Written by Megan Benjamin
Heading out with the masses for Black Friday? Cool. But if you feel like staying in and geeking out all day instead of fighting over this year’s equivalent of Tickle Me Elmo, my oh my have we got a treat for you. Don’t shop ‘til you drop; get yourself some free Microsoft software instead. And by the way, we’re not talking free beta, subpar software either; this is the real deal!
Think of it like your early holiday gift to yourself. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
1. Get Verified. If you’re a student (or an educator) at a legit academic institution, be it a high school, community college, vocational/trade school, or a university, you qualify. Microsoft doesn’t care if your school has 50,000 students or 50; they are committed to helping all students, all over the world, to gain the design and developing skills they will need for post-college life. Just give Microsoft some proof that you’re hitting the books regularly, and they’ll hook you up. To get verified, go here. Chances are, your school will be among the schools listed. In case your school isn’t there, you can hit up the Microsoft help desk. Click here for high school students and here for college/university programs. Your student verified status lasts 12 months with the option to renew thereafter.
2. Windows Live Yourself.This step is super easy. Just set up a Windows Live ID so you don’t’ have to bother reverifying your student status every time you want to download some free software. And hey, while you’re at it, go ahead and Elf Yourself, too. 'Tis the season.
3. Download Your Heart Out. Go wild. There are no limits to how many different programs you can download. (Nor are there any time constraints. So long as you’re a verified student, you can download software all year long.) All you need to get rolling on your quest is a PC with a Windows OS and an Internet connection!
If you have other questions, see if you can’t get answers here. Happy Thanksgiving and happy downloading to all!
This past Tuesday marked the 10-year anniversary of Xbox, Microsoft’s first foray into the gaming world. Since that fated day in 2001, Xbox has hit some major gaming milestones. From the original Xbox to the Xbox 360 you know and love today, here’s a look at Xbox by the numbers!
57.6 million Xbox 360s sold (as of Sep 30, 2011)
882 Games exclusive to Xbox 360
>1000 Games available for Xbox 360
2001 The year Xbox hit the market for the first time
>1 Number of crazy girlfriends who smashed their boyfriend’s Xbox because they couldn’t handle his love of gaming
14.5 million Copies sold of the best-selling Xbox 360 game ever, Halo 3
360 Degrees in a wicked “Tony Hawk” full spin (or the number at the end of the world’s best gaming console)
$125 million Halo 2’s earnings on the first day of release
1998 Year in which the Xbox brainchild was born by four engineers from Microsoft’s DirectX team
64 MB of memory in the original Xbox
353.8 million and counting Total number of Xbox 360 games sold
$14,000 Cash you could win by designing an Xbox 360 game that solves the world’s problems
And there you have. To get your Xbox fix, visit the Xbox marketplace here. Happy gaming!
You may have seen the call to sign up for Imagine Cup US 2012. If you’ve checked out the site, chances are you’ve at least started imagining a world where technology helps solve the world’s toughest problems—so why not make your ideas reality?
Between the big brainstorming sessions, project planning, coding, and revisions, there are a few crucial steps, dates, and deadlines to keep in mind. To make your life just a little simpler, here are the steps in the Imagine Cup process, all in one place.
Step 1: Sign up at www.imaginecup.us. It’s fast and easy! By signing up, you'll gain access to promotions, free software, and exclusive Imagine Cup info. Do it now! If for any reason you cannot follow through on your project, we understand, and the goodies are yours to keep.
Step 2: Get some teammates. Organize a team of up to four students, 16 years and older, including yourself. The rules are pretty open here. Teammates can be from different schools in the United States. (If you live outside the U.S. then you need to apply here for the Worldwide Imagine Cup.) Teamwork’s a big deal in the Imagine Cup competition, so either choose teammates that live nearby or be savvy enough with communications tools to telework like it’s 2099.
Step 3: Get a mentor. Someone who’s been around the block can be the key to success, helping to answer the tough questions and pointing out your project’s biggest potential challenges. For more ideas on choosing the perfect mentor, click here.
