Tag Archives: STEM Education

INNOVATE U – Inspiring Canada’s next generation of technology builders

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is guest authored by Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO of Actua

Today, 1,400 inquisitive and curious kids (and their teachers) joined Google engineers, Actua and the University of Toronto’s Engineering Outreach team for the first-ever INNOVATE U, a day of exploration and experimentation with science and technology.
Celina Ceasar-Chavannes, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada and MP for Whitby, speaks to students at Innovate U

We kicked off the day with a performance by DJ Scratch, who debuted a version of “O Canada” that had the kids dancing in the aisles of Convocation Hall. The kids also heard from Ann Makosinski, a young Canadian inventor whose pioneering use of thermal technology in creating The Hollow Flashlight catapulted her to a win in the Google Science Fair in 2013.

1,400 Ontario students visit Innovation Alley at Innovate U

NNOVATE U is a one-day event, designed to showcase the vast potential of STEM subjects. The kids and their teachers had an opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops with U of T engineering students, Actua outreach instructors and Google engineers, as well as to tour Innovate Alley, where they could try out everything from virtual reality tours of Canada’s arctic to solar-powered cars and the latest robotics.
Google Science Fair winner Ann Makosinski kicking off the day at Innovate U

For more than 20 years, Actua has worked to prepare young Canadians to be innovators and leaders by engaging them in exciting and accessible STEM experiences that build critical skills and confidence.  This includes our Codemakers program, supported by Google, to transform the way youth engage with computer science. The three year Codemakers project will inspire over 100,000 youth across Canada in digital skill building experiences that move them from being consumers of technology to producers of technology. Events like INNOVATE U are part of Codemakers and give us an opportunity to create extra special and unique moments of inspiration for these kids - particularly those from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM, like girls and Indigenous Youth. Today we hope to ignite a spark of curiosity that will increase the likelihood that they will pursue STEM studies and careers.

Together, we can show kids that technology offers everyone the potential to create, to collaborate and to invent.

Posted by Jennifer Flanagan, President and CEO of Actua. The University of Toronto is one of 34 Actua network members across Canada annually engaging 250,000 youth in hands-on STEM.

Apply for a computer science award

High schools need to increase their computer science offerings and we’re eager to support. Starting today, applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Google Computer Science for High School Awards. Universities who meet our eligibility criteria can apply for an award of up to $15,000. Apply before midnight (GMT), February 20th, 2015.

High school computer science courses face challenges throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Many teachers can have limited access to training and curriculum resources, struggle to keep up with fast changing technology or have difficulty demonstrating that computer science can be a rewarding and “cool” career choice.

Google’s Computer Science for High School Awards connects school teachers with university academics, who can provide them with the training and tools. Since its pilot in 2009, the program has sustained computer science teacher professional development and helped inspire a new generation of computer scientists who will build the apps and programs of the future.

To date, our program has trained more than 12,263 teachers, reaching an estimated 613,150 students in more than 230 locations worldwide. In 2014, we supported 26 university-led education projects in 20 countries - with projects ranging from SCRATCH and Raspberry Pi teacher workshops in Europe to android and robotics programming workshops for female students in the Middle-East.

We have resources for teachers to get ongoing, year-round help. Our Google+ Community page hosts Hangouts on Air with Computer Science industry leaders, Googlers, and top educators on a regular basis and we have a resources page with online workshops, tutorials and information on computational thinking, robotics and more.

This year we've added a new computer science custom search for additional materials (such as lesson plans, tutorials, activities, and videos) to support classroom activity, after school programs, or for home enrichment. Our ultimate goal is ambitious — to “train the trainer,” develop a thriving community of high school Computer Science teachers, and above all, engage pre-university students about the awe and beauty of computing.

Coding for democracy in Europe

It was an audacious task - write software that would increase democratic participation in Europe. At a time when polls show increasing public disenchantment with traditional European Union institutions, the latest and 4th edition of the EUhackathon focused on getting European citizens more involved in the EU policymaking progress.

A total of 41 coders from all over Europe participated this week in Brussels. In addition to Google, Facebook, ICANN and Netflix sponsored the event.

Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, and Alexander De Croo, Belgian Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for the Digital Agenda, visited the coders at the Google Brussels office. Google Vice President and Internet evangelist (and “father” of the Internet) Vint Cerf, offered additional encouragement.

Belgian Minister Alexander De Croo and European Commissioner Andrus Ansip
Vint Cerf with Commissioner Ansip
After 30 hours of intense coding with only a single four-hour break, the jury heard presentations of the projects. The prize giving ceremony took place at the European Parliament – MEPs Julia Reda, Andrey Novakov, Brando Benifei, Eva Paunova and Marietje Schaake announced the winners:
  • First Prize: Team Videodock (the Netherlands), created a cool search for finding videos of parliamentary debates.
  • Second Prize: Team Commission Today (Romania/Germany/USA), created a transparency register of the meetings of the EU Commission.
  • Third Prize: Team Frontwise (the Netherlands),developed a tool to make easier to access to EU public consultations.
The winning Dutch team receives their prize

Teaching children to program robots

"Programming is child’s play." That’s the motto of our new German cloud platform "Open Roberta" which simplifies programming for small robots for both teachers and students.

