Over the last 6 months, 160 high school students from 9 counties from Romania have worked with Microsoft mentors to create technology products: from complex games that amazed gaming industry specialists, to a low-cost, self-contained water quality detection, or a productivity app that helps pupils, students and teachers to help them better organize their time and school priorities.
Opening Opportunities started in 2013 as a mentoring program based on personal development and career guidance, and evolved into a technology development platform in computer science. Primarily aimed to develop programing (computer science), communication and teamwork skills for high school students and to exercise those abilities needed in order to build a technology product, from idea to a functional prototype or ready-to-launch product.
Program was developed and organized by Asociatia Techsoup Romania. It was funded by the Microsoft YouthSpark Global Initiative and implemented with the support of the National Association of Librarian and Public Libraries from Romania.
In its four editions, Opening Opportunities brought technology into the lives of over 7,000 high school students who attended more than 100 local events, facilitated by libraries and high schools. More than 1,700 high school students aged between 14 and 19 years old from over 50 high schools in Romania worked together with 150 volunteer mentors from Microsoft Romania and developed more than 50 technical projects: websites, mobile and desktop applications, computer games or robotics projects.
Demo Days 2018
Eight of tech products created by fifty five finalists (out of which 23 girls and 32 boys) were presented at the fourth edition of the Opening Opportunities final event: Demo Days (March 23-25, 2018) at Microsoft Romania headquarters.
Meet the winners:
- The Jury Prize for Gaming Projects for: “A Malicious Story” computer game, a side-scroller that encourages the interaction between the player and the narrator, with an unique experience for each player which leads to different outcomes of the game
- The Jury Prize for General Interest Projects for: “Learnify” app, an Android productivity app that helps pupils, students and teachers to help them better organize their time and school priorities.
Also, the high school finalist students voted among themselves their projects and chose to award:
- The Audience Prize for gaming projects to: “Purple”, a computer game which helps children understand what a person with autism is going through
- The Audience Prize for General Interest Projects to: “Project Calypso”, a smart, autonomous and low-cost water quality analysis system in the shape of a buoy.
“Opening Opportunities was a unique opportunity to see how one works in the IT industry, to meet new people and to learn how to work effectively in a team.” said Ştefan Şovea, project manager of “Project Calypso”, 12th grade high school student at Petru Rareş National College from Suceava.
Opening Opportunities was awarded in December 2017 by the European Commision for its innovative methodology. The program was the big winner of the European Digital Skills Awards 2017 competition in the Digital Skills in Education category.
“Opening Opportunities is an example of creativity and gives students the opportunity to show what they can do if they are given an opportunity. As a mentor, it is a new experience and is also an opportunity to get in touch with the new generation. For students, the project means working remotely through individual tasks, but also contributing to a larger collaborative project, which helps them to realize their personal contribution to the final outcome.” said Dan Vasilescu, Technical Advisor Partner, Microsoft Romania and mentor in the project.
The Asociatia Techsoup team has created the educational intervention model and coordinates the mentors team and the project.
“We are very grateful to Microsoft’s mentors and volunteer culture, the company with which we have initiated and developed this project so far. We have matured an educational model validated by international awards, but above all, validated by the evolution of the high school students we work with. Based on the model, they succeed to create products that everybody appreciates for their maturity and seriousness of development. I am absolutely convinced that Opening Opportunities will increase Romania’s first cult video game.” said Elena Coman, Programs Director Asociatia Techsoup.