Step 4: Decide which world problem you’re trying to solve. Need ideas? Get inspired by the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Step 5: Pick your poison. Or pick several. You have four competition options and two series in which to compete (Fall Series 2011 and Spring Series 2012, although unless you already entered in Fall Series Round 1, you’ll have to wait for Spring Series). Each team can enter once per series per competition. After you and your team make your choice, your next steps will vary depending on the challenge you choose. Here are your choices.
1. IT Challenge: Pass a quiz, write a great essay, win thousands (sweet deal). Take and pass an IT quiz during one of the five remaining quiz dates (November 15, 2011; December 1, 2011; December 14, 2011; January 9, 2012; January 26, 2012) and you will automatically advance to the second round. Write a great case study-based essay and you could be on your way to Sydney for the Worldwide Finals.
2. Game Design Competition: Phone OR Game Design: Xbox/Windows: Create a game design storyboard or a game design summary and submit it by February 14, 2012 for the Spring Round 1 competition (the deadline for Fall Round 1 has already passed). If you make it to the next round, submit a playable game, game summary, game play instructions, and a short video introducing your team and the game by March 13, 2012 for Spring Round 2. For the finals (in beautiful Sydney, Australia!) bring along a playable game, a game summary, three game screenshots, and a short game video.
3. Software Design Competition: Submit your project plan (required template here) and wireframes or a prototype if you have one by February 14, 2012 for the Spring Round 1 competition. If you make it to the next round, you will need to submit a working prototype, an updated project plan, and a short video by March 13, 2012. For the finals, you will present up to two different 20-minute live presentations with a 10-minute Q&A about the software application along with a beta version of the software.
Still have questions? See if you can’t get answers here. If not, post your questions here and we’ll answer them the best we can!
We all know that expenses run high in college—especially for those of us who just can’t resist the latest and greatest tech toys. Assuming that new Windows Phone, Diablo III, and a new Xbox 360 are all complete necessities (they are, right?), it’s pretty important to save wherever you can. Below are five tips for saving more and spending less, leaving plenty of leftover shekels to feed your insatiable tech obsession when you just can’t resist.
1. Budget. Sure, mom’s been telling you about the powers of proper budgeting for years, but it probably wasn’t until all those “overdraft fees” started piling up that you realized there might be something to it. If you want to go digital, try Mint.com, a great site for tracking your purchases and creating financial goals and budgets. Make a list of all the things you spend money on. How much do you spend per semester, per month or per week on each of those things? Where can you find savings? How much money do you need to make in order to pay for your expenses? Once you make a budget, stick to it and you’ll be good to go!
2. Save now; splurge later. When you see something you absolutely have to have, wait a bit. Take a picture of it with your smartphone or email yourself a link of it. After a week or so, if you still have an irresistible urge to buy that thing, and have the funds to purchase it, go for it.
3. Save on books. Besides tuition and rent, huge textbooks (with their humongous price tags) are probably the biggest financial burden felt by college students. Did you know you can rent textbooks? Rent, buy used and sell ‘em back, borrow your friends’ or just use the library—it could save you up to $600 a semester.
4. Get entrepreneurial. Heard of Imagine Cup? Not only are the top prizes big lumps of cash, the competition could spur a world-changing, money-making business idea to earn you money in the near future. Otherwise, use your talents to score a few extra bucks by trading your time for extra money. Are you a programmer or a web designer? Local shops and companies probably need you. Did you score ridiculously high on your SATs or totally ace multivariable calculus? Try tutoring. The more unique the skill, the more you can probably charge. If nothing else, there’s always waiting tables!
5. Embrace your student status. Companies like Microsoft love to help out students. Did you know you can get huge discounts on Windows 7, Microsoft Office, computers, Xbox 360 gear, and more from the Microsoft Student site? Discounts are awesome, but free loot is even better. DreamSpark hooks you up with free developer and designer tools, servers, and apps. Then there’s always the student discount at the movies, on ski lift tickets, at local restaurants, and at tons of other places. Save big by whipping out that student ID when it counts.
