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The Importance of Play

Juni 28, 2017

This month on the podcast, Kiki Wolfkill, the Studio Head for Transmedia at 343 Industries joins Dona Sarkar to talk about how experiential gaming can help build empathy.

Then we’re joined by Fernando Sanchez Gonzalez and his guests to hear about an enrichment program to gamify coding, which helps kids build not only robots, but also friendships in local immigrant communities.

Windows Insider Podcast Episode 4


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Welcome back, listeners.  I'm really excited, even a touch inspired for today's episode.  When you were here last, we dove into the world of education and discovered how Microsoft and Windows Insiders like Kyle Kelly are taking digital transformation not just to heart but into action.  Straight into the classroom and redefining the way we learn.

This month we consider how gaming can influence behavior change, and why diversity in game development will teach us more about humankind.  Our guests share insights and stories on how experiential gaming builds empathy, and how gamifying coding builds not only robots but friendships and newfound skills within immigrant communities.

Today I'm joined by possible Jedi Master and my esteemed colleague Fernando Sanchez Gonzalez, who is working together with a very creative and innovative educator, Pedro Perez.  Stay with us as we take you outside Microsoft's campus to an afterschool program called Geeking Out Kids of Color, where a third grader entered the rec room never having learned the term software developer, and left having coded a robot.

But first, and she'll tell you likely foremost, we are joined by someone you all know so well.

DONA SARKAR:  Hey, Insiders, I'm back.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's right, my colleague, friend, and fellow cat lover, Dona Sarkar, joins me in the studio once again, this time with a very special guest.  Kiki Wolfkill, one of the most badass women in gaming today.  They talk about auto racing, her role in 343 Industries, and the role Insiders play in the gaming world.

I'm your host Tom Trombley, aka "The Tomcat," and this is the Windows Insider Podcast.

DONA SARKAR:  Do you like the sound effects?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I sure do.  Now let's get rolling.

I'm going to start this with a really simple question.  Dona, do you play games?

DONA SARKAR:  Mind games, Tomcat, all day, every day.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's not the type of games that I'm talking about.

DONA SARKAR:  What kind of games are you talking about?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Well, let's talk PC gaming, maybe console gaming, or perhaps your favorite?

DONA SARKAR:  VR gaming.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Ah, the bleeding edge.

DONA SARKAR:  The bleeding edge of gaming.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Why do you play VR games?

DONA SARKAR:  There's this idea in VR games called experiential gaming, where you can put on the VR device and actually walk in the shoes of another person to see what their life is really like.  It's incredibly powerful to realize, oh, you can simulate someone with depression.  You can simulate a police officer.  You can simulate a person of color in another country.  It's amazing to actually start to build empathy for different kinds of people.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Wow, now I feel woefully inadequate to describe the game that I like.

DONA SARKAR:  Tell me your favorite game, Tomcat?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It's World of Tanks.

DONA SARKAR:  What is World of Tanks?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It's big online battles that you play.  I play on Xbox One.  And I go home after a long day's work here, and sit down on the couch for a few minutes, and I like to have a few skirmishes with people I've never met.

DONA SARKAR:  I love it.  So it's Battleship with tanks.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It's like Battleship with tanks, but I must say my favorite, what warms me up the most, is to get into like a Russian KV-1S with a Howitzer, it's like a big gun.  It takes forever to reload, but when you fire an arcing shot and land one across the battlefield, nothing warms my heart more than a good shot at somebody I've never met before.

DONA SARKAR:  Wow.  Okay, that sounds soothing after a long day of work.  (Laughter.)

So what was your first game?

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  My first game, well it was more like a first console.  I'd be dating myself here a little bit, but I remember my dad bringing home an Atari 2600 from the military PX.  He was in the Air Force.

DONA SARKAR:  That's cool.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Yeah, I remember that day very well.  And he also later on brought a television home.

So, Dona, tell us who we've got today?

DONA SARKAR:  Today we have Kiki Wolfkill, the studio head of 343 Studios, the people who make Halo.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  This is a big interview for us.

DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  It's one of the most high-profile people that we've seen here on the Insiders for Good Podcast.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Now, you two are friends.

