Students gain professional experience through Microsoft contest and internships

Microsoft has helped launched careers of several University of Nevada, Reno students through its learning opportunities; event to name winning app held May 9

Students gain professional experience through Microsoft contest and internships

Microsoft has helped launched careers of several University of Nevada, Reno students through its learning opportunities; event to name winning app held May 9

For the second year in a row, University of Nevada, Reno students have the opportunity to showcase their programming skills in the Microsoft Licensing, GP's application contest for the Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft Licensing (MSLI) has partnered with the University of Nevada, Reno College of Engineering's Association for Computing Machinery to host the developer contest to help students gain insight on the inner-workings of a mega-corporation by coding and developing their new app ideas.

The contest gives students creative range over their own projects while strengthening University ties with an outside business, and is an impressive addition to their professional resumes. Participants could work alone or in teams of four, and the winners receive a WP7 device or $500 for each team member. The apps are judged on reliability, usability, uniqueness, sustainability and marketability, and the winning app is chosen by highest cumulative score.

College of Engineering students Cody Callahan and Ray Shihab comprise one of three University student teams who have been busy the last few weeks developing their own original application ideas for the WP7 contest.

"Over the past year or so, my main goal for extracurricular excursions has been to gain real-world experience and to build a portfolio of projects for future job hunting," Callahan said. "With this particular project so far, I've learned a lot of things to help me achieve my goals."

Last year's winner, Aaron Eastburg, designed the app Squid Squish Lite. Within the first month of being on Microsoft Marketplace, the free version of the app was downloaded more than 11,000 times while the full version of the app, costing $2.99, was getting approximately one download a day.

Throughout the design process of the competition, which ended last week, Callahan has learned new application codes to manage the graphics of a mobile device. Callahan and Shihab's app "GeoHoops" requires players to bounce a basketball through a series of increasingly difficult obstacles to make a basket. Callahan attributes the University as a source for his interest in app developments.

"My University classes have sparked my interest in computer science and inspired me to learn how to develop for other devices and platforms," Callahan said.

The three apps currently under development by the student teams range in purpose and content. Student team Jeremy Olsen and Matt Geyer have developed the app "gSales" which will provide users with the ability to post and search for nearby garage sales. Fellow student programmer Mat Radford has been working as a one-man team to develop his app, which is a scrolling shooter game where players blow up enemy ships and dodge projectiles to get high scores.

Like Callahan, Radford also thinks his classes at the University have helped him with the programming of his app. During his computer science courses at the University, Radford learned C++, which is a high-level and difficult programming language to master.

"The University taught me the essentials of programming, which I have used on my Xbox project," Radford said. "As computer science students, we get the massive software packages required to program for Windows and Xbox for free and they usually cost more than $1,000 dollars."

Throughout the contest, Microsoft's Premier Operations Specialist and University graduate Calvin Fung has reached out to the contestants to answer questions and see how their projects are developing.

"This year it's been great to be able build off the momentum we gained last year from our first annual WP7 app contest," Fung said. "I'm excited to encourage the use of Microsoft software with another round of students and another batch of quality apps."

Microsoft's outward show of support of the students' progress comes as no surprise, as the company invests in University students to help them develop professional skills as well as build a successful network through their internship program. Microsoft partners with the University to provide an intern program for students, which currently has 16 hired interns for the semester. A total of 39 students have completed internships through the Microsoft program, and 21 of those interns have been hired by the company, jumpstarting the careers of the University graduates.

Both the WP7 contest and the Microsoft intern program have helped to significantly enhance the college experience of many University students. An unveiling of the student-created winning app from the Developer Contest will be held at Microsoft Licensing at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, May 9. All student teams will be present and will learn of the winning app at the event.

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