one of 3 ways:
a. With your school, college or university email address (domain)
b. With a verification code you may have received from your university
c. With an ISIC card with a valid ISIC number
3. Once your account has been verified, you will be able to login at DreamSpark.com and download the DreamSpark products.
4. Some UK institutions have separate licences for DreamSpark, where students are able to access further products. You can check if your school, college or university is registered through the DreamSpark homepage, or with your school administrator. If they are not already registered, why not ask them to consider DreamSpark for your lab?
If like James, you want to develop an app with professional quality tools at no cost to you, and you’re a student in a UK school, college or University, you can register for DreamSpark today.
So you’re a student and looking to build an app, where do you start?
You start here!
You’re a student at university, you don’t have enough money to buy food this week, let alone the latest software to create some awesome apps. You have an idea, it’s been fizzling in your mind all week. You’ve been writing code, you’ve been asking questions and you’re so excited. But where do you find the money to pay for the software you need to buy the development kit?
a) ‘Borrow’ the money from the bank of mum and dad?
b) Get another thousand shifts at your local Wetherspoons, and work your ass off for the next year to save the money?
Or… do you do something else entirely?
Developing is hard; we know; we do it too. It doesn’t have to be hard to get access to the latest software. But you need the software in order to create amazing apps. If you’re a student, Microsoft can give you some of their developer tools for free. The program is called DreamSpark. And it’s for students, just like you, who want access to the latest developer tools at no cost. (We promise there’s no catch. It really is free.)
And if that wasn’t music enough to your ears, Microsoft very recently released Visual Studio 2013 – the latest version of one of the best developer tools on the market. And you can have this, for free. You can also download SQL server 2012, if that’s your bag. In fact, there’s a full list of products and tools you can download, at no cost here: DreamSpark products for free.
All you need to do for register for DreamSpark is the following:
If you need more info, take a look at the DreamSpark FAQs.
It may seem like we’re trying to sell you something here, but actually what we’re offering is free professional level tools to you as a student for no cost at all. So your journey from pizza eating renegade to smooth app developer extraordinaire can start just here! Good luck app developing renegade, see you on the other side of the app store!
Ilya Baxter is a Windows Games Ambassador. Ilya below shares his opinion on what it is like to be a WGA, and the importance of publishing his first game.
My first ever published game Chronicles of Arizonia (http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-gb/app/chronicles-of-arizonia/8f2ccc48-8a39-4604-a820-07a909d1ba1f) was released for the Windows 8 Store all the way back in April with two major versions. Although it failed to achieve the mass success of other indie games like Minecraft, it is nice to have a game published in an online store to show off to friends, family and strangers. Since publishing Chronicles of Arizonia, I have published three more games with varying success in terms of downloads. I highly doubt this would have ever happened if I didn’t enter a competition almost a year ago to become a Windows Games Ambassador.
After entering the competition I had little faith anything would come about it so forgot about it for a few weeks. I then received an email saying ‘You are through to the next round’. After many technical inconveniences on my side (I had a 2008 MacBook) and a lot of determination, I got an email: ‘Welcome to the Windows Game Ambassadors 2013 programme’. Since that email a whole new world of opportunities has been opened up for me and the other Windows Games Ambassadors.
Even though I’m studying Games Development at University, I had no idea where to start to actually publish a game on any market. The whole process seemed daunting to me. However with the help of some amazing people at Microsoft, the Windows Games Ambassadors and I were given all the necessary tools and advice to get started publishing that all important first game.
Since then, I have had the chance to be involved in some amazing events at such cool venues, such as Campus Party and EuroGamer. These events have allowed me to network and meet professionals and like minded people in the gaming and technology industry, and I actually had something to talk about - Chronicles of Arizonia!
Now why is all this relevant? If it wasn’t for me being a Windows Games Ambassador I wouldn’t have got the necessary advice to publish my first game, or the opportunity to go to amazing events and met the people I have done. Being able to get help and feedback from Microsoft employees has been one of the biggest benefits of the experience so far. It has taught me the importance of having a published game in an online store, it gives you a lot of experience and confidence to publish more games. Most importantly it has taught me that if you are a student you have no excuse not to publish games and apps, everything you need is provided for you – for free - by Microsoft.