DONA SARKAR:  We're friends.  She's my role model.  She's absolutely one of my girl crushes, because not only is she amazing technically, but she's an extremely talented artist, and she runs one of these very diverse organizations here at Microsoft.  And I'm so fortunate to actually have gotten a chance to know her at last year's E3.  And this year she's got a lot of really cool things coming up.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  What a treat for Insiders now.  Insiders have played a role in gaming with Windows 10 of late, the most recent builds, and all that you're working on.  So I'm really looking forward to this interview.

DONA SARKAR:  I really am, too.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  All right.  With that, let's take it away.

DONA SARKAR:  All right, Insiders, now the moment you've been waiting for.  We have with us in the studio Kiki Wolfkill, who is the studio head of 343, the people who bring you Halo, which you guys talk about incessantly on Twitter with me.  So you can go ahead and listen to all of Kiki's backstory and wisdom about, first, how she actually arrived here at Microsoft, how she arrived working on Halo, and about her race car career.

KIKI WOLFKILL:   I feel like you have drastically oversold this.

DONA SARKAR:  Not at all.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Although, I will start by saying that I am a studio head for all of transmedia at 343, not all of 343, because my brain is too puny for that.  But I focus on sort of all of the storytelling we do around the games and connective tissue, and our entertainment efforts, and our toys, and all of the things that express the universe around the games and on their own.

DONA SARKAR:  That's amazing.


DONA SARKAR:  You are a science fiction writer, that is so cool, because you guys make up these amazing worlds that people believe that they belong to and they're a part of and they know each character and they know each thing, and they know the rules of these worlds.  I think that's incredibly powerful storytelling.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah, I mean, I feel like I'm part of that universe.  I came into Halo already a huge fan.  Like from day one, we got -- I was already in Microsoft Game Studios, and I remember I was working on another launch title for Xbox, the original Xbox, which was Project Gotham Racing.  I worked on a number of racing games for reasons I'll explain in a moment.  But I remember getting combat evolved, and we got it a couple days early.  And I played all through the night.  I finished the game in one night.

And then they had also given us the book, and I remember when they gave us the game and the book, I'm like, oh, a book, I just want to play the game.  And I ended up reading after the game experience, reading the book, and it just absolutely pulled me into this world.  And I feel so fortunate to be able to start to continue to build on the universe and to give it back, because I have so much love and appreciation for it already.

DONA SARKAR:  That's so beautiful.  I love that.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah.  But so how did I get started, I've been in gaming forever it feels like, and I mean that in a good way.  Like I feel I grew up in the gaming industry as a professional.  I started off as a sort of video editor and effects artist.  I was doing a lot of compositing work, and I got a contract gig at Microsoft in their post-production studio.


KIKI WOLFKILL:  That was the precursor to where we are today.  And our work was focused on Microsoft's games, which were all PC-based at the time.  And so I started doing a lot of like animation and effects work, and just pure editing, and at the same time I was also doing some car racing on the side.  I grew up around motorsports, my father raced, and I learned how to drive at a young age and found a passion and skill for it.  So it was always a sort of parallel track in my life.  And I was teaching at a couple of the local tracks, one in Seattle, one in Portland.  I actually taught at a racing course.

And someone from the Cart Precision Racing Team, which was our PC racing simulator at the time, called, or someone from that team called the track and said, hey, we're looking for a subject matter expert.  Coincidently, I was actually working on the animations for that project, and they're like, well, you actually have someone in your studio, and so that's how I started focusing on racing games.

DONA SARKAR:  That's such a good story for people who feel like, oh, if I'm in tech I need to just be a technical person, and I shouldn't showcase any of my outside interests.  You actually brought your worlds together.  Amazing.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah.  That part was lucky.  And really, you know, I had a passion around art, I had a passion around gaming, I had a passion around racing.  So I feel incredibly fortunate that those opportunities came together, and when they did I certainly grabbed it.

But it's interesting, because when you grow up, a lot of times you're sort of told, well, you're a creative, you're technical.

