• Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Making games in partnership with local Schoolchildren


    Guest blog by David Renton Reid Kerr College

    This year our HNC Games students at Reid Kerr College worked in partnership with a local Primary School, Lochfield Primary in Paisley, to produce games for their HNC Group graded unit project.

    This is the third year we have worked in partnership with Lochfield for our HNC Graded Unit games, however this year we took things a step further with the schoolchildren actually contributing art work for the games.

    Students presenting ideas to Lochfield Primary

    Students presenting ideas to Lochfield Primary

    The project began in February and in discussion with the school we set the theme for this years games to be “Healthy Living”. So we tasked our students to come up with game ideas that promote an awareness of the benefits of healthy living and asked them to select a representative from each team of 4, who would present those ideas to the primary school. On the 8th of February we visited Lochfield Primary and our students gave PowerPoint presentations on their game ideas to around 70 Primary 6 pupils. They were then given the opportunity to get feedback from the kids and discuss their ideas further in small groups, effectively using the schoolchildren as a focus group. Some of my students were extremely nervous about the idea of presenting to and talking to schoolchildren, but as in previous years those fears soon dissipated when they realised how enthusiastic and positive the children were about the games, something that rubbed off on the rest of their team-mates when the representatives reported back. One thing that we introduced this year, which we hadn’t done before, was that we asked the schoolchildren to draw art for the games, so during the discussions with the schoolchildren, our students also discussed with them the types of art they would like them to create.

    Discussions with the schoolchildren

    Discussions with the schoolchildren

    From February to May our students worked away in their teams turning their concepts into games for Windows 7 using XNA4. We received a bunch of art from the schoolchildren which we scanned in and used in at least half the games, along with art produced by our own students.

    On May 20th we had a big event at the college and over 70 Primary 6 pupils were bussed into the college for the day. We had to split the schoolchildren up and we enlisted help from the Care & Construction departments in our college, who took turns with half of the group while the other half played the games our groups had created. Once the children were finished playing the games they went onto an online survey and rated the games out of 20, based on originality, graphics, sound and most importantly gameplay.

    Schoolchildren playing the games

    Schoolchildren playing the games

    Total concentration

    Total concentration

    It was a close call between two of the games and in the end one vote could have swung it either way; eventually the only game which featured a 2 player mode won. In the end it was a triumph for gameplay, however the game which came second had an excellent concept, was a great game with far more complexity to it and even had a level designer. I’m hopefully they will develop it further and enter it into the imagine cup next year.

    The top 4 games as voted for by Lochfield Primary 6

    The top 4 games as voted for by Lochfield Primary 6

    This partnership with Lochfield Primary has improved our students’ experience of learning in a number of ways and opened the eyes of the schoolchildren to games development as a possible career path.

    Benefits to Games Development students

    1. They had a realistic learning experience by designing and writing games for a live client group.

    2. The partnership was an enjoyable and positive learning experience for both the schoolchildren and the college students, as they experienced working with a partner to produce artwork for the games.

    3. The competitive element of the partnership was appealing to them and a motivating factor.

    4. Peer review by other students and by the schoolchildren was invaluable in forming ideas on how the games could be improved in the future.

    The winning team (from left to right: David Savage, Grant Hamilton, Michael Collins, Ryan Kennedy along with Lee Stott from Microsoft).

    The winning team (from left to right: David Savage, Grant Hamilton, Michael Collins & Ryan Kennedy, along with Lee Stott from Microsoft).

    Lee stayed on after the schoolchildren had left and took part in a judging event in the afternoon with my HND Games Development students, who had been tasked with producing a Windows Phone game based around an apocalyptic theme (so lots of Zombie games). We had an impressive judging panel, which I had kept as a little surprise from my students :-) ,  that included myself, David Marshall & Martin Barrett from Reid Kerr, Fiona Rushton & Ian Tyson from James Watt, Daniel Livingstone from UWS and of course Lee Stott from Microsoft.

    Ten of my students presented their game concepts, how their games had been developed and how they felt about the way their game had turned out. They also answered questions from the panel, who had the opportunity to play all the games on Windows Phones. In the end the panel came up with a top 3 and Lee presented the winning student with a Windows Phone as a prize.

    The winning game - Dead City

    The winning game – Dead City

    The winner of the Windows Phone from Microsoft for best Graded Unit game

    Ally Louden - winner of a Windows Phone from Microsoft for the best Graded Unit game

    The 2nd and 3rd placed games - Escape and Haven (Escape on the right hand side, Haven at the bottom left).

    The 2nd and 3rd placed games – Escape and Haven (Escape is on the right hand side, Haven is at the bottom left).

