Google brings educators, startups and researchers together in North Carolina

Editor's note: We're going across the U.S. to shine light on the great things schools are doing with technology at the statewide level, with North Carolina up first. North Carolina is a strong Google partner. From the rollout of broadband infrastructure to the adoption of Google for Education, Google for Work and Google Cloud Platform in schools, nonprofits, labs and startups, Google technology is helping to liberate learning, empower employees and give researchers tools that can help solve real world problems.

North Carolina’s Research Triangle has a rich tradition of fostering quality education, research and entrepreneurship – prime areas for investment and innovation. In fact, Google is now laying thousands of miles of state-of-the-art fiber optic cable that will expand internet connectivity in the area. In the spirit of building next-generation technologies, the Google Cloud Platform and Google for Education teams hosted an inaugural Innovate with Google event at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill.

Startups, researchers and educators come together to innovate 

The event brought together more than 200 educators, startup executives, life science researchers and others who are innovating with Google. They’re building new teaching models, services and scientific advancements designed to improve lives.

Attendees heard from Jonathan Rochelle, Google’s director of Product Management, who discussed innovation used by billions of people. He gave the example of his own XL2Web startup that became Google Sheets and Expeditions, which allows teachers to take students on virtual field trips.

A panel of educators, students and entrepreneurs shared stories of creating change with technology. Brittany Wenger, Duke University student and Google 2012 Science Fair winner, shared her experience of teaching herself how to code and building a platform powered by Google App Engine that predicts breast cancer with 99 percent accuracy. Dr. Valerie Truesdale of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools talked about the district’s Chromebook program (83,000 devices across 168 schools), which began with researching what age group most needed the devices. Sarah Noell of North Carolina State University discussed how faculty and students are working together to design engaging lessons that inspire creativity.

Learning, building and scaling 

Attendees chose from breakout sessions in genomics, startups and education. In the education track, teachers and school administrators shared how they’re rethinking traditional teaching and learning methods with help from Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks. Teachers also got hands-on with tackling current educational challenges with a 10X Design Thinking workshop. Jamel Mims of the Urban Arts partnership led a challenge on how to align pedagogy with art and culture to engage students. He shared his approach of teaching history through rapping. Ellie Gamache of American Underground led a group on how to foster community between local schools, universities and startups to drive innovation and embrace diversity.
Attendees worked in small groups with tools like pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, construction paper and Play Doh to brainstorm ideas to solve different educational challenges.

The genomics breakout sessions appealed to attendees whose work with big data uses the very same cloud computing platform that powers the Google backbone and services like Search, Maps and Google Genomics. The non-profit organization Autism Speaks, for example, discussed how they’re sequencing 10,000 whole genomes and building the world’s largest private collection of autism-related DNA samples. They shared how they already uploaded nearly 100 terabytes of data from more than 1,300 genomes onto Google Cloud Storage and how they make this genomic data available to researchers for free via the Google Cloud Platform, searchable through BigQuery.

The future looks bright for students, teachers, scientists and entrepreneurs in North Carolina. From research on Autism to creating new companies to enabling students to collaborate on projects remotely, Google tools are providing the building blocks people need to turn their big thoughts into reality and build a better tomorrow.

We’ve heard great stories from many of you about how you’re using technology to do amazing things in your schools, so we're going across the U.S. to see for ourselves! North Carolina was the first state we visited. Check out the map below to see where we’ll head next. We’d love to hear what’s happening in your state, so please share your story on Twitter or Google+ and tag us (@GoogleEdu) or include the #GoogleEdu hashtag.