Anyone who wants to be in the games industry must have some sort of published product, and you don’t need to be a Windows Games Ambassador to get started. If you are a student you can download all the tools you need and get a developer account FOR FREE!
Tools and resources you need to get started:
Microsoft Student Partner Dene Palmer shares his experience of working at The Skills Show and Skills London. He describes how DreamSpark inspired young students to go off and code - free Microsoft software if you are a student.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be asked to work with some of the Microsoft DPE team at The Skills Show in Birmingham. The Skills Show is the UK’s largest skills and careers event, its focus is to let young people 'have a go' at various activities, and try to inspire them to choose a career path that suits them. I went with a fellow Student Partner, Gordon Walker; Lee Stott and Simon Michael from the Developer Evangelism team, and two members of the Microsoft Partners in Learning network, Simon Johnson and David Renton. Our job whilst we were there was to demonstrate technologies such as Kodu, TouchDevelop, Project Spark, and AppStudio and occasionally dipping into Visual Studio and showing the attendees some real, live coding (with it's usual risks attached!) With the aim of making IT an attractive career prospect to young people. Project Spark received a lot of attention early on, especially with the younger attendees; they were fascinated by how easy it was to create their own game world and the characters within it, as shown below.
As the event gathered pace, and the older students started to arrive, I had more success with my Windows Phone development stand, I walked the students through some simple, 'plain English' programming examples for the platform, and then deployed their created applications onto real handsets. This had a great effect, the students loved having something physical that they'd created and could interact with. I gave away a lot of DreamSpark sign up cards to the students that responded well to my demos, and many left the stand enthused and looking forward to heading home so they could get coding!
A lot of people were seriously impressed by The Microsoft DreamSpark programme, that offers a suite of professional level tools to students developers at no cost! I've blogged extensively about DreamSpark, it's benefits and how to get into coding before, links to the articles here:
DreamSpark - What is the value to you?
Learning to code the Microsoft way
We had a great time at the event, and (hopefully) we inspired many young people to pursue a life long career in IT! Go team Microsoft!
Whilst I was there, I was asked if I was available to work at Skills London the following Saturday 23rd November. Obviously I agreed straight away, another chance to do what I love? It's a no brainer!
As soon as I got home from The Skills Show, I booked my train tickets to London.
Skills London was a similar event to The Skills Show, geared towards inspiring young people to a future in IT. This time however I didn't focus on Windows Phone development, instead I demo'd a platform called .Net Gadgeteer to the attendees. This instantly drew a captive audience, as the young people were really interested in the circuit boards and modular components that the platform consists of.
Our demo setup, expertly configured by Paul Foster, was some Gadgeteer modules all connected up with Pac Man on! I demo'd this alongside Andrew Fryer, who's always a pleasure to work with!
Again at this event I put a heavy focus on our DreamSpark programme, and the benefits this has for students by getting them familiar with industry leading tools. Just like at The Skills Show, many students left our stand enthused about a career in the industry. Job done!
I'm really grateful to get the opportunities I do, and the chance to work with some really interesting industry people; I just hope I repay the faith shown in me by being successful in inspiring more young people to work in IT! It's a fulfilling and rewarding industry to work in.
Did you know that as a student you can get all Microsoft Developer Tools free of charge? In one word its “DreamSpark”.
The latest version of our Professional Suite - Visual Studio 2013 is NOW available for you to download. As there are many thousands of pounds worth of software on the site we do need to verify you are a student and there are several ways of doing this, you can use your uni/college/ school email address, an ISIC Card or a code we can supply.
Alternatively, some university STEM departments and colleges subscribe to DreamSpark Premium which gives you even more software including Windows 8.1 for dev work. Schools and non STEM depts. can use DreamSpark Standard to get the tools and you can quickly check if your uni/college/school is eligible by searching here. I know it says school but it also applies to colleges and uni depts as well.
If your uni dept, college or school doesn’t have it – we can always help by giving you a code you can use to persuade the department to subscribe free of charge. It also means the software can be deployed on Lab machines, educators PC and obviously your own personal machine, To get hold of that just connect with us via firstname.lastname@example.org and well take it from there.
Go ahead, download, its free after all, and please tell your friends, colleagues and educators. Also, when you do something amazing, or different or simply cool with it, tell us and we’ll see if we can tell the world!
