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I love my job! Why? Because, as manager of Games for Learning and Digital Humanities at Microsoft Research Connections, I get to explore four of my favorite things: games, art, technology, and education.
This week is especially exciting for me, because yesterday, we launched the Microsoft ChronoZoom Visualizing Challenge, which unites all four of these passions. Even better, it offers you the opportunity to participate—and maybe win a great prize (see disclaimer). Microsoft is sponsoring a challenge to create visualizations that (1) use ChronoZoom datasets and (2) provide new functions that have been requested by educators and students in our pilot programs. Read the Official Rules and register to enter the challenge.
So, how does this competition bring my four favorite things together? Allow me to explain:
A challenge is defined as a game of skill. There is no chance involved. We will provide all contestants with the same dataset and the same basic information. You can use a wide variety of tools to create either a static or a dynamic visualization of the challenge data.
The challenge is all about creating beautiful visualizations. In this regard, I would suggest that beautiful should be defined as “elegant, refined, and functional.” The visualizations should be simple enough for middle school students to use and understand, but powerful enough to enable these students to draw deep insights.
ChronoZoom’s robust, innovative technology is the result of three years of collaboration between Microsoft Research, the University of California at Berkeley, Moscow State University, the University of Washington, and researchers and historians around the world. ChronoZoom is a free, open source, community-owned project designed to run on any modern browser.
ChronoZoom was originally intended as an tool for teaching Big History, which is to say the history of life, humanity, the Earth, the cosmos—everything that’s happened during the last 13.8 billion years. Recently, we’ve shifted the focus to general history education, adapting ChronoZoom to empower teachers at middle schools and high schools, giving them a powerful tool for explaining complex concepts of causality and ambiguity in historical thinking. We are following a standards-aligned curriculum we’ve developed in partnership with the National Council for Social Studies, the American Historical Association, the University of North Carolina, and a group of talented curriculum developers and subject matter experts.
You can enter by yourself or in a team of up to five people. If you work at a design firm and want to enter, please be sure you (or your company) meet our eligibility guidelines with respect to the public sector (see disclaimer).
An independent third-party organization, visualizing.org, will assemble a panel of expert judges to evaluate the entries according to the following criteria:
In addition, there will be two special prizes: a Student Prize and an Infographic Prize. The Student Prize will be awarded to the best entry made by a student or an all-student team. The Infographic Prize will go to the best non-interactive entry. This can just be a beautiful image that illuminates the data by using the creative tools of your choice.
Entries will be eligible to win the following prizes:
First Place: US$5,000 and a trip to Moscow (the one in Russia, not Idaho!) to meet with a ChronoZoom designer/coder/programmer
Second Place: US$2,750
Third Place: US$1,500
Student Prize: US$300. If a student team wins, each student will receive $300, up to $1,500 maximum (for a team of five).
Infographic Prize: US$1,000
You can probably tell that I am thrilled to have the opportunity to invite you to take part in this challenge. It will be lots of fun and, best of all, the visualizations that are developed will be available for educators and student around the world to better understand history and concepts of historical thinking. If you are a developer, enter the challenge! If not, stick around and we will share all the entries with you once the challenge is over! The challenge runs from 11:01 A.M. Eastern Time (ET) on November 5, 2013, and ends at 11:59 P.M. ET on January 8, 2014. Register now!
—Donald Brinkman, Manager, Games for Learning and Digital Humanities, Microsoft Research Connections
Disclaimer: Open only to individuals 18 years of age or older who are currently enrolled as students at an accredited educational institution that grants college/university degrees (a “University”), or individuals 18 and older who are employed at an accredited educational institution that grants college/university degrees and who do not make procurement decisions in their employment, or individuals 18 and older who are employed at a private sector company and who do not engage in procurement or regulatory activities in their employment. Individuals may enter individually or in teams of up to five (5). Private sector companies that do not engage in procurement or regulatory activities with any public sector agency may also enter as well. Challenge ends at 11:59 P.M. ET on January 8, 2014. Read the Official Rules. (Back to blog)
Microsoft Research is pleased to announce the successful applicants in our first round of Windows Azure for Research awards. You didn’t make it easy for us—we received many good quality proposals. Our selection committee evaluated each submission in terms of its potential to accelerate research and its suitability for deployment on the Windows Azure cloud platform. There were far more outstanding proposals than we could accommodate during this first round of awards.
Difficult though it was, we selected 35 proposals for the initial set of awards. The award recipients come from 15 countries/regions and represent a variety of research domains, including scholarly communication and collaboration, big data and machine learning, urban informatics, genomics and related health science, geo and environmental science, and computer science. Each selected project will receive a substantial allocation of Windows Azure compute and storage resources to support the research over the next 12 months.
The deadline for the next round of proposals is December 15, 2013. Applicants are also encouraged to attend one of our cloud computing for research training events, which are being held at locations around the world.
The first-round selected projects are:
We are thrilled to be off and running with the Windows Azure for Research awards, and we look forward to being amazed by the next batch of proposals.
—Dennis Gannon, Director of Cloud Research Strategy, Microsoft Research
I would like to invite you to participate in the new Windows Azure for Research social media sites on LinkedIn and Twitter. These are where you’ll find information on Microsoft Research Connections’ initiative for helping the worldwide research community take advantage of cloud computing’s computational power, scalability, and cost-savings.
At the Windows Azure for Research LinkedIn group page, you can connect with researchers and domain experts who are exploring the myriad possibilities for using Windows Azure for data-intensive research. This group intends to foster conversations on getting started in the cloud and to provide a venue for discussing potential uses, for networking with other researchers, and for staying informed on the Windows Azure resources—such as training, technical curriculum, research grants, and community engagement—that Microsoft Research offers. It’s an excellent forum to connect with researchers and cloud-computing industry leaders to help build awareness of the benefits of using Windows Azure in scientific investigations. In addition, you can easily share the LinkedIn page with your peers by copying the group page URL and pasting it into your status update box on LinkedIn or Facebook.
You can also to follow us on Twitter at @Azure4Research, using the hashtag #azureresearch. Here you’ll find useful information about upcoming training events and webinars, as well as links to Windows Azure tips and tricks for researchers.
—Dan Fay, Director for Earth, Energy, and Environment, Microsoft Research Connections