Its a priority to encourage students to program  - and indeed in the rest of Europe. Every year, the German Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media estimates that Germany lacks 39,000 trained IT experts. Initiatives like Open Roberta are designed to fill this gap, allowing students and teachers to start programming with ease - and enjoy it by making learning into a fun game.

This Open Roberta cloud-based platform allows school kids to program LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robots and control them using mobile devices. The cloud-based approach makes it simple to open the Open Roberta website and get started right away, eliminating the need for any installation or regular updating of PC software.

Researchers at Google and Fraunhofer IAIS have been collaborating since the spring of 2013 on ways to simplify programming of these little robots. The aim was to minimize technical hurdles for both students and the 1,000 certified 'Roberta Teachers'. Our solution with Open Roberta is to put the software in the cloud and open source it. Google.org provided Fraunhofer IAIS the necessary EUR1 million in funding to develop the new program. In parallel with the launch of the platform, LEGO Education introduced 160 all-new kits to be given in ten-packs to schools in the 16 German states.

Open Roberta makes it possible for kids to work on their programming projects both at school and at home, share them with others, and tinker away on them together – anywhere and anytime. At the same time, this approach is of particular advantage to schools, which often do not have enough computers for all their students.

Tutorials soon will be available for teachers on using Open Roberta in ways that meet the diverging interests of girls and boys. We at Google are proud to be supporting this initiative. Additional information is posted at open-roberta.org. To get started with programming, just visit the Open Roberta Lab at lab.open-roberta.org ... and unleash the robots!

Supporting New Europe’s digital advances

They threw off the shackles of communism. Now they are grabbing the reigns of the technology revolution. Together with Financial Times, International Visegrad Fund and Res Publica, we announced the New Europe 100 list of innovators from Central and Eastern Europe who are leveraging new technologies to transform the region in business, media, culture, science and politics.

In announcing the project, the Financial Times noted: “central and eastern Europe say the combination of a high level of mathematical education, low overheads and a globalised, westernised young generation makes for a heady and successful mix.” We agree. The New Europe 100 winners show that this former communist region is fast moving away from its old traditional manufacturing industries. They range from “a Hungarian doctor who has created a medical advice website driven by social media, a team of Polish students who have built an award-winning robot that could operate on Mars, and a Slovak inventor of a flying car. “

Check out the whole list at http://ne100.org/ and read more about the project and its laureates in the newest Visegrad Insight. Follow it on Twitter @NewEurope100 and tag as #NE100 elsewhere.

The FT correctly notes that the the region still must overcome obstacles. Research and development activities is about one per cent of the region’s gross domestic product, according to McKinsey, the consultancy - half the rate in the western EU, and even behind 1.5 per cent in the Bric economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Our hope that the New Europe 100 project will help raise the profile of the region’s innovators. Recognition from being included on the list will, we believe, bring the initiatives attention, investor interest - and perhaps even potential business partnerships.

Teaming up with Oxford University on Artificial Intelligence

It is a really exciting time for Artificial Intelligence research these days, and progress is being made on many fronts including image recognition and natural language understanding. Today we are delighted to announce a partnership with Oxford University to accelerate Google’s research efforts in these areas.

The Oxford skyline. Credit Oxford University Images
Google DeepMind will be working with two of Oxford’s cutting edge Artificial Intelligence research teams. Prof Nando de Freitas, Prof Phil Blunsom, Dr Edward Grefenstette and Dr Karl Moritz Hermann, who teamed up earlier this year to co-found Dark Blue Labs, are four world leading experts in the use of deep learning for natural language understanding. They will be spearheading efforts to enable machines to better understand what users are saying to them.

Also joining the DeepMind team will be Dr Karen Simonyan, Max Jaderberg and Prof Andrew Zisserman, one of the world’s foremost experts on computer vision systems, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the only person to have been awarded the prestigious Marr Prize three times. As co-founders of Vision Factory, their aim was to improve visual recognition systems using deep learning. Dr Simonyan and Prof Zisserman developed one of the winning systems at the recent 2014 ImageNet competition, which is regarded as the most competitive and prestigious image recognition contest in the world.

Google DeepMind has hired all seven founders of these startups with the three professors holding joint appointments at Oxford University where they will continue to spend part of their time. These exciting partnerships underline how committed Google DeepMind is to supporting the development of UK academia and the growth of strong scientific research labs.

As a part of the collaboration, Google DeepMind will be making a substantial donation to establish a research partnership with the Computer Science Department and the Engineering Department at Oxford University, which will include a program of student internships and a series of joint lectures and workshops to share knowledge and expertise.

We are thrilled to welcome these extremely talented machine learning researchers to the Google DeepMind team and are excited about the potential impact of the advances their research will bring.

Google Summer of Code 2015 and Google Code-in 2014 are on!

