Microsoft Foundry Brings Student Developers & Designers Together to Build Windows 8 Apps

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At most companies, you’ll hear the summer interns talking about cool apps they’ve discovered and downloaded. They tell their intern friends about the features, the shortcomings and initiate discussions around “I wish it would….”

At NERD you’ll also hear plenty of app conversation among the summer interns; however, instead of “I wish it would” the considerations are “Why don’t we?”

That’s right. These apps aren’t available for download yet, because they are being developed as you read this post by NERD’s summer intern students of The Foundry.

Last week NERD welcomed about 20 summer interns to conceive and develop Windows 8 apps. The Foundry, a 12-week summer internship, is the first-of-its-kind for Microsoft. Teams across Microsoft came together to recruit students, attract coaches, develop a schedule and establish work space for the students. “The Foundry is a unique opportunity for us to use our amazing location and our awesome employees to attract local students to Microsoft and our platforms,” says NERD Site Director Sara Spalding.

The students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, hail from 11 different schools in the Northeast, including MIT, Harvard, Brown, RIT and Wellesley. They are all super excited to be at NERD (!!!) and enthusiastic to contribute to the ever-growing Windows 8 ecosystem. (I can say that because I already use this platform – BOOYAH!)
Some students had their hearts set on joining start-ups for the summer, but when they heard of The Foundry, it was a no-brainer. “Here we work on a [software] application from start to finish. Interns would never do that at a big company, especially not in one summer,” says Alan Ho, an MIT senior.

The first week was information overload, but the students were tremendously grateful. “They are really taking this program seriously,” says Cory Monroe, another MIT Senior. “We had presentations from Windows 8 architects, Microsoft employees who have been here forever, tech start-up evangelists, program managers, agile developers and probably more I am forgetting. We’ve already learned so much, and we haven’t even officially started coding yet.”

Coaches

The students are split into teams of three or four, each equipped with two volunteer Microsoft coaches. The coaches hold a variety of technical positions from teams across Microsoft. “Working with a brilliant group of students and seeing how Windows 8 lights up their creativity is just amazing. That is what excites me the most about being a coach,” says Alvin Chardon, a Senior Software Development Engineer Test on the Application Virtualization (App-V) team.

“Getting a critical mass of Windows 8 apps is crucial for making the platform take off. The Foundry program is a great way to help solve that problem. With our location in Cambridge, we have unique access to an awesome pool of college interns who are ready, willing, and able to build exactly what the Windows 8 platform needs” says Eric Jewart, Principal Development Lead on the App-V team.

“I also find it to be a great opportunity to share some lessons learned over many years of software development with a new generation of programmers, so they can start their careers ahead of where I started mine. This transfer of knowledge is part of how the industry and the art of software development advance so rapidly,” adds Eric.

Scavenger Hunt

In addition to learning, the students are bonding and having fun. They participated in a Watson’s Scavenger Hunt across Harvard Square last week, and they venture out into Kendall Square for lunch daily. Bonding is an ongoing activity as the students are occupying one big open space. They have individual desks, but share a killer view of the Charles River and Boston skyline.

Microsoft is partnering with ICS Consulting to spearhead the initiative. Project Manager David Jacobs is onsite daily to make sure things run smoothly, and everybody completes an app by the end of the summer. The recovering engineer and Massachusetts native is thrilled by the level of excitement. “We need to make sure the students are scoping functionality in the appropriate time frame. With all this enthusiasm, students want to include features that might not be necessary or realistic given the short period.”

David is joined by ICS colleagues Walter Houseman, Mark Antonelli and Benoit Catherinet. All four ICS consultants are a great fit for this mission because they have technical and project management experience. Not to mention some of them have developed Windows apps before. They are following a agile development process. The schedule is divided into one-week sprints, where teams must deliver a demo at the end of each sprint. This requires the students to start simple and add functionality as they go along, further supporting the objective that each team will have an app completed by the Foundry’s end.

Today marks the conclusion of the first sprint. I was fortunate to observe the presentations and I am amazed at what these students have accomplished in just two weeks. I cannot wait to see what happens next – stay tuned and I’ll share it with you too!

 

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