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  And I was definitely brought up as, oh, you're the artist and the writer.  So math and science aren't your thing.  They just tell you that.

DONA SARKAR:  They're like, oh, you should focus on what you're good at.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah and so I just carry that forward in my own head.  But I always was really intrigued with computers and so when I got into digital editing from analogue editing, like it unleashed my creativity to be able to do all these things digitally that I never could have imagined doing in an analogue, linear editing space.  And so that was a thing here it's like, okay, well, they told me all this of what I could and couldn't do, but I'm actually a better creative, because I now have these tools that literally let me do things that I only imagined I could do before.  So that was the threshold for me.

And then videogames, which is the perfect merger of creativity and technology and I loved that it's such a competitive industry that innovation and being on that sort of bleeding edge of technology that really got me excited.  And as a creative there's so much problem solving around how you get your vision on screen and so, yeah, that's kind of how I got into games.  I, sort of, fell into it.

DONA SARKAR:  I've heard so many stories like that, where I fell into it, because I was doing something else and it combined with my love of gaming.  We have a lot of insiders who are very passionate about gaming as a space, but also visual storytelling and storytelling through experiential learning.  What advice do you have for people who want to work in gaming in the future, especially as we look to different models like AR, VR, or whatever the future of gaming might be?

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah, I mean I think it's an amazing time, because:  a) there are game programs out there and VR programs and you can study sort of the nuts and bolts of all of these areas now.  I still am a firm believer in if you are a visual storyteller, or even prefer the written page, get your fundamentals down first, because it really doesn't matter what tools you use to express yourself at the end of the day, understanding composition and form and being a great writer and understanding how you want to express yourself is really the base layer.

And then on top of that are really the tools you need to get there.  I think VR is such an interesting place, because it is this merger in some ways of narrative storytelling and games, which has its own characteristics and constraints and opportunities and traditional storytelling in film, which is much more linear.

And so I think there's so much to be learned from videogames and from films and they come together in the VR space and there's like so much opportunity there, because everyone is still trying to figure it out.  And that's why kind of in the same way that games got me really excited about being in the space.  I'm super-intrigued with VR and MR from a storytelling perspective, because there's just so much sort of green field out there to be explored.  And I think there's amazing work yet to be done that people are just starting to understand.

With VR in particular there are just no rules right now.  It's super-intriguing to think about VR from a game perspective because you bring to it all of these things that you already have in your head around what a game should or shouldn't do.

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  And you don't really need those.  They're good to have in your thought process but coming to it clean is much more valuable.

DONA SARKAR:  Let's talk a little bit about philosophy.  Why does gaming matter in the world today?

KIKI WOLFKILL:  I think it's, especially now I mean we're at an extraordinary time in gaming where we have the most diverse audience we've had, which isn't to say that we wouldn't want more diversity.  But, people think about gaming sometimes as this sort of niche activity, like oh, the guys down in the basement playing on their console, that's gaming.

And there's so much more to gaming today and it's incredibly social.  It brings together people into these shared experiences like synchronously and asynchronously across continents, across time zones.  And so it's really this extraordinary activity and you think about play as really one of the most sort of fundamental human activities from the beginning, right.

And so you think about the potential of what these communities can do that are completely virtual.  And it's really powerful that human energy is really powerful.  I think we see in game communities the great that comes with that and maybe the not so great.  But I also think there's been a big shift with gamers in how they sort of self-place those communities and what kind of culture they want in these virtual communities.  And again, that's something that's very new.

DONA SARKAR:  Yes, that's right.  We've been seeing a lot of community principles that are created by the people in the community, like we do not tolerate this kind of behavior.  And I find that fascinating, because people want to belong.  They want to belong to tribes and they want to play a role.  It's so human nature.  We've been doing it for millions of years at this point.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah, I mean communities at their best offer support.  They make each other better.  You know, all boats sort of rise with the quality of a community.  And so to have them form around such a social and delightful experience as play is pretty magical.