You can connect with us via Facebook or use the email address email@example.com and we'll get back to you.
Thanks again checking out DreamSpark and reading to the end ! We’d really like to hear about your successful projects and apps and I you are brave enough some of your “disasters” as well – we all have them at times.
Just to wet your appetite – here are 2 student stories who used DreamSpark to get going….
Dene Palmer is one of our Microsoft Student Partner’s from Lincoln University who works with Windows Phone and Windows Azure, and has recently started to teach lower year groups Windows Phone development at his University. Below is a blog Dene has written about how easy it is to get into coding. Check out Dene’s personal blog here http://denepalmer.azurewebsites.net/.
In the present day, there has never been a better time to get into programming. There's a multitude of online resources out there to help teach and inspire you to create the next big thing, no matter your previous experience, background or history. There's no need to slave away infront of text books anymore, or trawl through clunky message boards.
Below I'll give you a run down of how Microsoft is helping inspire the next generation of digital creators by delivering all of these tools - for free!
Channel 9 is Microsoft's home for all their free video tutorials and resources, including live streaming of current Microsoft events and recordings of past events for you to watch back at your leisure. It includes videos on all sorts of topics and development, ranging from Windows Phone and Windows Azure tutorials, to videos of Imagine Cup presentations and videos about Microsoft's history (One of my favourites below).
Who doesn't miss Clippy? When you join Channel 9, you're joining a busy, vibrant community full of like minded people; so you best be prepared to join in! Don't be afraid to dive in to the comments and the forums, the more you join in, the more you'll learn; the community is ready and willing to help and advise you with anything you might be having trouble with. You might also be interested in Channel 9's 'coding4fun' projects, these are interesting, engaging projects that Channel 9 members are actively encouraged to take part in, this helps you grow your own problem solving and development skills, as instead of following a series of steps in a tutorial, you're building something yourself and encountering your own problems!
For any aspiring developer, the main hurdle is access to industrial level software, as it can be expensive. Luckily Microsoft don't provide all the content and then skimp out on the tools! Visual Studio Express is available to everyone, free of charge. It lets you dive in straight away to develop Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Web apps, plus many more!
When this is coupled with MVA and Channel 9, you'll soon be on your way to being a seasoned developer! Using Visual Studio Express will also prepare you for the working world if you pursue a career in development, as Visual Studio is one of the leading IDEs used in a production environment.
Finally, we come to what's available if you're a student wanting to get into development, at Microsoft they really value youth and the next generation of developers, so provide plenty of resources to go along with this! DreamSpark gives students and academic institutions access to a huge range of development tools and Microsoft software to help them learn and develop. As a student myself, it's been massively valuable in helping to build my future career and expand my CV with relevant industry experience.
For more information on DreamSpark read here http://bit.ly/17fU86S.
So there you go, Microsoft are massively behind supporting the next generation of developers, so here's your chance! Get out there, sign up and get coding!
Martin’s Unicorn Space Command:
Thought you might be interested in a students experience of writing a game for Windows 8
YouTube link for the game
Windows Store link: (also http://bit.ly/USC2013)
Twitter - @_martingrant
My name is Martin and I’m a second year Computer Games Technology at the University of the West of Scotland. In April a Windows 8 game jam was held at my campus, organised by a Window Game Ambassador. The goal of which was simply to build some kind of game that would be released on the the Windows Store. Microsoft also kindly offered a prize as an extra incentive.
We could use any means possible to build our games be it straight from Visual Studio or any other development software. I chose Construct 2 - an absolutely fantastic HTML5 games engine. If you have ever used GameMaker before, it is quite similar to that but more powerful in some ways. We had a theme to design a game based around mythical creatures, and thus Unicorn Space Command was born. The mere mention of the term mythical and I jumped straight to unicorn, and why not add some space in there too just for the hell of it.