A call to all students in Europe: if you have ever thought it would be cool to write code, then please keep reading. We're excited to announce the next editions of two programs designed to introduce students to open source software development, Google Summer of Code for university students and Google Code-in for 13-17 year old high schoolers.

Google Code-in

Google Code-in is an international, online contest designed to introduce  pre-university students to the world of open source development. When you read the term open source, do you think:
  • What is open source?
  • What types of work do open source projects do?
  • I’ve only taken one computer science class, can I contribute to an open source project?
  • I’m not really into coding, how else can I contribute to open source?
  • I’ve never participated in open source or an online contest before, can someone help guide me?
  • Open source sounds fun, how can I get started?
If you’re a high schooler and you've wondered about any of these questions, then we hope you will join in the fun and excitement. Over the past four years, we have had 1,575 students from 78 countries in the contest. This year we hope to surpass 2,000 students.

Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on the Google Code-in site for details on how to sign up and participate. We will announce the open source organizations that will be participating in the contest on November 12. The Code-in contest starts on December 1.

Google Summer of Code

Google Summer of Code offers student developers summer stipends to write code for various open source projects.  Over the past 10 years, over 8,300 mentors and 8,500 student developers in 101 countries have produced a stunning 55 million lines of code.

If you know of a university student that would be interested in working on open source projects this summer, or if you know of an organization that might want to mentor students to work on their open source projects, please direct them to our Google Summer of Code 2015 website. Stay tuned for more details!

Posted by Stephanie Taylor and Carol Smith, Open Source Programs

Supporting Europe Code Week

The European Commission estimates that more than 900,000 high tech jobs will go unfilled in 2020. While digital competency is one of the most important prerequisites for getting a job, too few students are studying computing. We want to help fill this gap. In order to encourage more school age students to learn about computing, we’re participating in the European Commission initiative, Europe Code Week, which takes place Oct 11-17.

We’re providing small grants to organizations who are running events in nearly a dozen countries, from Spain to Slovenia. In Sevilla, Programamos is going to teach 100 students to code. In Athens, we’re supporting coding workshops for underprivileged girls with Greek Geekettes. Other innovative projects range from Atelier-Gouter du Code, which is bringing coding workshops to students in underprivileged areas of Marseilles, France, to Python for Everyone through the University of Ljubljana.

An important priority in this year’s event is encouraging girls to explore computer science. We are coordinating Hangouts on Air interviews, hosting female Google engineers from across the continent to show children, especially girls, role models in the tech field. Tune in to +Europe Code Week’s Google+ Page.

Click on Code Week’s events page to see all the different opportunities to participate in this celebration of computer science.

Calling women coders – apply for the Ada Awards

Fewer than one in ten computer science graduates in Europe are female. In order to improve on this dismal rate, we are sponsoring the 2014 European Ada Awards.

The Awards, affectionately known as the “Adas,” are named in honor of Ada Lovelace, a 19th-century English mathematician, considered by many to be the world’s first computer programmer and the first to envisage computing’s true potential.

It’s the second edition of the awards. The European Commission launched the Ada Awards in June, 2013 as part of its pledge to improve Digital Skills and Jobs in Europe. Three awards are given out - the Digital Girl of the Year, the Digital Woman of the Year , and the Digital Impact Organisation of the Year. Nominations are valid from across the European Union and reflect a broad spectrum of digital fields – academia, research, industry, enterprise and creative.

“Tomorrow's world will be driven by digital technology, and having digital skills will
open a goldmine of opportunities. I want women to be in the goldmine,” Neelie Kroes European Commission Vice President responsible for the Digital Agenda, said at last year’s award ceremonies.

Please note the award agenda:

Deadline for Nominations: September 16, 2014
Finalist Announcement: October 6, 2014
Rome Award Ceremony: October 30, 2014

Additional information and nomination forms are available at AdaAwards.com.

Connecting schools around the globe

As a bishop in his native Buenos Aires, Pope Francis founded "Escuela de Vecinos" (Neighbor Schools) and "Escuelas Hermanas" (Sister Schools) to allow students in richer and poorer neighborhoods to share their concerns. Today, at the Vatican, a new project was announced, using the Internet and Google tools, allowing students from around the world to communicate. The Pope himself tomorrow will publicly present the new platform.

The initiative, Scholas, seeks to connect schools all over the globe, so that they may learn from one another, share projects and find volunteers to make these projects a reality. Scholas Occurrentes integrates Google Apps for Education.

“Technology and Education are key in tackling the roots of violence”, said Jose María del Corral, Scholas's CoFounder at the press conference held this morning. We are helping "take down the physical barriers and prejudices that stand in the way of peace." Google's Managing Director for Spanish-speaking Latin America Adriana Noreña and representatives of Globant and Line64, responsible for the site´s design and programming, joined him at the Vatican launch.

The initiative comes after a Vatican-sponsored education congress and a soccer match for World Peace held earlier this week, for which Pope Francis I personally invited some of the best soccer players.