DONA SARKAR:  Right, and without being bound to the physical location that someone might be.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah and then you kind go a step beyond that.  There's sort of that -- you know, the shared experience of playing together and then there's the shared experience of sort of these universes that we build and the connection with someone maybe at an E3 meeting.  We have a lot of Halo fans at E3.  And it's beautiful when you see them come together and they've never met before, but they have such a common language and such a common ground in the things that they connect to in the universe.

I think some of the most gratifying moments that come from game development is when you have somebody come to you and talk to you about a moment in the life, in their life, when something you've created or helped to create or contributed to has had a really meaningful impact for them, whether it's a moment of escape, or a moment of relief.  And that is incredibly powerful, but then to also see these communities build and the support that they get from each other completely outside of yourself is amazing.

DONA SARKAR:  I love that.  Okay.  So what does the world of gaming need more of and less of in this day and age?

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Well, I think there's no question that I would say more diversity and when I say that I mean diversity of game experiences, diversity of characters.  At the end of the day play can take so many different forms and we've gotten to a place where technology really does just let us almost do anything that we want.  And so if you think about videogames and play as this way of creating shared experience, we just need different kinds.  We need more diverse game developers.  Again, because the more diversity you have in the process the more different types of games that you get.

DONA SARKAR:  I love that idea of let's lose this archetype of what a gamer is.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Absolutely.

DONA SARKAR:  I don't think people have any idea how many people around them, like their moms, their grandmothers, their teachers, the person at the grocery store, they're all gamers.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yes, and completely viable, equally meaningful and valuable gamers.

DONA SARKAR:  So when you look back at your career at some point you will look back at your career far, far, far, many years from now.  What do you want your legacy to be?  What is it that you've done that you're the most proud of or what do you plan to do that you're going to be the most proud of?

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah, I mean I love the opportunity to give an experience to someone that they can connect to.  For me that's what the creative process is all focused on that is how do I give an experience that moves someone in some way or energizes them in some way, or that they can think back on as playing a part in their past.

You know, I look at from a professional perspective, not necessarily a creative perspective, I mean certainly I think my proudest moment thus far has been when we shipped Halo 4.  And that was really because of what the team was able to do.  Being able to build up that team and have them achieve this amazing thing and deliver it against so, so many odds was incredibly gratifying.  When I look forward, because I don't know what those things are, but I feel like I have a lot more in me.

DONA SARKAR:  Oh, you do.


DONA SARKAR:  You do.  Especially as gaming is becoming for actually everyone.  I love that motto you guys have, gaming for everyone.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Yeah, and because I think there's so much potential in some different types of storytelling and narrative and ways of experiencing a universe, that's what I look forward towards, not that I think videogames as they sit today are too limiting, but I just think there is so much potential in how we can tell a story and how someone can experience a story, and how they can feel sort of part of that universe.

DONA SARKAR:  Love it.  So we're going to wrap-up, Insiders, but I would like to extend an invite to Kiki.  We are leaving for Nairobi in just a few days to kick off our second Insider for Good Fellowship in East Africa, 20 entrepreneurs will turn their ideas into viable businesses, and there is so much passion around gaming on the continent.  I didn't realize that until the last trip.  And they are the world's biggest Xbox fans.  It's absolutely insane what huge fans they are.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  I love it.  I love it.

DONA SARKAR:  And we would love for you to join us on one of our trips, because you will be such a hero.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  That would be amazing.  Gaming brings people together.

DONA SARKAR:  It really does.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  And we see so much of the gaming that's starting to come out and thought around gaming around how do we make it do something good for people, and how can we help change behaviors.

DONA SARKAR:  That's right.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  So I would love, love to do that.

DONA SARKAR:  That would be awesome.  You heard it here first, Insiders, we're getting Kiki on a plane with us.

Thank you so much, again, Kiki, for being with us right now.  I know it's a very exciting time for you with E3 and all of the Xbox news.

KIKI WOLFKILL:  Oh, my god, such a pleasure.  Thank you so much for having me.

DONA SARKAR:  Absolutely.

All right, kicking it back to you, Tomcat.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And there you have it, gaming brings people together.  The power of a good story truly is undeniable.  And we're lucky to have talented storytellers like Kiki working every day to bring new ideas to life using virtual reality to give us the chance to walk in another person's shoes and developing virtual communities that bind us together through shared experiences.

