Computer Science Microsoft Student Partner

Going to the Imagine Cup World Finals 2014

Last week I was lucky enough to be put in contact with Guilaume and the rest of the team at Ripple. Ripple is a start-up of three students who have recently won the UK leg of the Microsoft Imagine Cup with their idea for a location based messaging app which allows you to contact people you may not know within a certain distance of your location – great for something such as freshers week where you want to meet new people.

Ripple Logo
Ripple Logo

Though Ripple have won the UK leg of the competition with their idea they are yet to have actually built the product. The three people currently involved with ripple had a great idea, but lacked the programming skills required to bring it to fruition. In order to find a student able to help them develop the application they contacted the Microsoft Student Partner program. Through the MSP program I got in touch with Ripple.

After a few Skype video conferences and telephone calls the team welcomed me on board, which means that through an odd bit of luck I am now an Imagine Cup 2014 finalist.

The Imagine Cup is a global student-only competition run by Microsoft in 190 countries which seeks to get students involved in solving social, economic and environmental problems through the use of technology. Each year winners from each country go to the world final in a different city to compete against each other – this year’s final is being hosted in Microsoft’s own back-yard, Seattle.

Imagine Cup Image of Seattle Space Needle
Imagine Cup Image of Seattle Space Needle

Winners can walk away with up to $50,000 prize money and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and current CEO Satya Nadella, so wish us luck! Regardless of how well we do I can’t wait to visit Seattle and do some of the awesome activities Microsoft has lined up for us, including going up the famous space needle.

I will, of course, keep the blog updated throughout the course of development and the competition itself.


Conferences Microsoft Student Partner

Microsoft Student Partner North European Summit 2012

Unfortunately this is the only picture I have of all the British MSP Team together…

About a month ago I was on the weekly MSP Lync Online Meeting when Academic Audience Manager Phil Cross mentioned that there was an opportunity for some British MSPs to go to Dublin for 3 days for a North European MSP Summit. At the event MSPs from many North European countries would come together, under one roof, and discuss how to best utilize the MSP program, make some apps together and generally learn more about being an MSP and Microsoft as a company in general. I think it was fair to say I was more than eager to go.

After booking my tickets for a flight and 6 separate train journeys to and from the airport I eagerly awaited the 21st of November!


It was an early start for a student — 6am — to get to the train station for my 7:30 train to Manchester Piccadilly. I got to Manchester around 10 and got another shorter service from Piccadilly to the International Airport. By 11 I was in the departure lounge, after having a bottle of coke and my toothpaste taken from me by security and eagerly awaiting, but at the same time dreading my first plane flight without my family.

Before we boarded the plane a delegation from the Irish Parliament got off it!
Before we boarded the plane a delegation from the Irish Parliament got off it! Hence all the police

I really enjoy flying, I think it lends a certain perspective to life. It makes you think about how small everything is in relation to the planet, combine that with my work on my Solar System Simulation for 2D graphics — and you can think about how small the planet is compared to the universe. Here are some pictures of the “patchwork quilt” that makes up the land between Manchester and the Irish Sea and some interesting things in the sea itself, including a massive ferry that looks absolutely tiny.

"Patchwork Quilt" England
“Patchwork Quilt” England
Spot the ferry
Spot the ferry

When we got to Dublin Airport I bumped into a fellow MSP, James Thorne, and together we caught the Air Coach to Leopards Town, where both our hotel and the Microsoft Campus were situated. Whilst James and I wandered around the Technology Park looking for the Microsoft Campus I jokingly quipped “Just look for the most boring building, that’ll be the Microsoft one” — so I was surprised when I found Building one, pictured below, which I think is quite a nice looking place. However, we were meeting our fellow MSPs in building 2.

Microsoft Ireland Building 1
Microsoft Ireland Building 1
Our Welcome to Ireland
Our Welcome to Ireland – Cead Mile Failte – Gaelic for “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes”

Because our flights were slightly later in the day than other peoples, James and I missed the beginning of the welcome talk, but did turn up in time to introduce ourselves using a slideshow we had previously prepared. You can see my slide below:

My MSP Profile Slide for the North European Summit - Windows 8 Style!
My MSP Profile Slide for the North European Summit – Windows 8 Style!

We were supposed to show off our aspirations, some previous projects and some contact methods. I think this slide does that well!

After every MSP had introduced themselves — and there were well over 100 of us — we had a short presentation from the Microsoft European Marketing Manager about Windows 8 and Microsoft’s strategy surrounding it. After this we went for a meal back at building 1, which is where the Microsoft Employees normally eat. It was really nice, I really could get used to working and living around a Microsoft Campus!

The OSO Restaurant In Microsoft Ireland Building 1
The OSO Restaurant In Microsoft Ireland Building 1

After dinner we had country presentations, which were incredibly entertaining as well as informative. Each of the countries represented at the event had a 5 – 10 minute powerpoint about what makes their country interesting and unique, some even bought alcohol and traditional food for us to try. One of the amusing things which I hadn’t expected was the amount of friendly rivalry between the Scandinavian countries. 😛 It was all in jest however :). Our presentation had everything you would expect of a British Country presentation, self deprecation  sarcasm and wit — however we did learn that British Humor doesn’t make a lot of sense to some of our fellow Europeans.

Microsoft - Work Hard, Play Hard
Microsoft – Work Hard, Play Hard

As the main aim of the event was to aid with networking between MSPs we all felt it was appropriate to go for a night on the town in Dublin together with our European Comrads, and a gret night was had by all.


The next morning we were straight back to work to learn about how to make games for Windows 8 using the HTML 5 Canvas and associated Javascript API’s. This was indeed almost identical to the code I was already using in my implementation of my Solar System Simulation – so it was great to see I could use the skills I had learnt at university to make interesting HTML5 powered games for Windows 8.

After this we learnt more about the more “traditional” way of making gaming applications for Microsofts Desktop OS, XNA. XNA isn’t officially supported in the “Metro”/Modern UI Windows Environment, however a company called The Mono Project provide an API called MonoGame which allows you to use your XNA Code, with some minor alterations. I still think that it is a shame that Microsoft themselves aren’t officially supporting XNA any more but MonoGame is an acceptable replacement.

Learning Mono became immediately useful because for we were then split up into teams to make a game. I remember joking with a friend that I was finding it hard enough to remember all the British peoples names, and I was worried that with Scandinavian people in my group I would appear rude by being unable to remember or prenounce their names. Fortunately this wasn’t too much of an issue as I was paired up with an Englishman called Tom, a Norweigan called Patrick and a Swede called Michael. However we were also teamed up with a Latvian, whos named none of us could pronounce, so we called him G. 🙂

First things first, we had to come up with a team name. We all thought Michael’s idea of “Too Inappropriate To Succeed” was funny, so we went with that. The next thing we had to do was come up with a concept for our game. None of us could really come up with a good, original game idea off the top of our head so I suggested we all wrote down a Location, Action and Character Word on a small note. We then collated all of the words of each type together, so all the locations were in one pile, all the actions were in one pile and all the characters were in one pile. We then chose one of each word type at random, leaving us with Seal, In An Oil Barrel and Pick Axe. Based around these words we came up with an idea for a game called “Seal Summit”

Seal Summit is a double entendre because the game is about a seal reaching the top, or summit, of an oil barrel it is trapped in — but the game was also devised at the North European MSP Summit. In the game you play as a seal which has been trapped in a very very large oil barrel. You attempt to get to the top of the barrel by using your pick axe and trying to avoid falling objects. Yes, it is a tad strange. I have very little of the game to show off so far as we had a very limited period of time in which to come up with the context and start coding, however if you keep checking back soon I plan to work on it more over the Christmas break and may have something to show off soon!

After we had worked on our group project for a few hours we had another presentation — in fact my favorite of the whole 3 days — on how to give good presentations. Some of the tips we were given were basic common sense once you had thought about them, but had just never occurred to me. There were also some more intelligent ways of making yourself appear more confident and help you achieve the end goal of any presentation, which is to make people interested in the information you have to provide.

The tips included:

  • Lowering the lights counteracts the effect of stress on your eyes — which can give away to people you’re not entirely confident
  • If you need a moment to pause travel across the stage, that way it looks like you’re moving rather than struggling to think of something
  • Playing some low volume music in the background can be calming
  • Slides should have a small amount of detail, people are very visual and will just stare at the powerpoint rather than listen to you if it has too much on it
  • Don’t worry about your bladder, your body stops you from needing the toilet whilst in that sort of situation 😛

After the fantastic presentation on presentations we had a feedback session with the MSP Worldwide Program Lead, Michelle Fleming, about what we felt could be improved within the program, and what her ideas were for the future of the program. Some of the points made were particularly interesting

  • Some of the website and much of the online portal for the program were outsourced to other companies, they failed to deliver when the website was taken offline for several weeks. From now on a lot of the work will be carried out by MSPs for MSPs.
  • There’s going to be greater access to devices for MSPs to run and test software on, and show off to people
  • There’s gong to be a better system for sharing best practices for demonstrations, events and the like

All of this is bound to make the MSP program better and more effective both for the MSPs themselves and Microsoft. I can’t wait to see it all implemented.

After the feedback session we all had a period of free time to spend at our hotel before we all got on a coach to a very special location in Dublin.

Can you guess where it is yet? St. James' Gate Guinness Storehouse
Can you guess where it is yet? St. James’ Gate Guinness Storehouse

The Guiness storehouse was an interesting place to go, and something that you simply have to do if you’re in Dublin. We were fortunate and lucky enough to have Microsoft treat us to dinner in the restaurant, which gives you a 360 degree view of the beautiful capital city of The Republic of Ireland.

Its fair to see my fellow MSP’s and I had a great time. It’s a shame I only had time to briefly say goodbye to everyone before catching my early flight the next day. I’d like to say a big thank you to Phil Cross, Michelle Fleming, Microsoft Ireland and everyone else involved in making such a great 3 days. I’ve made some friends which I’ve kept in contact with a can’t wait to see at the next MSP event and learnt some useful skills not only for within the technology industry, but life in general.


Microsoft Student Partner

Danny Brown – Microsoft Student Partner (MSP)

Yesterday I received an email from Phil Cross, Academic Audience Manager at Microsoft, welcoming me to the Microsoft Student Partner scheme – which I applied to be part of a few weeks ago. But what is a Microsoft Student partner?

Blake Pender from the Microsoft UK Students Group explained it well:

The main responsibilities of an MSP are to act as a liaison between the University and Microsoft and to evangelise technology (specifically, Microsoft technologies) and to encourage and inspire students from a technological background, by method of technical demonstrations and presentations.

Essentially I’m supposed to get people in the University more interested in Technology, especially those from Microsoft. I’ll also be expected to keep up to date with the latest Microsoft technologies myself , be an active part of the online community — including monthly VoIP calls on Microsoft Lync with other MSPs and The Academic Audience Team — and liaise between Microsoft and Hull’s Department of Computer Science if need be. 🙂

In return I get access to a full MSDN subscription giving me access to over £2000 of Microsoft Products for free, as well as a chance to network with my fellow MVPs and of course attend Microsoft sponsored events. It will also look good on my CV. I look forward to joining the other 45 MVPs around the country and getting as involved with the community as possible.