October is reaching its end which means its come time to announce our next Tech Student of the Month! This month, we are pleased to highlight Shashank Srinivas, a striving scholar at Arizona State University and a member of Team Note-Taker, the second place winners of the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup competition in Software Design! We want to start out by saying congratulations to Team Note-taker and highlight our appreciation for their incredible work by sharing Shashank’s story.
Shashank’s exposure to technology began over fifteen years ago at the young age of three when his father brought home an early version of a personal computer. Brought up in Bangalore, India, technology was not readily available to most so his early exposure to technology helped to set a remarkable precedence in his path as a programmer. In fourth grade, Shashank worked with Logo programming, a multi-paradigm computer programming language often used in education. It was in high school though that he really began developing his software engineering skills. In his freshman and sophomore year, he was expected to learn and implement programming languages such as C Sharp (C+) and HTML as part of the school curriculum. He relied heavily on reading books about various technologies such as hardware engineering and troubleshooting to expand his knowledge and then taught himself by means of trial and error.
As an undergraduate, he worked on creating a variety of human computer interfaces using the Nintendo Wii remote for Head Tracking, interactive whiteboards and image viewer for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). He saw out the rest of his undergraduate education in Bangalore and decided to make a move to the US to pursue his Masters in Computer Science at Arizona State University. He viewed this as a strategic move to gain more hands-on experience and streamline his skill-sets by acquiring a quality higher education.
When Shashank began his masters program at A.S.U. in August 2010, he realized that he needed to get a part-time job to cover his living expenses. He applied for a few programming positions on the A.S.U. website and was shortly thereafter contacted by David Hayden, the leader of what would eventually be Team Note-Taker. After the interview, Shashank was given an official invitation to join the team, which he happily accepted. The team soon began working on the third generation of the Note-Taker, designed as a solution to help low-vision students take effective and efficient notes. He and a fellow teammate, Michael Astrauskas, worked together to develop the software using C++ programming and using the QT framework for the Graphical User Interface (GUI). The Note-Taker uses a C# plug-in for Microsoft OneNote, an easy-to-use note-taking and information-management program, to communicate with the internal software. The team utilized open-source libraries for handling the audio and video aspects and a variety of Windows API’s to handle mouse gestures. They also made use of the Windows 7 Ink Analysis API for handwriting recognition and layout classification in order to handle touch input.
Upon completion, Team Note-Taker put their innovation to the test and entered it into the 2011 US Imagine Cup Competition, the world’s premier student technology competition focused on finding solutions to real-world issues. They took Note-Taker all the way to the finals in Redmond, Washington earlier this year and won first-place in Software Design, making them one of the three U.S. teams to compete in the worldwide 2011 Imagine Cup held in New York City. At the worldwide finals, Shashank and his teammates were given opportunities that other students dream of – they got to meet and talk to Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, and Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education! Team Note-Taker topped off their experience by placing second at the worldwide competition from over 358,000 students from 183 different countries. We are extremely proud of Shashank and the rest of the team for their extraordinary accomplishments in the Imagine Cup competitions and send our appreciation for their hard work and dedication to creating a viable solution to a real-life problem.
As for Shashank, he is currently writing his thesis in Cyber Physical Systems Laboratory related to Robotics at Arizona State University. He hopes to pursue a Ph.D. at A.S.U. and contribute to research around Robotics in the future. We wish him the very best of luck!
You can learn more about Team Note-Taker by visiting the Microsoft Tech Student Imagine Cup Facebook Tab: ICUS
Read the September Tech Student of the Month profile on Ramsey Khadder from Springbook High School
Are you inspired by Shashank’s story and want to live out your dreams? What are you waiting for? Learn how to compete in the U.S Imagine Cup 2012 Competition today!