Unicorn Space Command lets you control the turrets of a starship caught in a treacherous asteroid field, firing rainbow lasers at incoming space rocks, blasting them into history so you can make it back home in one piece. The design took a matter of minutes to conjure up, so I got fired right into the development while my artist Callum Lyons got started on producing some lovely space themed imagery. I had never used Construct 2 before so I spent an hour working through a tutorial which let me know right away that I had made the right choice for my development tool, it was just so easy to use it’s unbelievable. To start off I created a very basic prototype where a turret could shoot out some coloured particles wherever the player indicated. Programmer art, of course, then I created a nice starfield background and had some test asteroids fall down the screen. Once I added in collisions the game was more or less complete, once I imported the final artwork I just spend a lot of time polishing it up so the game loop flowed correctly, the spawn times of the asteroids seemed challenging and implemented a basic scoring system. My favourite part of the game might just be the music, it’s incredibly cheesy.
It was surprisingly easy to build my game for Windows 8. Construct 2 has a built in export for Windows feature, from there I just had to edit some of the game files from Visual Studio and that was me ready to upload! It was very cool to be able to create a game that utilised touch controls since a lot of Windows 8 computers are touch screen, something I had never done before. Since I had a very short space of time to create the game I never got to use some of the new Windows features like the charm bar and live tiles but they will be absolutely making an appearance in the next update of Unicorn Space Command. It was so exciting submitting my game to the Windows Store as this has been my first published game. Submission was a very easy and smooth process, you are guided through and shown exactly what you need to create a successful submission. Approval of your game is a fairly transparent process too as you are shown what they are doing with your game at various stages whether it is testing the game or just checking all your data about the game matches up correctly. I chose for Unicorn Space Command to be a free game, it being my first submission. Thankfully as a student with access to Microsoft Dreamspark I get access to a Windows developer account for free, as well as getting access to all sorts of development software. As soon as I got an email telling me it was approved for the store I was refreshing the page constantly just to see my game appear on an international store. What a fantastic feeling that was seeing my game there, starting to feel like my career as a games developer would start taking shape from here on out. My friends were immediately ordered to download the game and give it a shot giving me some great feedback right away.
Since Unicorn Space Command has appeared on the Windows Store it has been going absolutely fantastic. There has been a few articles published about the game so far including one of the largest sites representing games in Scotland (http://scottishgames.net/2013/04/22/unicorn-space-command-game-jam-title-hits-windows-app-store/). I’ve even been gaining a rise in my Twitter followers. Speaking about the game specifically, at the time of writing I am closing in on 200 downloads from various countries around the world. The game has also received a generous number of 5 star ratings. As a Windows Store developer I have access to an analytics dashboard which offers me a plethora of statistics about downloads, playtime and other data that I can use to update my game to create the best experience I can offer to my players. On the Windows Store you can filter games by the highest rating, and I’ve been absolutely shocked that again at the time of writing Unicorn Space Command is currently #48 out of over 6000 games. Every time I check I say to myself “are you kidding me?!”, I don’t think I believe it quite yet.
My plans for the near future are to make a small update to the game and definitely ship it over to Windows Phone, iOS and Android to hopefully see some larger download figures! As I used Construct 2 to create the game, throughout the summer months I will be rewriting it in C++ as I plan on shipping a sequel to the game, involving a number of quite large changes turning it into a much bigger game. I am still going to be continuing to use Construct 2 as I have also purchased a full license for it to make a couple small games to hopefully generate a small stream of ad revenue for some extra summer spending money. April was also a great time for me to create a Windows 8 app as I could gain points from http://www.appbuilder-rewards.co.uk and use them to claim for some free prizes from Microsoft, as well as winning a Windows Phone from the game jam which I plan on using for more games developing, testing future mobile apps.
This has been an amazing experience for me, giving me a taste of the life of a professional games developer. Getting my ideas out there in the public is very cool and the fact that people across the world are actually downloading and rating my game?! I’m still not over it, I check the download stats on a daily basis! I thoroughly recommend some of the resources I’ve mentioned like Construct 2 and DreamSpark and I would like to make a big thank you to Microsoft for making this experience possible for me, and thank you to anyone has enjoyed playing my game!
Check out my website and Twitter for updates on Unicorn Space Command, its sequel and some other brand new games coming soon!
Meet James Mundy.
James is a student with a startup, Mendzapp. James is mid-way through a Software Engineering Degree at Sheffield University, but has taken a year out to work full-time on Mendzapp, with the company of friend Alfie – who is working part-time whilst completing his degree at the University of Kent. James shares more information below.
