Microsoft Employees’ BIG Ideas on Coding Take Shape

In conjunction with the 2015 #WeSpeakCode campaign, Microsoft challenged its employees in Asia to develop their own BIG Idea to encourage more people to learn coding. Earlier, we showcased JP Sibug's BIG Idea to teach coding to people with disabilities in the Philippines.

Now we introduce you to Michelle Sandford and Elise Stanberg, both from Microsoft Australia, who finished as runners-up and each received US$250 in funding to make their BIG Ideas happen. We caught up with Elise and Michelle to discuss how their BIG Ideas are inspiring a new generation of coders and app entrepreneurs.


 Elise Stanberg invited more than 100 children and parents to spend a weekend learning to code at the sports-themed Code4Code event.

Elise Stanberg, Productivity Solutions Specialist for FSI with Microsoft’s Cloud product group in Sydney, shared her love of coding by harnessing young Australians’ enthusiasm for sports. More than 100 children aged between 4 and 12 and their parents spent a weekend at the sports-themed Code4Code event, where children learned how to use code to create an avatar, game or robot that best represents the sport they follow.

 A shout-out to all the volunteers who made the Code4Code event a success: (from left to right) Luke Swetman, Haneesha Nimmagadda, Laura McMenamin, Elise Stanberg, Amy Kim, Mitchell Wong, Sarah Azzam, Krystle-Jayne Ng, as well as (not pictured) Andrew Coates, Clint Woon and Kate McCarthy!

What was the inspiration behind your BIG Idea?

I read that coding was being introduced into the UK school curriculum. It seemed other countries were leaps ahead of Australia in encouraging students to code, and I was inspired to help change that. Having two young boys of my own, I want to see children adequately exposed to basic coding concepts.

Why did you select young sports fans as potential new coders?

Passion! We can tap into kids’ enthusiasm for sports and relate it to how code can enable them to build an app or a website.

How has your event succeeded in empowering young Australians to code?

Parents have shared stories of how their children really enjoyed the coding lessons, and are now seriously looking at tech as a career path. Learning to code is a social activity, and it’s great seeing young people learning something new together. Parents recognising code as important is a real bonus.

Do you have plans to continue with your BIG Idea project?

The enthusiasm of both parents and children has me working towards putting another event together during the Christmas period, with the help of my colleagues. I will also be actively seeking the ears of local authorities about bringing code into the classroom.



 Michelle Sandford (left) collaborated with Microsoft partners Ignia, DDLS and Empired to hold a three-day coding event for women.


Michelle Sandford, Service Delivery Manager at Microsoft, had the BIG Idea to hold a #WeSpeakCode<Systers> multiday event in Perth, to provide 55 women with a holistic introduction to coding. The event was facilitated by the Australian Computer Society, while Microsoft partners Ignia, DDLS and Empired provided support.

 The #WeSpeakCode event provided 55 women in Perth with a holistic introduction to coding.

What inspired your BIG Idea, and what did you set out to achieve?

I was drawn to what worked well in coding events run by RailsGirls and Perth{Web}Girls, where women spent a whole weekend learning to code. Committing that much time can be intimidating, especially for newcomers, so we offered flexibility, choices and various learning options to appeal to this diverse female demographic.

What were the key learnings for the event participants?

Participants received basic training in a variety of code-related topics, including C# programming, PowerShell, game design and more. I felt it was important to provide a broad overview of what the world of coding is all about. The event also gave them tips and direction on what kind of coding skills and capabilities they could pick up next.

How has the event succeeded in drumming up interest in coding among women?

The event attracted participants ranging from a 15-year-old student accompanied by her mother, to two grandmothers aged 75, who said they will join the CoderDojo coding club with their grandchildren, and support them in learning to code. In Perth, coders are predominantly male (up to 90 percent), so we plan to repeat the event every six months to reach this large, untapped group of would-be female coders who can expand their skill-set to succeed in the tech industry.

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