Der deutsche Education Blog

April, 2014

Microsoft Research Connections Blog

The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

April, 2014

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Inspiring female hackers in Brazil

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    Some people find the push to excel from within themselves—no external motivators necessary. Professor Rosiane de Freitas is one such woman, constantly looking for a challenge, continually pushing herself to the limit. After earning her PhD in systems engineering and computing from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, she joined the Institute of Computing of the Federal University of Amazonas (ICOMP/UFAM), where she teaches and conducts research in combinatorial optimization and graph theory.

    On top of the rigors of her academic life, Rosiane is an avid diver, hiker, and, mountaineer, as adept with an ice axe as she is with an algorithm.On top of the rigors of her academic life, Rosiane is an avid diver, hiker, and, mountaineer, as adept with an ice axe as she is with an algorithm. In fact, she is an active member of Women on the Mountain, an organization of female Brazilian mountain climbers, and the mountains she has scaled include Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas!

    When she isn’t climbing Andean mountains, Rosiane is busy conquering virtual ones. She is passionate about the potential of computer science and technology to empower results that cut across disciplines and can have an immense, beneficial impact on society. Wanting her students to understand the endless possibilities and opportunities of technology, Rosiane leads both the Amazon State Informatics Olympics and Programming Marathon. Because of her desire to increase the number of women in computer science programs, she made sure that UFAM was the first Brazilian university to take part in last year’s inaugural International Women’s Hackathon, mentoring a group of girls who participated in the event. It was great for the girls—and even better for the school, since it sparked discussions about the importance of gender diversity in technology careers. This year, Rosiane has inspired other female students to participate in the International Women’s Hackathon 2014.

    Please read on for a firsthand account of Rosiane’s experience.

    —Juliana Salles, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

     

    Mommy's BeneFITIt was an interesting and inspiring experience to participate in the First International Women’s Hackathon in 2013. We were the only site in Brazil to field a team of young female university students. Ludymila, Mariane, Bruna, and Ingrid, undergraduate students in computer science and computer engineering at the Institute of Computing of the Federal University of Amazonas (ICOMP/UFAM), developed Mommy's BeneFIT: a mobile application aimed at keeping women physically fit during pregnancy.

    Although it wasn’t easy to organize a competition of this magnitude, the assistance of people from Microsoft Research—especially Rane Johnson and Juliana Salles—and the support of colleagues at ICOMP/UFAM and such partner institutions as INdT-Manaus simplified the task. As did the strong interest and high motivation of the young women, who had to dedicate time to the competition amidst the demands of exams, other science projects, and a heavy class load. In addition, they had only limited experience with the development platform used in the competition.

    Computer science and computer engineering undergrads at ICOMP/UFAM—Ingrid, Ludymila, Bruna, and Mariane—developed a mobile application to help women stay physically fit during pregnancy

    Computer science and computer engineering undergrads at ICOMP/UFAM—Ingrid, Ludymila, Bruna, and Mariane—developed a mobile application to help women stay physically fit during pregnancy.

    These intrepid young women shrugged off the obstacles, learning to manage their time and develop mobile apps for Windows Phone, identifying a suitable target app (one that was either unavailable on the market or whose current solution could be improved), learning about the target market, developing a functional app and testing it with users, and creating a promotional video that highlighted the best features of their solution. Thus, they played the roles of software engineers, software analysts, user experience designers, graphics designers, programmers, and marketing designers.

    ICOMP/UFAM team members work on developing their mobile app.As Ludymila observed, "It was a lot of work for three months, but it really helped us grow as professionals and gave us a wider view of our field of work. It was useful in making some personal decisions about which field to specialize in for the future." The example of these four women has inspired other female students to sign up for this year’s event, hoping to repeat the success of their pioneering colleagues. We teachers have also been motivated, gaining an even deeper commitment to participation in the upcoming International Women’s Hackathon 2014!

    —Rosiane de Freitas, Professor of Computer Science, UFAM

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    WWT brings astronomy to life for children of all ages

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    The night sky holds a special fascination for children worldwide. They gaze at the moon and stars shining overhead, and wonder what they are and how they got there. This natural curiosity is dampened, however, for children who live in urban areas, where air and light pollution dim the celestial show. With only a pale version of the night sky visible to them, their natural fascination with the heavens can wane, their attention turning to the brighter displays of video games. And while we have nothing against video games, we at Microsoft Research are pleased to offer youngsters the chance to be captivated again by the stories written on the canvas of the sky. Thanks to Microsoft Research’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT), anyone can see the night sky in all its glory and be enraptured by endlessly fascinating tours of the heavens.

    WorldWide Telescope offers youngsters the chance to observe the night sky and tour the universe
    WorldWide Telescope offers youngsters the chance to observe the night sky and
    tour the universe

    Last year, we saw how WWT can bring the excitement of astronomy to Asian schoolchildren when Microsoft Research helped install a WWT-driven planetarium at the Shixinlu primary school in China. This installation enables students not only to see and study the stars and the universe in an immersive planetarium setting, but it also allows them to create their own tours of the heavens and have them displayed on the planetarium dome. To give youngsters even more opportunities to explore the mysteries of the universe with WWT, Microsoft Research Asia has provided WWT training for Chinese teachers since 2010. These teachers bring what they have learned back to the classroom, setting up interactive, multimedia courses that use WWT to teach about the stars and planets in a most engaging way.

