Introduction to Serverless Functions with Microsoft

Bit Heroes provided high school students with the chance to explore the tech industry and learn directly from Bit Project mentors and Microsoft engineers.

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Introduction to Serverless Functions with Microsoft

Bit Heroes provided high school students with the chance to explore the tech industry and learn directly from Bit Project mentors and Microsoft engineers.

In summer 2020, Bit Project introduced our first ever tech bootcamp in partnership with Microsoft: Bit Heroes  We created this bootcamp with high school students in mind — our goal was to provide a valuable learning experience for those who were eager to delve into the world of software engineering head first. As students ourselves, we know it can be difficult getting hands-on experience; these opportunities can be hard to find or extremely costly. But with Bit Heroes, we were able to provide high school students with the chance to explore the tech industry and learn directly from Bit Project mentors and seasoned engineers: an opportunity they may not have had elsewhere.

Problem

We structured Bit Heroes so that high school students with little to no prior experience with software engineering got lots of experience quickly. Students strengthened their coding abilities by learning more about Javascript, React, and C++, and they became better technical communicators and writers by going beyond just coding. We pushed our cohort to experiment with their work in a low-stakes, supportive environment that encouraged their growth. The students were provided with the tools to apply their knowledge of serverless computing and build projects to demonstrate the application of Azure Functions.

From nearly 200 high school applications, we selected our cohort and started off our program with an overview of the technical programming skills they would need to know. Once students shifted gears to start developing their serverless projects, they collaborated with each other to brainstorm ideas and troubleshoot problems. To foster a productive work environment for the students working remotely, Bit Project mentors hosted weekly work sessions and kept students aware about upcoming project deadlines. One-on-one meetings were also added to the curriculum for additional personalized support.

Feedback from Microsoft engineers Chloe Condon and Umayr Sufi further helped the students learn throughout the program. Their constructive feedback pushed our students to think proactively and critically about how their work process. Once projects were completed, Condon and Sufi gave great guidance on how the students could improve their technical communication skills for their step by step tutorial and their final presentation. All of this time spent learning from industry professionals better equipped our students for their future after high school.

"Bit Heroes pushed me to learn as much new info as I could in a short span of time. It was an experience I wouldn't get anywhere else." - Meghna Pillai, Bit Heroes 2020

Results

Our cohort completed a variety of amazing projects by the end of the program, all of which used serverless code:

  • Meghna Pillai created a scheduling bot, which helps monitor events and appointments with increased efficiency and productivity. Before the user's scheduled events, the bot will send you text reminders. Her project was made up of three main components: the actual bot itself, a web app, and the Azure Function that supports it. The bot has the key questions which it will ask the user when prompted, and being a web app allows it to store the information in a database. The API's three parts allow it so save, retrieve, and mark data as completed when appropriate. Lastly, the Azure Function periodically runs through the database to see if a reminder needs to be sent out to a user.
Meghna Pillai's Scheduling Bot Demo
  • Beau Hayes-Pollard built a heart rate monitor using Azure IoT Hub to trigger an Azure Function when a resting heart rate above 100 bpm is detected. The function uses the Twilio API to send a warning message to the user's inputted contacts, ensuring that appropriate actions can be taken quickly. Through Bit Heroes, he was able to learn more about technology and build his own ingenious health monitoring tool to help monitor future workouts.
Beau Hayes-Pollard Heart Rate Monitor
  • Lisa Leung leveraged the full power of the Microsoft Face API by creating an emotion analyzer tool, help its user find the perfect picture to post. This Chrome extension allows a user to upload an image of a person and receive a general summary of the person's emotion. After a photo is uploaded through the extension, an HTTP request triggers an Azure Function that utilizes the Microsoft Face API to analyze the age, gender, and smile intensity of the person in the photo.
Lisa Leung's Emotion Analyzer Tool Demo
  • Natalie Huang coded an app that recommends songs based on a picture; all the user has to do is upload a current selfie. By using both the Microsoft Face and Spotify API's, this app allows users to submit a picture of their face and analyze their current mood. Based on their mood, it will recommend 10 personalized songs, and optionally create a playlist in the user’s Spotify account.
Natalie Huang's Spotify Playlist Recommender Demo

To see our students present their projects and hear about how they completed their work, check out their live stream here.

Future Plans

Bit Heroes provided these students with a unique opportunity to strengthen their skills as budding programmers, and we are thrilled to have help inspire future software engineers. For example, two of the students who participated in the program went on to use their projects to build the next 8 week bootcamp on Serverless, which is in session in Fall 2020.

The experience that our Bit Heroes students had is crucial. By exploring STEM topics early on in their educational career, they are better to prepared to for their future college and future career in the tech industry. Bit Project plans to continue hosting successful programs by planning more tech bootcamps and reaching even more students who are excited to learn about tech.