Speaking of shared experiences, as I mentioned at the top of the show, I'm sitting here, honestly, well, quite inspired by the five folks joining me in the booth today.  They're here to share a little bit about a really cool program that I think you'll all be interested in.

So joining me is one of my favorite colleagues, Fernando Sanchez Gonzalez, who I like to think of as my Jedi Master.  You and I have been on a couple of trips together.  Do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

FERNANDO SANCHEZ GONZALEZ:  Yeah.  So I work together with Thomas.  The way I met him was when we were in Nigeria having fun over there doing a program, a fellowship, with people, business people over here in Nigeria having a lot of fun.  And so I work over here in Windows at Microsoft and having a lot of fun trying to make the OS keep working.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I'm very excited that you're here, although I'm also zen'd down a little bit.  I think I'm going to start meditating as you're here.  I'll be like ommm.

FERNANDO SANCHEZ GONZALEZ:  Let's do it together.   Ommm.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  You brought four really awesome guests with you today.  You've brought Pedro, Nahili (ph), Avel (ph) and Nazwal (ph), to talk about a really cool program.

Pedro, why don't you introduce yourself and tell us about the program that you and Fernando are working on?

PEDRO PEREZ:  My name is Pedro, and we've been working on -- we kind of had this idea of how can we go ahead and start teaching the kids how to code.  And so I was working at a place over in Mount Vernon, and a lot of the students were Mixteco.  They were learning Spanish and English and they were speaking Mixteco.  So we wanted to go ahead and teach them another language on top of that.  And so we started teaching these kids how to code through Code.org, and then later on through Khan Academy, and then we had them build robots and they programmed the robots.

Now that I'm here in Seattle, I started working with Southwest Youth and Family Services.  It's a nonprofit here, and we have three locations, offsite locations, where we're in the middle of an apartment complex, and it's a community center that' sin the middle of an apartment complex.  And when the kids come home from school, then they're able to come to our community center.  And they eat hot food, they get tutoring, we watch a little bit of Steven's Universe.


PEDRO PEREZ:  And then we go ahead and do some enrichment program, which is the coding part of it.  And that's what we've been doing.  And the majority of, in this location, the majority of the students that are coming in are from East Africa, from Ethiopia, from where else?  From Bangladesh, and from Somalia and Eritrea and Kenya.  And so that's what we've been doing.

Fernando and I stared doing this over there.  We want to do it over here as well.  And we've been having a lot of fun, and the ids are just loving it.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  So tell me how kids get started in the program?  What happens when they walk in the door?  It can be -- technology can be intimidating when you first approach it.  And thinking about coding, I'm a lot older than you guys are, and I still get intimidated by coding.  So tell me how they get started?

PEDRO PEREZ:  What was one of the first programs that we ended up working on in the beginning, when we first started coding, do you remember?

PARTICIPANT:  It was Code.

PEDRO PEREZ:  The Code.org?


PEDRO PEREZ:  And so with the Code.org, they started learning how to do JavaScript, and then from there they were able to go ahead and start building some of the games that -- is it Code.org, right -- Code.org has, and then from there they would share, actually, I think they would be able to share -- they would make the flappy bird game, and then they would share with the other person to have them play that game.  And I think that really allowed the kids to go ahead and start stepping in and jumping into that not being too intimidated with it.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I want to introduce three other guests that I'm really excited to spend some time with today, and 'm really glad that you guys came.  I want to introduce you to Nahili, Avel and Nazwal to talk a little bit about their efforts in the program.

And, Nahili, why don't we start with you, and tell us how you got started and some of the things that you like about the program.

NAHILI:  So I started where they had spaces available for girls, and I was one of them.  And I really liked this program because it helps me out since, you know how my parents are from Africa, so they dropped out from high school and stuff, and I don't have other people to help me with my homework and stuff.  And this program like really helps me because I have someone that's caring for my education.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Great.  What kind of efforts are you working on right now in the group?

