Steve Spencer's Blog

The blog of Steve Spencer

Imagine Cup NE

Just finished at the Hacking Imagination event in County Durham. My role was to help mentor and encourage the students from Universities and Colleges in the North East of England to help them to develop their ideas for their Imagine Cup entries.

The event was held in a secret location in county Durham and the students were bussed in.

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A number of us from Black Marble attended and performed workshops in Migrating to Azure (me), ALM/TFS (Richard), WPF, SilverLight, Phone 7 101 (Leon), Planning Poker (Me, Leon) & Software War Stories/How to Run a Software Business(Robert, Me). The students were all enthusiastic and asked a lot of sensible questions. The students were put into teams if they hadn’t already formed them, which was interesting to watch as an outsider as it was a bit like a recruitment fair with students walking around from team to team where both sides were deciding whether the person or the team were a good fit. This seemed to have worked well with everyone having a team. the age and skill levels range from college students doing their A levels to MSc.

The aim of the two days was to get the teams in a position where they had an idea that is more than just a software app with a good justification for it. This was a difficult task for a lot of teams as they either had a technology solution and tried to find a problem to solve or a really wide problem that they were trying to solve. Most of the discussions were around getting the teams to think about the whole solution including who it is aimed at and how they are going to deliver it rather than just the software side of the solution. It was also about getting some of the teams to focus down on to a specific area rather than being general. Some of the ideas changed each time I spoke to the teams!!

The (long) 2 days ended with each of the teams doing a presentation of their ideas to the whole group. The whole 2 days was enjoyable and the students seemed to gain a lot from the experiences, bringing some out of their shells.

The thing that impressed me most was the amount of young talent that is around and the abilities they have. One group of students were from a 6th form college doing their A Levels/BTEC and the college had around 15 – 20 attendees, all working hard to deliver a good thought through ideas and presenting their ideas to a group of about 50 people. That is something I used to avoid as much as possible when I was at that age. It is this talent that is the future of IT. Credit must go to the teacher/lecturer who has encouraged this amount of A Level/BTEC students to attend an event like this. Its not an easy task to get teenagers to do anything (he says from experience).

Events like the Imagine cup helps these guys (and girls) to gain real world experience and advice from experts in the field. Getting a chance to influence and help this talent has been rewarding for me and I want to try to help some of these young people more. So thanks to all the people who organised and mentored the event and thanks to the students that attended.

There was a lot of information being passed around and to finish off this post, I’ve put together a list of some of the areas that we were talking about in my sessions. I hope they are useful.

Video of wiring the Windows Azure Access Control service into an ASP.NET website. My bit is at the end and its a no code demo to allow users to login to you website using Live, Google or Yahoo accounts.

The Windows Azure Platform training Kit

The Windows Identity training Kit

Windows Azure Pricing& MSDN subscription allowances

Team Foundation Server in the Cloud

Books

Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability : Steve Krug (ISBN: 0321344758)

The Art of Unit Testing – Roy Oshrove

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