Thursday, May 14, 2015

Attending the 2015 Microsoft Ignite Conference; Blown Away in Chicago

Thanks to Microsoft YouthSpark, I had a wonderful time at the 2015 Microsoft Ignite Conference in Chicago (May 4-8). 

I remember feeling excited as I sat at my college dorm desk, booking my flight to Chicago for the weeklong Microsoft Ignite Conference. Having never been to a tech conference before - or to Chicago! - I was hyped to spend a week with Microsoft YouthSpark, network with tech professionals, learn about innovative technologies, and have fun exploring Chicago. Before I knew it, finals were done. Less than a 
week after my semester finished, I was packing, Microsoft Ignite-ready and Chicago-bound!

During Microsoft Ignite, I met Microsoft YouthSpark Ambassadors, pictured with me below at the expo YouthSpark booth. 
I attended the Keynote, Microsoft break-out tech sessions, and wandered through the expo.  I enjoyed eating at the Microsoft Women in Technology luncheon and listening to the luncheon's female panel Q&A.  At the opening Keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the new features of Windows 10 and described what he saw as "the future of Microsoft and the IT industry." 

Attendance for
 Ignite was over 23,000 people - 23,000 people with ideas and hopes for the future of technology. Standing next to the North American Eagle, a jet-powered car that uses Microsoft cloud technology to track speed to meet their goal of surpassing the current land-speed record of 
763 mph, was amazing. It was fascinating to listen to the Microsoft Research team, and learn about their work to better understand and implement quantum computing. 

In Chicago, I enjoyed stepping out on The Skydeck at The Willis "Sears" Tower, tasting crazy-amazing Mexican food on Cinco de Mayo with my friend Abril, cruising around Chicago with the Dell Computer company, eating real Chicago deep-dish pizza and desserts with YouthSpark, visiting The Art Institute of Chicago, and being touristy, shopping and taking classic Bean photos at Millennium Park

I am grateful to have attended Microsoft Ignite. Although we (as people in technology) may come from different cities, states, and countries, we share a passion to "ignite" change. Thank you Microsoft Ignite for allowing me to meet so many incredible people while in beautiful Chicago; I was blown away in the windy city!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Presenting Microsoft YouthSpark "Science for Success" at the Pittsburgh Carnegie Science Center

Today (Feb. 21st),  I presented Science for Success at the Pittsburgh Carnegie Science Center's Engineer the Future Day. The Science for Success booth featured a "STEM Connection" to provide information to young, middle school, and high school children of the opportunities available to them in the Pittsburgh area or nationally. My engineering friends and I answered questions including: what it is like to study engineering, occupations of engineers in our fields, and how we became interested in the sciences. Through our booth, we also featured Microsoft YouthSpark's free national programs and gave kids cool light up YouthSpark bracelets. 

In the morning my friends and I set out on our adventure. Set-up times for the event were between 8am and 10am; we left our dorm to board the bus around 8:30am. Our bus ride went smoothly to downtown Pittsburgh but, while taking the train to the Carnegie Science Center from downtown, we accidentally boarded in wrong direction. After the confusion, we rebounded in the correct direction, finally reaching the Carnegie Science Center. 

Once at the Carnegie Science Center, we eagerly set up the Science for Success/Microsoft YouthSpark booth. 

As the Center opened, children energetically poured in to explore. It was exciting for us to share information about fun opportunities in STEM and discuss the fields of engineering we are studying as college students. 

A little about my friends and their fields:

This is Aeriel, she is studying Industrial Engineering. Industrial Engineers improve processes, engineering systems to improve quality and production in workplaces.

Abby is studying Computer Engineering with a Software Engineering concentration. Computer Engineers focus on programming (software) and hardware to build computer-based systems in found in cars, phones, electronics, medical and other devices.

My friend Marium is studying Chemical Engineering. Chemical Engineers work to understand and design chemical processes to solve problems involving the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and other products.

Talking with children about science and engineering was awesome and we enjoyed exhibiting!

The Pittsburgh Carnegie Science Center is a fun place for children to experiment and learn. As exhibitors, we had an opportunity to discover the museum. RoboWorld is my favorite exhibit. 

In the afternoon, our floor Resident Assistant (RA), Evan, joined our booth as a volunteer. His enthusiasm and great connection with kids was much appreciated! 

I am very thankful for my friends who volunteered with me, helping make the Science for Success exhibit possible, Elisa Willman with the Microsoft YouthSpark team for sending swag and YouthSpark material, and Microsoft for funding my initiative.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Science for Success in Pittsburgh!

