Microsoft offers grants, tools to educators

Microsoft is awarding US$3.5 million in research grants to fund 25 computer science projects, and in April will release a new version of its programming tools for students and educators, officials said Thursday.

The efforts help Microsoft expand its presence at colleges and universities worldwide, providing funding and software to promote learning in the computer sciences, and at the same time helping Microsoft to ensure that tomorrow's professional programmers are exposed to its software and tools.

The grant recipients were chosen by peer review and are working on projects in five areas: mobility, security, distributed computing, learning sciences and technologies for Microsoft's Tablet PC. The grants range from $10,000 to $350,000, and this year's total is up from $1.9 million awarded in 2002, when the program was introduced, Microsoft officials said.

In one example, an assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology is looking for ways to make better use of mobile devices in "non-mobile" settings, by using a PDA (personal digital assistant) as an adjunct display to a desktop PC, for example. Other projects aim to further Web services and real-time enterprise computing, said Doug Leland, director of university relations at Microsoft Research. Recipients are in the U.S., Canada, Argentina and Chile.

Microsoft also announced that the academic edition of Visual Studio.Net 2003 will ship in April, at the same time the commercial version of the product is due to be released. It includes a new workflow application called Assignment Manager that professors can use to distribute and grade assignments.

The source code for the client and server components of Assignment Manager will be offered under Microsoft's shared source initiative. Educators and students will be able to examine and modify the code in order to help them learn. The source code for the toolkit itself will not be made available.

VisualStudio.Net 2003 Academic Edition will be priced at $99 on a stand-alone basis. Alternatively, departments can pay $799 to join the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance, which provides access to many of Microsoft's tools and enterprise software products. The Alliance was introduced just over two years ago and is used by more than 3 million students, according to Microsoft.

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