Punt, pass, code: NFL alums and Microsoft employees team up on a sports-and-tech camp

By Natalie Singer-Velush

A group of Microsoft employees who wanted to figure out how to ignite a passion for technology in youth realized that sports could be the answer. So the employees, led by Chun Lu and helped by Mike Tice, former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and 10-season Seattle Seahawks player, paired a hands-on football clinic with hands-on training on how to analyze stats like coaches. Oh, and they packed it all in a giant truck.

To reach 1,200 students in cities around the US with their unique camp, the team created Techster, an experience inside a 26-foot truck. Because it’s mobile, the prototype academy can transport resources, equipment, and mentors to wherever teens are. The academy could soon help youth get inspired and learn perseverance and teamwork.

Here, Lu, a Microsoft program manager, talks with us about how the project came together, what it was like behind the scenes, and how she thinks others can pursue their own ideas.

What inspired you to pursue your idea?

Empowerment. Microsoft’s mission about empowering everyone on the planet totally resonates with me. In order for us to empower as many people as possible, we need to reach out to the communities where technology and computers are not easily accessible. Therefore, we came up with Techster (a 26-foot truck), our pilot for this mobile academy.

What did you hope to achieve?

Techster contains Microsoft devices, a learning lab, and a setup for product demos. With it, we hope to achieve our project’s mission—”we are where you are.” This means we bring technology products and experiences to students—to ignite their passion into technology; to adults—to elevate their technology readiness; and to communities—to build a self-sustainable business model via Microsoft technology, products, and services.

What qualities in the team helped you tackle this project?

I loved working with my Microsoft Hackathon team! All team members were very passionate, dedicated, and shared great insights, which helped us work together in a very short period of time. With everyone’s contribution, we were able to deliver an operating model for us to continue the momentum after Hackathon with our prototype.

What advice do you have for others who have a cool idea or a passion for making change?

Find a project you have the passion for. Look for business opportunities that connect with your passion. Believe in yourself and the business value your project will realize. Finally, reach out for help in a team, and you’ll make it happen!

Explore more employee projects at The Garage Wall of Fame.