Our Class Trip to Microsoft DreamSpace
On Monday the 3rd of December the pupils from Ms. Hayden and Ms. Kennedy’s 5th class visited Microsoft HQ in Leopardstown. We were very fortunate to have been invited to explore their DreamSpace which is a new innovation and dedicated educational space at Microsoft’s new campus in Dublin.
It was an early departure from school at 8:15a.m. as it was rush hour traffic and we were due at Microsoft at 9:15a.m. We arrived just in time after having to take a detour through the port tunnel due to serious traffic delays on the M50. By the time we arrived at Microsoft, we were so excited and couldn’t wait to get off the bus.
We received a warm welcome on our arrival by Shoshanna, Amanda and Ben who showed us into the building. Walking in through the lobby of Microsoft felt like we were entering another universe! Our visit began with a tour of the ground floor of the building where we were shown their digital lake and waterfall. The lake was a pool of virtual water with a computer-generated waterfall flowing from the second floor. The stairs up to the second floor was constructed to look like a mountain. The lake and waterfall were supposed to show how Microsoft are bringing technology and nature together to create a better future where machines and robots are helping save and reproduce nature.
We were absolutely amazed at the size of the building and the amount of people working in it. Our guides explained to us that their new building was almost 4 times the size of Croke Park! They also told us that 2000 employees from 77 different nationalities worked in the building. A fun fact we were told was that there was a piece of furniture from each of the 77 countries representing each nationality of employee. There are no closed offices in Microsoft’s new building. Even the CEO of the company does not have her own office! Employees are encouraged to sit and work in a space that they feel comfortable in and there are so many to choose from. As well as the various work spaces throughout the building our guides told us that there are five restaurants, a gym, family rooms and even a Yoga Studio which sat as a large cube on the top floor above our heads as we looked up from the lobby!
Following our tour, we were brought into the DreamSpace where we were treated like royalty! First, we were given fruit pots and refreshments before we were brought to a very fun looking seating space in front of a large screen where Amanda showed us a short video to explain to us what we would be doing during our time in the DreamSpace. The video began by asking us what we thought our world would be like 50 years from now. This was something we had discussed with Ms. Hayden in class before our trip so we shared lots of our ideas with Amanda who seemed very impressed with our responses. The video discussed how Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and robots might be used in the future to do jobs that humans are doing today. However, she told us we shouldn’t worry about robots taking over all human jobs as she explained that for every 3 jobs lost to robots, 5 more would be created for humans. For e.g. Who was going to fix a robot if it breaks? She also told us how A.I. was being used to assist people with visual and hearing impairments.
We were then split into groups and set the first of our two tasks for the day which was coding and computer programming using a piece of technology called a Miocro:bit. A Micro:bit is a bit like A.I. except it has no brain so you must give it exact instructions. You can make the Micro:bit do sums, draw a picture, spell out your name or even play a song.
We were all given time to explore the program and create some simple code to make the Micro:bit do what we wanted it to do. It was really cool because it gave you a clear idea of how computer games are made and even how your phone works.
Our second task of the day involved exploring mixed reality. Mixed reality is different to reality and virtual reality. Reality is what you see in front of you – your clothes, your phone, your computer etc. Virtual reality is when you put on a special headset which allows you to see a virtual world that has been created. Mixed reality is a combination of reality and virtual reality where you see both. For our second task, we used an app called 3D Paint. We were told to choose one of two titles – “I woke up and it was 2118” or “We could make the world a better place if……” and to respond to our chosen title by taking a series of real photos and adding 3D images from the app to create a short mixed reality video clip to share with the class at the end of the task. This was a really fun activity which allowed us to work as a team where each person was assigned different roles – project manager, photographer and actor. It was great to see the video each group had created at the end as they were all so different.
When we had completed our two tasks, it was time for lunch and boy were we hungry! Microsoft had laid out sandwiches, crisps and drinks for us which we enjoyed before having to get ready to leave. Before we departed, we were given DreamSpace goodie bags which contained pencil cases, stationary sets, stickers, water bottles and a set of earphones. We even got cookies!
Our trip to Microsoft was an amazing day we all agreed we would never forget. We hope we get the opportunity to visit again some time and many of us felt it was a place we would love to work in one day. We are all very excited to explore the DreamSpace activities further in class on our new devices. A huge thank-you to Microsoft, our facilitators on the day – Shoshanna, Amanda and Ben along with our teachers Ms. Hayden & Ms. Kennedy who organised this trip, to Ms. Byrne who accompanied us on the day and finally to Mr. Prendergast who facilitated this amazing opportunity.
By Wendy, David, Amy C. and Ms. Hayden