    In 2013, Microsoft Research Asia helped introduce Japanese children and parents to the wonders of the stars through two WWT family events at Miraikan, Japan’s national science museum, located in Tokyo. Each event hosted 10 families and were treated to an event composed of three parts.

    The first part of the event taught the children and parents how to use the WWT program on Windows 8-based laptops. The youngsters rapidly mastered the software, easily completing a challenge to find the constellation representative of their birth month and identify its brightest star.

    Participants in the event at Miraikan viewed an original WWT tour.
    Participants in the event at Miraikan viewed an original WWT tour.

    During the event’s second act, the families were treated to an original WWT tour that had been converted to play in Miraikan’s unique three-screen, stereoscopic theater. Lasting 20 minutes, the tour told two stories: the journey of NASA’s Voyager spacecraft from Earth to Neptune past Jupiter and Saturn, and the development of the telescope, from early devices like Galileo’s refracting telescope to such technological marvels as the Palomar Observatory, Gemini Observatory, and the Hubble Space Telescope. The children and adults alike were captivated not only by the content, but also by the ability of WWT to provide such educational and motivational resources. Many of the youngsters were eager to try their hand at creating WWT tours of their own!

    The third part of the event took place on the roof of the Miraikan building, where six optical telescopes had been set up for viewing Jupiter or Saturn around 7:00 P.M. Unfortunately, during the first event the sky in Tokyo was too cloudy for observations. Children at the second event were luckier and got good views of the planets, which reinforced their growing interest in learning more about the cosmos. In fact, participants at both events were excited by astronomy and eager to install WWT on their home computers. The events clearly demonstrated the potential of WWT to inspire Japanese schoolchildren (and their parents) to study the night sky.

    WWT has the potential to inspire children, as well as adults, to study the night sky.The events also demonstrate our commitment to share high quality research results, such as WWT, with Asian education systems. Tim Pan, University Relations Director of Microsoft Research Asia, reinforces this message, stressing that “Microsoft Research Asia has always endeavored to bring science to the general public. We see Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope technology as an ideal tool for public science education in Asia—opening the door to the vast, mysterious universe."

    If you, too, are ready to explore the wonders of the stars and planets with WWT, you’ll be glad to know that the client is freely available at www.worldwidetelescope.org.

    —Noboru Kuno, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

    Guobin Wu, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Bringing cloud computing to researchers and scientists in Asia

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    Today’s world is more interconnected than ever. The digital revolution has made it possible to collaborate with colleagues worldwide—which is good news not just for businesses, but also for all fields of scientific research. We’ve also witnessed a tremendous rise in big data analytics—which is making a big impact on how research is conducted.

    These changes have been particularly rapid and powerful in Asia. Today, researchers in Asia are awash in the data deluge, as they, like their counterparts in other parts of the world, strive to organize, analyze, and utilize big data in genetics, urban planning, ecology, and economics, just to name a few areas.

    Microsoft Azure for Research program expands through Asia

    The computing resources required to handle big data can be enormous, often stretching beyond what is available in even a large standalone data center. This is where the computational power and scalability of cloud computing really shines. To help scientific researchers learn how to take advantage of cloud computing, Microsoft Research developed the Microsoft Azure for Research program, which helps researchers harness the power of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform.

    For Microsoft Research Asia, it has been an exciting and inspiring journey to promote Microsoft Azure in the Asia-Pacific region during the past year. One of the most compelling components of the Microsoft Azure for Research program is a series of free training events that are being offered at sites throughout the world. These classes, which are open to researchers and students from universities and nonprofit research laboratories, provide hands-on training on how to use Microsoft Azure to conduct data-intensive science. Participants access Microsoft Azure through a browser on their own laptop (regardless of operating system), as experts guide them through the ins and outs of performing data-intensive research in the cloud. The training content starts with the basics of cloud computing and progresses to advanced topics on the use of Microsoft Azure for research.

    To date, we have held nine of these two-day events in Asia: two in Beijing, two in Taiwan, and one each in Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Nanjing. Attendees have included more than 420 of faculty members and graduate students representing a spectrum of scientific disciplines, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. One of the participants, Dr. Guangjun Zhang of Peking University, observed, “the Azure for Research training guided us in becoming familiar with web sites, virtual machines, cloud services, and related topics. It also gave us the opportunity to get answers and advice from experts from Microsoft Research. The training imparted a lot of positive inspiration.” Yohan Chon, a PhD candidate from Yonsei University who attended the training in Korea, commented that the training “was very practical and useful.”

    We plan to hold more Microsoft Azure for Research training events in additional locations in the future. Meanwhile, we are working on the Microsoft Azure for Research Award program, which offers sizable grants of Microsoft Azure resources for worthy proposals. As of now, 34 research proposals from Asia have been selected by the Microsoft Azure global team. We anticipate positive outcomes from these proposals and look forward to continuing to help researchers in the Asia-Pacific region use Microsoft Azure for their research. The deadline for the current round of proposals for Microsoft Azure for Research Awards is Tuesday, April 15; the next submission deadline will be June 15.

    Microsoft Azure is a powerful and highly reliable tool for data-intensive scientific research, and we are extremely pleased to be offering these training events and grants to help researchers tap into the power and efficiency of cloud computing.

    —Tim Pan, UR Director, Microsoft Research Asia

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