U of Waterloo nets $2.3 million Microsoft investment

The University of Waterloo is the first to get a piece of Microsoft Canada‘s new education fund, but there’s plenty more available.

Officials said Wednesday

the university will receive $2.3 million of the $10 million Microsoft Canada Academic Innovation Alliance pot.

“”It’s the beginning of a deeper relationship with Waterloo, but it’s also the beginning of a different kind of relationship than what we’ve had before,”” said Frank Clegg, president of Microsoft Canada, at the launch.

The fund is designed to improve four areas: academic research, education solutions, curriculum integration and industry outreach. While there are millions more up for grabs to accredited Canadian universities, don’t expect airy-fairy projects to get approved, officials said.

“”The projects must demonstrate a proven market need. So the technologies developed have to have a practical application beyond just the research realm,”” said George Kyriakis, Microsoft’s education sector director. “”Projects must have the potential to deliver significant tangible incremental value to the university in terms of student productivity gains, improved student experience, cost reductions.””

There is another catch: schools must use .Net-connected services and applications.

Director of the institute for computer research at the University of Waterloo (UW) Vic DiCiccio said its proposal spans three of the four areas. On the academic research side, the goal is to turn the Tablet PC into an aid for complex mathematics, “”so that you have a richer enhanced experience compared to doing mathematical notation on paper.

“”You’d be to move the terms from one side of the equation to the other and they would recalculate properly. You’d be able to take a big, complex term and set it equal to some variable and that change would just happen everywhere,”” DiCiccio said.

On the curriculum integration side, an online course will be made available to about 1,500 high school students trying to get into electrical and computer engineering (ECE). UW accepts 300 students into the program a year and each must pass the course to gain admission. Those students will then go on to take a programming course based on C#, the Microsoft-designed language.

“”They can have a little taste of a university course. They can kind of get ready for the zero to 100-miles-per-hour start that they going to have to do when they come here,”” DiCiccio said.

The third area is education solutions, where more than 8,000 ECE students will get remote access to lab equipment and simulators through .Net-connected services. This will roughly double lab access for students in second-, third- and fourth-year courses.

“”It’s an ongoing challenge to provide that kind of flexible access to those labs. To provide enough time and equipment and availability,”” DiCiccio said.

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