NAHILI:  We just finished building a robot, and I'm pretty excited.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  We brought the robot with us, so we'll talk about that.  Did all three of you collaborate on the robot together, or was that you?

NAHILI:  It was an individual project.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  An individual project.

FERNANDO SANCHEZ GONZALEZ:  What did you think about building the robots?

NAHILI:  It was challenging, but also worth it at the end.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And, Avel, tell us about your effort here, how did you get started?

AVEL:  Me, I got started when I saw kids playing outside, and I just went over and saw that I wanted to play with them.  And then when I got to playing, the teacher asked me if I wanted to join and I said yeah.  Then like when we started doing the robots, like I did not know anything about coding at first, then at the end I knew a lot.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  How long have you been with the program?

AVEL:  Four years now.


Last, but not least, tell us about how you got started and your experience in the program.

NAZWAL:  So I was in a like different group, but since I finished off with my Coding.org, Mr. Brophy (ph), who is Pedro, he let me into the program after the first one.  So in that one I learned how to like type and code on Khan Academy.  At first, it was very hard to code.  Like trying to find out about the ellipse code in Khan Academy was hard.  When I heard that we were building robots, I got so excited.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  What's your favorite part of the program?

NAZWAL:  I like building the robots.


NAZWAL:  I like building the robot because they were so awesome.  You can even control them.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Nice.  All right, Avel?

AVEL:  My favorite part of the program is playing outside and doing the coding with the robots.


AVEL:  Because it's fun.


NAHILI:  My favorite thing about the program is meeting new friends and building on top of my relationships with my friends, and also setting up my career.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  So what do you tell your friends who aren't a part of this program, and what do they think of it?

NAHILI:  Well, my friends in school, since they don't live in the apartment complex, they think it's like a cool opportunity.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Avel, what about you?  What do you tell your friends?

AVEL:  Like once I finished the robot I told them like I made my first robot.  And they were all like no way.

NAHILI:  Same here.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I'm saying the same thing and I've never made a robot, so, no way.

Nazwal, what about you?

NAZWAL:  Okay.  So when I first told them I'm making a robot and then I was done, they were like, no you didn't build a robot.  And then like one of my friends were like sure, because like it's nothing you expect from third, fourth and fifth graders.  It's usually like university people that do that and stuff.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  What are you hoping to be when you -- I mean this is kind of the inevitable question, right, like what do you hope to be when you grow up?  Has this kind of helped shape what you want to do when you grow up?

NAZWAL:  Yeah, I've wanted to be a teacher, a doctor, many other things, but I think since this program has like taught me that there is isn't lots of like engineers, as in girls and stuff, and since it's really like unique and stuff and it's what you do.  Like you can create something that other people would love and stuff.  And I think like I really wanted to be a mechanical engineer, but I'm not sure yet.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And, Avel, what about you?  What would you like to do when you grow up?

AVEL:  I would like to be a software engineer.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right on, you're in the right place, you're in the right building, too.

And, Nazwal, what about you?

NAHILI:  I want to be like part engineer and part coder, like where I can code robots or games.  And then I could build them myself.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I love that idea

FERNANDO SANCHEZ GONZALEZ:  And, Avel, I know that last time when we did the -- you had built the gaming program, right.  Remember we had a gaming boot camp, right.  And I know that -- I think that time was where you started like getting to you saw some more of the Microsoft volunteers that came out and they kind of all told their story.  Is that where you -- I think that was the first time I heard you say that you wanted to become a software developer, right?  What was it that you saw in them that you were like, oh, this is something I could do?

AVEL:  What I saw in them was like the confidence and like they didn't give up.  And the same with me and like coding is like really challenging, but fun.  So I want to be a software engineer, too.


FERNANDO SANCHEZ GONZALEZ:  I've got to be honest, like even for us, for Pedro and I, it was a challenge, to, because when I learned how to code it was when I was 17-years-old.  So you can imagine the way we wanted to teach everybody, you guys at your age, it's different, right.  So that's where we thought well, what if we tried to teach coding through gaming?  Why not look on line for resources to see how can we do that?  And so it has been also a learning experience, also for us about how do we do that, right.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Tell us a little bit about Microsoft's role in the program.  You've been a part of it.

