Illinois Students Develop Valuable Work-Force and Academic Skills Using Cutting-Edge Software Tools Donated by Microsoft
Oct. 20, 2009
Illinois State Board of Education joins forces with Microsoft to launch Web design contest on environmental sustainability to help students prepare to compete in the 21st-century economy.

REDMOND, Wash., and CHICAGO — Oct. 20, 2009 — With financial support and assistance from Microsoft Corp., the Illinois State Board of Education announced plans to provide more than 640,000 high-school students with an opportunity to use professional-level software tools to develop work-force skills and prepare for post-secondary education by participating in the “bliink” Web design contest, whose theme “I Imagine a Green Future” focuses on environmental sustainability. Students will compete against each other for cash and prizes by developing a Web site using Microsoft Expression Web software, which will be donated to every high school in Illinois as part of the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDNAA) program. Tutorials and curriculum units, created by a team of classroom teachers, and mapped to national standards, will also be provided at no charge. Microsoft’s software donation has been valued at over $4 million.

Despite the nation’s struggling economy, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 300,000 technology-related jobs remain open due to a lack of qualified workers. Only 5 percent of American college undergraduates today are pursing degrees in science or engineering, compared with 42 percent of university students in other countries such as China and India. The National Center for Women and Information Technology reports that “U.S. universities will graduate qualified candidates to fill only 50 percent of the 1,500,000 computer- and information-related jobs expected by 2012.” The bliink Web design contest, held in five U.S. locations last year, successfully engaged a wide group of students — not just those who are already technology experts.

This challenge is part of Illinois’ Innovation Talent education program, a public-private initiative designed to connect schools with industry, government and community partners to solve complex, real-world problems within project management teams. Together, these programs are designed to promote innovation-centered education and increase student achievement in math, science and engineering.

“The Microsoft bliink Web design contest offers a great opportunity for high-school students to apply their creativity and technology skills through a real-world assignment,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “I hope as many Illinois high-school students as possible will take advantage of this chance to develop work-force and academic skills to prepare for success beyond high school.”

“By participating in the bliink Web design contest, Illinois students will strengthen their skills and learn the value of teamwork,” said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. “The theme ‘I Imagine a Green Future’ teaches students that developing green businesses strengthens our economy and helps protect our environment.”

“Providing students with cutting-edge technology tools and the resources to learn how to use them is a priority for Microsoft,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. “Illinois has identified a key area in which students can develop their creativity and talent as well as make a difference. Students graduating from high school and college with strong technical skills have bright career options in today’s global economy.”

More information, including full official rules, about the Microsoft bliink Contest in the State of Illinois can be found at http://www.bliinkcontest.com. Information about the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDN AA) program can be found at http://www.msdnaa.net.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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