    Runner up Ryan Anderson and 3rd place Daniel Boyle

    Runner up Ryan Anderson and 3rd place Daniel Boyle

    To keep up with the latest news from David and his adventures as an Academic hero check out his blog at http://games4learning.co.uk/

    If you have any interesting stories or events to share please do get in contact and ensure you join our linkedin group to share your experiences

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Windows Azure Research Award Program 2013


    Windows Azure

    Microsoft Research is soliciting proposals for the use of Windows Azure in research.

    Microsoft Research welcome research proposals from any branch of scholarly activity. To qualify, applicants must be affiliated with an academic institution or non-profit research laboratory. In addition to individual investigator projects, we are interested in projects that will support access to services and data of value to a collaboration or community. Winning proposals will be awarded large allocations of Windows Azure storage and compute resources for a period of one year.

    We will periodically announce additional special-opportunity RFPs on specific cloud research topics. These topics will include community research data services, streaming instrument data to the cloud, machine learning in the cloud, large-scale image analysis, environmental science, astronomy, genomics, and urban science.

    Your proposal should not exceed three pages in length. It should include resource requirement estimates (number of core, storage requirements, and so forth) for your project.

    Proposals will be evaluated and awards announced six times a year. The first deadline for proposals is October 15, 2013, and results will be announced within two weeks after that date. The next deadline is December 15, 2013, and on the fifteenth of every other month after that.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Nokia Developers - Windows Phone Events 12 and 13th Dec 2012





    Lumia App Labs: Develop apps that work for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7 (Session 1)

    12 December 8 a.m. London

    When building for the opportunity presented by the new Microsoft Windows Phone 8, be sure to target the Windows Phone installed base, too. This webinar will cover how to use the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 in developing applications that will work for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7. Michael Samarin of Futurice will explain how to update your existing Windows Phone 7 application by adding new features using APIs available in Windows Phone 8. He’ll also describe how to create a Windows Phone 8 application and make it work for Windows Phone 7 users. Michael will provide an overview of available approaches to multirelease compatibility and will present useful tips and tricks to help you make the most of the Windows Phone market. We encourage you to install the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 before the presentation. While it is not a must for you to get a lot from this training lab, having the SDK installed will add value to the experience.

    Register ›

    Lumia App Labs: Develop apps that work for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7 (Session 2)

    13 December 4 p.m. London

    When building for the opportunity presented by the new Microsoft Windows Phone 8, be sure to target the Windows Phone installed base, too. This webinar will cover how to use the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 in developing applications that will work for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7. Michael Samarin of Futurice will explain how to update your existing Windows Phone 7 application by adding new features using APIs available in Windows Phone 8. He’ll also describe how to create a Windows Phone 8 application and make it work for Windows Phone 7 users. Michael will provide an overview of available approaches to multirelease compatibility and will present useful tips and tricks to help you make the most of the Windows Phone market. We encourage you to install the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 before the presentation. While it is not a must for you to get a lot from this training lab, having the SDK installed will add value to the experience.

    Register ›

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Exciting Updates to Microsoft Academic Search



    Lots of new improved features have been added to Microsoft Academic Search in July

    Academic Search comes from Microsoft Research with much of the development coming from MS Research Asia.

    What’s New in the July Release

    • The database of searchable publications has nearly doubled.
      • From 15.7 million publications to 27.1 million publications as of today
      • Access to material from 10.5 million authors to 16.2 million authors
    • Material in 14 domains available with more to come including humanities and social sciences material.
      • Biology & Biochemistry
      • Chemistry
      • Clinical Medicine

      • Computer Science

      • Economics & Business

      • Engineering

      • Immunology

      • Mathematics

      • Microbiology

      • Molecular Biology & Genetics

      • Neuroscience & Behaviour

      • Pharmacology & Toxicology

      • Physics

      • Psychiatry & Psychology

    • The launch of Academic Map Search
    • New Compare Organizations Tool
      • “Compare differences in the number of publications and citations as well as research priorities and interests between two organizations.”
    • Improved: Keyword Detail Info
    • New stemming variations and definition context
    • View History
      • “All past changes to the author/paper are listed in reverse-chronological order, users can view history by clicking the “View History” tab in the user contribution center.”
    • Release of a Windows Mobile app


    For more inform visit Microsoft Academic Search and read more about feature at http://academic.research.microsoft.com/About/Help.htm#5 

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Your chance to win a Windows Phone



    Windows Phone Mango Completion

    There are 30 more Mango developer phones up for grabs for great student prototypes. Here’s what to do if you want one (and be honest, you want one):

    1. Make sure you’re registered for DreamSpark

    2. Download and install Expression Studio Ultimate and the new Mango Windows Phone Developer Tools (available free as a member of DreamSpark)

    3. Get the free Sketchflow Template for Windows Phone and create a Sketchflow mock-up of your app

    4. Post the Sketchflow mock-up somewhere online and tweet out the link using the hash tag #WPAppItUp

    5. We will review all prototypes and will contact the developers who submit the best ones and send them a special Mango developer device

    More details at the blog: http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/wpdev/archive/2011/07/29/mango-device-love-for-wpappitup-prototypes.aspx

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Microsoft DreamSpark – One of Microsoft best kept secrets


    Today’s leaders need new and professional sets of resources to make learning more motivating, relevant, and engagingthat’s why DreamSpark puts the latest tools and technologies into your classrooms and labs.