The app we are currently building is called Foundbite (http://foundbite.co). Foundbite contains photos and sound to capture the atmosphere of an event, place or experience. This can then be uploaded to a map where others can hear what it sounds like in other places around the world. Watch the video here.
The app, currently only available on Windows Phone (Android soon), allows the user to add sound to an existing photo or capture sound simultaneously whilst taking one or a series of images. These can then be shared via social networks where users are directed to the Foundbite website. Whilst the combination of photos and sounds might sound like video, it actually provides a really different and nice way to capture a memory and share it, whilst still leaving something to the imagination.
The app is just about to launch and so far around 650 foundbites have been uploaded:
http://foundbite.co/2103399390 – Busker in Shoreditch
http://foundbite.co/5719237705 – Croatia busker, Dubrovnik (my favourite)
http://foundbite.co/5977603098 – Soccer Game, Seattle
http://foundbite.co/4457177769 – Final Countdown
I personally think the best three things about the app are:
1) It’s something quite new and different – there aren’t many people doing the same thing
2) No social networks have concentrated on capturing sounds of the world, it’s really been neglected beyond spoken word and music
3) It’s really interesting to see what people are uploading from all over the world and the experiences and places they are sharing
In terms of my app journey, before I started developing Foundbite I had developed several small Windows Phone apps. I was encouraged to take the plunge and begin developing Foundbite full time, after being accepted onto the Microsoft and Nokia funded AppCampus program. The programme provides funding for developers bringing apps to Windows Phone, and keeps them exclusive for 3 months. Since then it’s been quite a few months developing and beta testing to get to this stage.
It’s been great fun but the whole app has been one great big challenge. Not only was there the app to development, but also a site and scalable back-end to service content, much of which is thanks to Alfie and George who worked with us for a while. Every step has involved a huge amount of learning and has given me a tremendous amount of experience. Keeping sane while working pretty much every day for the last few months was probably the greatest challenge J.
My app is now live in the Windows store, which you can get here.
Download and check out James’ app! Read more here on the Mendzapp blog and follow James on Twitter @MendzappJames.
General information on these competitions can be found on our website at http://www.imaginecup.com
Here is a quick summary of the 2014 competitions:
World Citizenship: This category is most similar to past Imagine Cup contests which emphasized solving global problems in areas such as health, the environment, and human rights. Projects in this category are primarily judged based on the problem they’re addressing and the likely impact the project will have. This category tells the Imagine Cup social-good story.
Innovation: This category is not based on global problems at all. Instead we are looking for projects with a strong consumer appeal and a gee-whiz quality that will surprise and delight a broad audience. Projects in this category are primarily judged based on the creative innovation they offer. Projects in the Innovation category that attempt to address global problems do not receive any points for doing so; those projects really belong in World Citizenship and will probably not be competitive in Innovation. The Innovation category tells the Imagine Cup cutting-edge tech story.
Games: The global videogame market is now estimated at $66 billion dollars, that the number of schools with game programs or degrees has increased rapidly The Games competition was the most popular Imagine Cup contest last year according to both student registrations and number of projects submitted to our Online Finals. Students are highly motivated to make games and with your help and support, they will do so on Microsoft platforms.
Every year Imagine Cup offers a variety of global online challenges.
This year’s three challenges are designed to teach students about the software development lifecycle and get them started early on their projects for our three main competitions. Each challenge includes Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship categories and the top team in each category will win $3,000.
These challenges are completely optional for students. A team can do one, skip one, do them all, skip them all, whatever. The challenges have no impact on the three core competitions. However, we expect that teams who participate in the challenges will end up with stronger projects for their chosen competition than teams who skip the challenges.
1. Pitch Video Challenge: Student teams create a five-minute video explaining their project.
Launch: September 13, 2013 - End: October 25, 2013
2. Project Blueprint Challenge: Student teams create a ten-page document presenting their project in detail.
Launch: October 29, 2013 - End: December 17, 2013
3. User Experience Challenge: Student teams create a set of user flows, wireframes, and a visual target for how their project will look, feel, and flow.
Launch: January 3, 2014 - End: February 21, 2014
Best of luck to UK Entries full terms and conditions are available at http://www.imaginecup.com