PEDRO PEREZ:  Yeah, I think from that perspective Microsoft has helped in different dimensions I would say.  First of all I would say that it allowed me to kind of step back and realize, or kind of understand the tech bubble, right, where you can imagine that you're in Seattle.  You will think that everybody has a computer, that everybody has the Internet and you drive out of the city for 30 minutes, 45 minutes and you find places where it's hard to get a computer and school.  So it was kind of eye-opening that Microsoft helped me on that.

Then I realized that something interesting in Microsoft where they match donations, right, they also not just money donations but time.  That is a really, really cool program.  So I started gathering friends at Microsoft to help volunteering and then teaching coding.  So we brought to friends, Diego Domecino (ph) and Pricilla Angulu (ph) and they've been helping us doing all the boot camps.  And just the fact of having a lot of people volunteering time and at the same time Microsoft matching that time with money allowed us to get computers for the kids, get the robots.  And so I think it's just an amazing -- it's amazing how Microsoft is helping us to do this program.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It's really fantastic.

FERNANDO SANCHEZ GONZALEZ:  What I also want to say real quick is I think what's really important for when we're coming out into, as we work with communities of color, is that we bring volunteers, as well, or volunteers of color that can come out and when students see that you have people like Fernando, or people who look like them, and they're at Microsoft, right, there is someone that looks like me, I could do the same thing.  And so I think that's one of the things that we've been really trying to focus on is working with communities of color and so far the summer program we're going to be doing like a summer camp there.

And for this group we're going to go ahead and build on top of the robots that we have.  And I think with the help of Fernando and some of the Microsoft folks we're going to go ahead and maybe doctor up a little bit the program so that they're able to actually type out the code to make the robots move.  Right now it's just done through an app.  But that's going to be the next lesson for summer.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  great.  Well, I'm looking forward to hearing more and I think I’m going to tag along on one of your next visits.


THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I'd love to come.  Fernando, Pedro, Nahili, Avel, and Nazwal, I'm really inspired, like I said.  I really thank you, each of you for taking time out of your day for taking time to come to the studios and spend it with me and our listeners to listen more about this great program.  Thank you.

PEDRO PEREZ:  Thank you.


NAZWAL:  Thank you.

AVEL:  Thank you.

NAHILI:  Thank you.

THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Let me ask you this, Insiders, how do you use your own diverse strengths to build something impactful, bring your worlds together and combine your passions, be it racing and animation or education robots, today's guests prove that you don't have to be technical to be influential.  Pedro's afterschool program is about more than teaching coding.  It's about showing kids what's possible, seeing people who look like them doing thing they've never thought possible.

If you want to learn more about Geeking Out Kids of Color follow Nahili, Nazwal, or Avel's progress, or figure out how you can use your own unique skills to help out or learn more.  Head to GoKic.org.  That's g‑o‑k‑i‑c dot org.

As always thanks for tuning in, Insiders.

But wait, before we go let's announce the winner of this month's podcast contest.  Are you ready?  Sharon Peterson Kemets, e-mail Winsider@Microsoft.com with your name and mailing address and we'll send you a Ninjacat t-shirt and sticker.

If you want your very own Ninjacat t-shirt and sticker subscribe and rate this episode on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.  Be sure to include the hashtag Ninjacat contest in your review and you could be announced as the latest winner in our next podcast episode.  So go on, get writing.

Looking forward to next month when we share more exciting stories from our Windows Insider community.  In the meantime, please take a moment to check out the blog, flight the next build, and join the dialogue that is the Windows Insider community.  See you next time.

ANNOUNCER:  Our program today was produced by Microsoft Production Studios.  Our team includes Tyler Ahn, Michelle Pasic (ph) and Emily Weaver.  Our website is Insider.Windows.com.  Support for the Windows Insider podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Special thanks goes out to Blair Glennon (ph), Michelle Fleming (ph), and Joe Camp.  Moral support and inspiration comes from Ninjacat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions.  Thanks as always to our programs cofounders Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble (ph).

Join us next month with more stories from Windows Insiders.