    We offer dreamspark so your students and faculty can start building apps that build their skills, without breaking your budget. With two subscription levels to choose from, your entire institutionstudents, faculty and labswill get no-cost access to Microsoft’s professional developer tools, platforms, and servers in labs and classrooms for a modest annual licensing fee.


    DreamSpark offers two levels of subscriptions for institutions - Premium and Standard. Premium is ONLY available for qualified higher education science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) departments. Each eligible department requires its own subscription. Software access is only for students enrolled in courses of that specific department.

    DreamSpark gives you a single subscription for your entire academic institution. It offers a smaller catalog of developer, gaming, and designer tools download and read the following guide for Educational customers.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Kinect for Windows announcements and information



    Since the launch of the dedicated Kinect for Windows site a few weeks ago the Kinect for Windows team have been busy with a awareness campaign for the coming year they have created a dedicated blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/kinectforwindows/ 

    Twitter @KinectWindows http://twitter.com/#!/KinectWindows and Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/KinectForWindows

    Some of the latest blogs state that a new version of the Kinect device is to launched which includes optimized certain hardware components and firmware adjustments which better enable PC-centric scenarios and offer greater flexibility and usage within teaching and research.

    The blog states 

    ‘Coupled with the numerous upgrades and improvements our team is making to the Software Development Kit (SDK) and runtime, the new hardware delivers features and functionality that Windows developers and Microsoft customers have been asking for. Simple changes include shortening the USB cable to ensure reliability across a broad range of computers and the inclusion of a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals. Of particular interest to developers will be the new firmware which enables the depth camera to see objects as close as 50 centimeters in front of the device without losing accuracy or precision, with graceful degradation down to 40 centimeters. “Near Mode” will enable a whole new class of “close up” applications, beyond the living room scenarios for Kinect for Xbox 360. This is one of the most requested features from the many developers and companies participating in our Kinect for Windows pilot program and folks commenting on our forums, and we’re pleased to deliver this, and more, at launch.’Craig Eisler General Manager, Kinect for Windows

    Microsoft also has just launched a new initiative, the Kinect Accelerator incubation project run by Microsoft BizSpark. BizSpark helps software startups through access to Microsoft software development tools, connection to key industry players (including investors) and by providing marketing visibility.

    The Kinect Accelerator will give 10 tech-oriented companies using Kinect (on either Windows or Xbox360) an investment of $20,000 each, plus a number of other great perks. Applications are being accepted now through January 25th, 2012.

    I am pleased to say a number of UK Universities are members of the BizSpark Network Partners Programme helping foster and develop entrepreneurs within the UK. If your interested in learning more about Kinect in education or the BizSpark Network Partner process please get in touch.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    The development of Windows Phone applications in academia


    “Phone Apps” are fast becoming a huge growth market and I know many UK institutions are looking to how to incorporate mobile development within the academic curricula.

    Additional for Windows Phone development many vendors and partners are now looking at how to develop mobile apps for Windows Phone based on XNA, Silverlight, HTML5 and .NET technologies. This has resulted in a demand for developers with these skills sets..

    This opportunity will no doubt only get bigger with the recent announcement of Windows 8 and to help academics, researchers and the development community understand Microsoft’s future technologies the Build Conference has been created. The Build conference will take place 13th – 16th of September 2011 and as UK academic, administrator or researcher you will receive and educational discount for attendance.


    Additionally with Microsoft DreamSpark, the student and academic community can get for FREE the same tools professional developers and designers have, and additionally allow students and academic to upload Windows Phone applications and the ability to sell mobile applications via the Windows Phone MarketPlace.


    Using DreamSpark means you also get a FREE Development App Hub account waiving the $99 registration fee and giving you the first 100 application submissions for free.


    We have additionally supported academics with curricula resources via the Faculty Connection resources site. The Faculty Connection resource allows you to download an entire curricula on Windows Phone Development and we have provided numerous additional resources for academics wishing to teach Microsoft development Technologies and software to to students.

    We have additionally built numerous video and online resources aimed specifically at Windows Phone developers for example you can watch Rob Miles from the University of Hull, screencast containing a step-by-step demonstration of the process to upload your first Windows Phone 7 application to the AppHub.