Earlier this week, I eagerly checked the package room in my dorm.  Two boxes had arrived from the Microsoft Corporation; it was swag for my Science for Success exhibition representing Microsoft YouthSpark at the Carnegie Science Center's Engineer Your Future Day (Feb. 21st). 

Science for Success, my initiative to encourage young girls to explore science, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) opportunities, and connect with mentors, began as my Girl Scout Gold Award project in 2011. Last year, I entered my project in the 2014 Global Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change, and was selected as 1 of the 5 winners from an international pool of applicants from 50 countries! As a winner, I am receiving Microsoft funding to incorporate Microsoft technology while expanding my project. 

In the fall of 2014, I did an outreach program at a local high school in Pittsburgh, presenting to two computer science classes. I focused on providing students with an overview of careers in computer science and technology, exposing them to opportunities and resources designed to target increasing diversity in computer science available to them as high schoolers. On December 5th, I did a Science for Success presentation for another school in Pittsburgh. I shared my background in science and presented careers in STEM, as well as various opportunities in science, math and technology for students. 

Tomorrow, February 21, 2015,  I am excited to present at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center, hosting a Science for Success booth as part of Engineer the Future Day. The Science for Success booth is hosting "STEM Connection," providing information to students of how to engage in STEM opportunities in the Pittsburgh area or nationally. I have recruited friends to help with the booth, and our aim is to engage students, holding conversations to identify student interests to help match students with corresponding programs and opportunities, including camps, exhibitions, summer experiences, and internships. The booth will have flyers for students, including: "Fun Ideas and Ways to Explore Science in the Pittsburgh Area"; "STEM Programs and Resources: Middle School;" and "STEM Programs and Resources: High School." Science for Success is funded in part by Microsoft YouthSpark, and we will be highlighting free Microsoft STEM programs available to students, handing out YouthSpark swag.

I'm pumped for the event! 

I am also excited to announce that the 2015 Microsoft YouthSpark Challenge for Change opens February 25, and I encourage you to enter. Dream big in your ideas, and spark change! A 2-week trip and $2500 is at stake! Below I am pictured with the 4 other global winners: Sara (USA), Satya (India), Dominic (Philippines), myself, and Juan (Mexico) in the Ecuadorian Amazon. 
Read about our journey here and brainstorm ideas to begin your own adventure!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Last day on the work site. The kitchen  for the school has come along nicely and we can see our efforts becoming reality. In our two weeks here we were able to fence, dig, and prepare the building site. Although the concrete was unable to be completed during our time, the kitchen will soon be ready. 

Following construction, we played soccer with the children:

It is touching that, although we will soon be departing, the memories and friendships formed building a kitchen and connections made with the Ecuadorian people and Amazon nature will endure.

Our last night at the lodge:

I have truly had an incredible experience with Microsoft in Ecuador. I will miss being with the 4 other winners of the global YouthSpark Challenge for Change on a daily basis: Satya from India, Juan Carlos from Mexico, Dominic from the Philippines, and Sara from the United States.

I am grateful to my family, friends, church family, mentors, and communities who have supported me and my project, Science for Success, to encourage young girls to love science and explore careers in STEM. Thank you to everyone who voted when I was 1 of 20 Gloabl Finalists selected by Microsoft Corporation; thanks to your votes I was 1 of the 5 winners of the Microsoft Challenge for Change. As a winner, journeying to the Amazon to build the kitchen for an indigenous school in Ecuador has been a very rewarding experience. I enjoyed working as a team volunteering, building with purpose to improve education, learning about Ecuadorian culture, and being immersed in the beauty of the Amazon nature. From my fellow winners, I listened and learned more about their passion and plans to spark change in their communities. 
I am proud to be a YouthSpark Ambassador and receive Microsoft funding for Science for Success. I am eager for what is to come. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It is our second to last work day building the school kitchen in Mondaña. In the morning, we visited the local food market. We were split into groups and each group represented a Ecuadorian family. Our 'families' were given $1 to spend on purchasing one meal at the market. It was interesting to see how little $1 could buy. With $1 my group purchased two ears of corn and a pound of rice - enough for a filling (but not very nutritious) meal for a small family.

Following the market, we resumed building at the work site. We formed a factory line and carried 500 bricks and brick-like pieces to the site.

Tired but satisfied after a long day of work:

We celebrated at night, learning traditional dances of the villagers. They shared self choreographed dances with us while wearing traditional clothing. The outfits were elaborately decorated with shells and feathers - beautiful. 

 The Elephant man: