20 finalist teams of the Opening Opportunities educational program created by Asociatia Techsoup and Microsoft Romania have presented their 6 months’ work results with their Microsoft CSS mentors. The Demo Days closing event was the biggest event of the program, bringing together 130 high-school students from 10 cities in Romania.
Opening Opportunities is the first educational program that mostly reaches the region of Moldova, one of the poorest regions of the European Union, covering the needs of students and computer science high-schools from 7 cities in the Moldova region, and also of Bucharest and Râmnicu Vâlcea.
Opening Opportunities brings together mixed teams of not just students from different high-schools, but also from different cities, working for 6 months on technical projects and using Skype to coordinate with their Microsoft mentor. Opening Opportunities teams are built by mirroring the roles and the pace of an IT start-up that has to innovate and prepare a technology ready to use product in a short timeframe. 40% of the participants on the program are technology and IT-passionate female students.
To develop the product they choose as a team, students learn new programming languages and technologies independently or with the help of their mentor. They also go through all stages of developing a technology product: from idea to MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and learn how to get and evaluate feedback from their targeted product users.
Demo Days – the final event of the 3rd edition of Opening Opportunities – took place between 7-9th April, and the final presentations of all qualified projects took place at the Microsoft Romania headquarters, along with Microsoft’s mentors and friends of the program. The 3 full days included training and workshops created for the students by the Microsoft DX team (Microsoft Romania team that aims to support developers who use Microsoft technologies) and other guests along with technology demonstrations. For this event, the Microsoft DX team prepared a special demonstration of the HoloLens technology, the first demo of its kind in Romania.
On the 8th of April 2017, the judging panel consisting of Florin Grama (Microsoft Customer Service and Support General Director), Radu Ştefan (Microsoft Romania Technical Evangelist Manager), Nicoleta Nuţu (Microsoft Romania Audience Evangelist Manager), Valerian Banu (Hootsuite Product Manager) and Răzvan Băltăreţu (Adevărul Tech Journalist) decided to award the following prizes:
- Most innovative project: DriveVision – a machine learning project, an autonomous car project where cameras and sensors permanently monitor traffic obstructions, driver’s attention, or send information to emergency response agencies about how many people are in the car in the event of an accident.
- Most fun project or best original game: Pesna, a platform for creating classical Romanian fairy tales based games.
- Best technical implementation: The Night Before Exemption, a retro-style single-player game, inspired by “point and click” type of games and drawn pixel by pixel.
- Best Presentation: Psych Type, a game that helps adolescents to get to know each other better, based on interactive psychological personality tests.
- The Judge’s Prize for originality of the concept: SchoolScape, a game in which a student (the main character of the game) must pass serious trials of general culture in order to “solve” the encounters with the teachers in the game.
Students also voted among themselves and chose to award The Audience Prize for the Money at High School project which aims to become a seasonal and temporary job platform for high school students.
In addition to their technical training and passion for technology, the Opening Opportunities Microsoft mentors also go through a technical training process with their Microsoft DX colleagues in order to accustom them with product development concepts and necessary technologies, and also with team management and mentoring skills. Most of the mentors in the program are support engineers working for Microsoft CSS in Bucharest in Timisoara, and some of them have been with the program since its launch in 2013.
The Asociatia Techsoup team, which created the educational intervention model and coordinates the mentors’ team and the program, is already preparing for the 4th edition of Opening Opportunities, starting in September 2017.
Big congrats for The Asociatia Techsoup team! You’re the best!