Microsoft Student Partners Summit

Microsoft Student Partners (MSPs) Summit is an annual gathering hosted by Microsoft, who provided all-expenses-paid trips to Redmond campus for the top 75 MSPs across the globe. I was very honored to be part of this amazing event this year. During my 5 days in Seattle, I learned a lot about Microsoft’s tremendous effort to engage with their customers and developers and met other passionate Microsoft studeatnt ambassadors from other countries.

Day 0: Arriving in Seattle

Taking a week off work at JPL, I left LAX on Tuesday afternoon. Traveling was extremely smooth and paperless this time since I discovered Delta’s E-Boarding pass. These digital passes could be imported to my iPhone’s native Passbook right after I checked in on Delta’s website; this removed the hassle of printing out boarding passes at busy airports like LAX. I will definitely utilize this feature for my future flights.

After 2 hours and 34 minutes, I touched down at SEATAC airport, where the Imagine Cup crews had been waiting for the Imagine Cup finalists and MSPs all day. After a very warm welcome, they helped me with my luggage and took me to where several 45-footer buses were waiting. Since my flight was at an odd time, I was one of the 3 people riding the 45-footer. It was quite an interesting experience… I took the chance to make small talks with the bus lady, who kindly gave me a quick run-down of Seattle and its popular attractions.

The bus dropped me off at Alder Hall, a dormitory at University of Washington (UW), where I would be staying at for the next few days. In addition to a very spacious double-room, the Alder Hall staff also provided room service during my stay! Shortly after, I joined several other MSPs to walk around the blocks until our reception dinner at UW’s Red Square that evening.

University of Washington
University of Washington
University of Washington’s Red Square
University of Washington

Day 1: Tech Talks at Microsoft

We had to wake up very early in the morning to bus to Redmond campus. Expecting to sit through hours and hours of workshops and tech talks, I intended to intake a lot of caffeine that morning. It turned out, however, that caffeine wasn’t necessary since the talks were very different, compelling, and useful.

The topics of the talks ranged from audience marketing and Windows Phone 8.1 Demo to game development and the Redmond startup program. Each speaker was a Senior member of their department; they all had a common vision for the future of technical evangelism. They strongly believed the best approach for Microsoft, which was shifting back to the productivity and platform business, was to engage with the end users, be they consumers or developers. They also believed student developers were the best candidates to infiltrate the next technological frontier. We were reminded of our role and mission of technical evangelism as Microsoft Student Partners and the honor our work brought forward.

Program Manager Scott Burmester’s opening speech
Redmond campus’ interior
American MSPs

Day 2: Microsoft Product Fair and Exploring Seattle

Product fair is a week-long event where Microsoft employees could showcase their proprietary projects they had been working on during the year. The product fair also included a non-employee section, where Imagine Cup finalists demonstrated their product.

Product Fair Tent

The setting was quite informal. Presenters just had to wait at their booth and present whenever a group of people passed by to try their products. Below are some of my favorite products at the product fair:

It’s like a presentation after a year-long hackathon
Russian Team Brainy Studio with their Oculus-Rift-powered game
Korean Team Bomon with ‘Under Bed’, a mobile game with extremely aesthetic UI design
My favorite: Canadian Team’s ‘claVision’ — a software that transcribed music by visually analyzing the keyboard. No sound needed. A modern day Beethoven.

Later that afternoon, we had a chance to meet with YouthSpark, an organization within Microsoft that supported world citizenship through providing opportunities and advocating for education and innovation for young students.

Photo with YouthSpark advocates

After the entire day at Microsoft, fellow MSPs and I had a free night to explore Seattle. Since we would be leaving for downtown Seattle the next day, we decided to spend the night around UW area.

Day 3: Imagine Cup World Final & Seattle Race

It was a big day for the Imagine Cup finalists. The world was watching them live from all over the globe. It was very interesting for me to watch the competition as a spectator, not as a contestant. I could see a lot of stress in each team. The pressure really excited me, though; I would love to be part of a large scale competition like Imagine Cup in the near future.

The boss’ speech

We started off with a few speeches from the executives. Oh, and there was this gentleman:

‘Tetris’ inventor, Alexey Pajitnov
Winners of each category

Although most teams did a wonderful job with their projects, I was particularly more impressed by Eyenaemia, an anaemia screening application by team Australia. Congratulations on your First Place victory!

World Final Winners from Team Australia

After the World Final, we grabbed some food from Alder Hall’s dining facility and headed to a conference room, where the crews at GeoTeaming had been waiting for us. We were put into 34 teams, each equipped with several GPSs ‘cached’ with 50 geolocations. These geolocations represented tourist attractions in Seattle. It was basically a high-tech scavenger hunt. We were to be dropped off at CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, and started our race there. We had 4 hours to reach as many geolocations as possible!

My team was a little outnumbered, since some of our members decided not to show up. Justin, an MSP from Louisiana, and I were very competitive, though. That made up for our headcount! We marched our way through a lot of attractions like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Space Needle, Gum Wall, etc. Regretfully, we only came in 4th place and did not get the limited edition Microsoft hoodie.

Teams getting ready
Trying to get to as many locations as possible
The Needle from bottom up
VIP Pass to the Space Needle
Seattle view from the Needle
Our team and the Australian team
Wrote in Space Needle’s guess book
Farmer Market
Gum Wall …

Day 4: Public Showcase at MOHAI

Speaking of users engagement, it would only make sense to bring the non-proprietary Product Fair to the public. On my last day of this trip, I joined the crews at Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), where the Imagine Cup finalists presented their products to the general public. Each visitor would then get to vote on their “People’s Choice” team.

Museum of History and Industry
Showcasing to general public

We also got to tour around this amazing museum, where centuries of technological changes were documented.

All of Microsoft software as of 2013
How the Xbox should have looked like

I left Seattle later that afternoon, feeling very satisfied with what I had gained over the past few days. Beside the massive amount of free food and sodas, a Kinect v2 sensor, and other Microsoft swags, I really made a lot of connection with people who shared the same passion for technology and technical evangelism. Thank you, Microsoft, for letting me be part of this wonderful experience.