    The AppHub contains a vast amount of information and FAQ on how to develop for Windows Phone. simply visit http://developer.windowsphone.com


    We really look forward to hearing about your implementation of Windows Phone development.


    Finally if you would like to share your experience or discuss the opportunities of Windows Phone development within academia or working with potential vendors on student projects and applications. Please don't hesitate to get in touch via the Faculty Connection UK Linkedin Group.

  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Power Up: The Beautiful Game Competition


    Exclusive for UK Games Developers


    Microsoft and supporting games industry partners are working together to help encourage the growth in the UK games industry which seeks to recognise and help game studios and developers of all sizes. As part of this ambition we have developed a competition which seeks to provide new Store opportunities for your games as well as helping you to get your titles discovered and downloaded.

    Go to: www.beautifulgamecomp.com

    Power Up: The Beautiful Game competition commences from 3rd March until 20th June 2014. The competition is open to all UK games developers who port and publish their new or existing games titles to Microsoft Windows 8 and/or Windows Phone Stores. Each game entered will receive points based on a wide range of game experiences, as well as recognising the quality of the game, any marketing activities, plus the number of downloads the games get on the Windows or Windows Phone Stores. The top 20 games with the most points secured will win great prizes for their developers but all entrants have an opportunity for their games to be discovered and downloaded by 100,000’s to millions of players. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your game(s) to a much wider audience and be generously rewarded.

    Boost your downloads

    We want to ensure that your game is discovered and downloaded. The quality of the game does not always guarantee success. As such we have partnered with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) to provide some guidance on good practice apps marketing. Visit the competition website for more details.
    Points are awarded for: Game experience – quality of audio execution, visual execution and gameplay. Downloads per store – as an additional measure of the game’s quality we will count the downloads in both the Windows and Windows Phone store.


    Prizes galore!

    A total prize fund in excess of $50,000! Prizes include: Unity Pro licenses, Supercar all inclusive weekend rental, holiday in Slovakia, Nokia Lumia
    1520, 1020s and 520s, Dell Tablet, a Chartered Institute of Marketing Apps Marketing course, a chance to attend a special mentoring event with
    selected Board members from TIGA and UKIE, and an awards ceremony at Dolby’s prestigious theatre in Soho Square. For full prize listing go to:


    The Resources

    How to score points and win plus details of the prizes on offer see.The competition

    Enter the competition by completing our online registration form. Register now
    Download our one page marketing plan template. Marketing plan
    Find out more about our partners in Power Up: The Beautiful Game. Industry partners
    Full details of the competition rules. Terms and conditions
  • Microsoft UK Faculty Connection

    Getting to grips with the Cloud – FREE Azure Webinar Series for educators and researchers


    Free Windows Azure for Research webinar series

    The cloud is becoming more and more useful in education. There are stunning examples of academic research which are pushing the boundaries of data intensive science.

    Some of these great examples include the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN and this year’s publication of the fifth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    However today’s research challenges remains largely the same.

    1. More data

    2. More analysis

    3. Simply less time to do the work.

    So why use Windows Azure

    Cloud computing can really help educators and researchers resolve the issue of big data and focus on accelerating breakthroughs and insights.

    So why not learn more and attend our, three-part Windows Azure for Research webinar series starting 20 November.

    What is the Windows Azure Webinar Series?

    The seminars are one-hour, interactive online sessions will bring cloud computing to life, explaining what it is, why it is so useful, and how to use it for your research in practical ways.

    You can get involved and ask questions live during the sessions so simply register for the events below.

    Hands on with Windows Azure January 2014 Oxford

    Also, we’re bringing our Windows Azure for Research program to the UK.

    These session will include hands-on training on how to use Windows Azure to simplify their data-intensive work. These two-day courses and cover everything from Linux virtual machines, IPython, scaling out R and MATLAB calculations, cloud storage, sensor data processing, and, of course, big data processing.

    Sign up now to secure your place and get hands-on experience developing and deploying your research applications in the cloud:

    Azure Awards and Grants – FREE Access to Cloud Resources

    In addition to the trainings, we’re offering substantial allocations of Windows Azure storage and compute resources for selected proposals through the Windows Azure Research Awards Program. (Learn more about the awards.)

    If your interested in teaching Windows Azure to your courses then we offer Windows Azure Educator grants (Learn more about the grants)

    So who are using these services?

    We’re currently working with dozens of UK universities and research teams across and many European researchers from the British Library, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, University College London, Sheffield Hallam University, Newcastle University and the University of St Andrews. We’re excited to have a range of projects, from bioinformatics and environmental science to image processing and Science 2.0.

    Please join the discussion on our Windows Azure for Research LinkedIn Group and for educators please join in the discussions on the UK Faculty Connection LinkedIn Group

    Learn more

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