These days, there are many summer activities for high-school students: Young rockers, soccer players, artists and thespians can generally find a niche when school’s out.
Parents also want their kids to get tech exposure, experience and literacy. But many tech activities don’t come cheap. Microsoft now has a way for high schoolers to get an introduction to technology, mentoring, and tech experience—free of charge—way before graduation.
Thanks to a program that’s funded by University Recruiting and Global Diversity and Inclusion, high school students in the Puget Sound area can get their geek on, in three days of intense tech. University Recruiter Lee Steventon oversees Microsoft Technology Boot Camp. She says, “It’s a unique opportunity for high school juniors and seniors in Puget Sound to experience Microsoft, learn from engineers in Microsoft Research and Microsoft Studios, and create a game in ProjectSpark and a TouchDevelop app—in just three days.”
In 2012, the camp began as a shorter pilot program. A start, but Lee wanted to amp up the awesomeness. She wanted to give tech-curious teens—potential engineers—hands-on experience, individual attention, and A+ mentoring.
How? “This specific event was geared toward students with little programming/development experience,” Lee says. “The goal was to give kids exposure to Microsoft technologies and ignite their passion for technology, by helping them accomplish some amazing things (creating an app and a game).”
Here’s how Boot Camp 2.0 ratcheted up the intensity:
Hot technologies, cool projects, go! The participants learned how to develop apps and create games—in three days. (Sounds like a reality show.)
Smaller groups. The 2012 program had two groups of 20 kids. This time, there were 46 kids from around Puget Sound. In our new-and-improved Boot Camp, the group was divided into pods/table groups of six to eight students. As a result, the students got more individualized exposure to the brain-strength of Microsoft engineers.
Professional mentoring. Over the three days, students had access to as many as 10 engineers. For each table, an engineer acted as a coach. They provided guidance and helped the participants prepare for their presentations on the final day.
Career advice. One engineer did an AMA (ask me anything) session, and the participants got tips and advice from a current Explore Microsoft summer intern (a university student) and a university recruiter.
Presentation skills. At the end of Day 3, the participants presented their game and app to Microsoft Studios Senior Director Saxs Perrson, Technical Producer Scott Fintel, and Senior RSDE (Research Software Development Engineer) Peli de Halleux.
Kudos. All the students received a certificate of completion.
In turn, the students gave the boot camp kudos too. In a survey, when asked, “Should this boot camp be offered next year?” all participants selected: “Yes.” They wished it were longer. They “gained a whole new understanding of what programmers do and Microsoft does.” They gave it a huge thumbs-up.
In the words of some happy campers:
- “This is a great program! It confirmed my interest in Computer Science.”
- “It increased my excitement for coding.”
- “I had an amazing time and I’d like to work with Microsoft more in the future.”
Best of all, this action-packed adventure built confidence: “For a person like me who was discouraged by the difficulty of computer science, it was intriguing and encouraging.” The program went beyond basic training. “It taught us how to make video games as well as apps. Not only that, it provided us a comfortable place to learn.”
For our boot camp and our high school intern program, here’s an overview and how to apply.
Lee pitched the retooled boot-camp at a hackathon our university recruiters called Be Awesome. Her goal: “building out the high school programs to impact a larger group of students.” Lee plans to host multiple versions of the workshop next summer.
Meet alums of the Explore Microsoft summer internship program for college freshmen and sophomores.