Dreaming big with Microsoft

McCannBlue’s work on a visionary DreamSpace for Microsoft will open up STEM in a new way for students in Ireland.

When Microsoft set us a unique challenge to create a space that will help countless students to unearth their hidden potential, we grabbed the opportunity with both hands. We started with a blank slate: a huge room in the new building, earmarked as a space to showcase the world of Microsoft to visiting students.

Our task? Bring the room to life. Create a brand. Create an identity. Create an experience. And create a well of inspiration for the 100,000 students that Microsoft Ireland MD, Cathriona Hallahan wants to visit in the next five years.

We knew from the start that it needed to be…wow! To blow their socks off. But we also knew that this was an opportunity to tell a story to the students. After all, these young visitors will be running the world in a couple of years and some will soon be deciding on what career path they would take. Microsoft had an opportunity to show how their world – the world of technology – will have an (unavoidable) influence, no matter what industry these students might eventually end up in. We identified two groups of students as our target audience for the experiences: Transition Year students, currently thinking about their future; and primary students in 5th and 6th class (10-12 years old) at a point in time where studies have shown their interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) starts to wane.

As a starting point, we undertook an intensive period of research and consultation involving students, teachers, parents, policy makers and providers of similar spaces around the world. We worked closely with the Microsoft Education team to create the experiences for both groups, including branding of the room, consultation on the furniture and decoration of the room; and also pre and post tasks to help extend the sessions beyond just one day in the building. The ambition is that the visit to DreamSpace will be a catalyst for their journey into the world of tech – an idea hailed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of One Microsoft Place as aligning perfectly with the National Education Strategy.

The primary school sessions have been developed as a way to deliver an engaging experience for the students, involving video-making, robot building, Minecraft and bridge building – all whilst teaching key components of the syllabus. At the same time, their teacher will be able to observe how technology could be used to deliver the existing syllabus in a way that will resonate in a better way with students.

For Transition Year students we show how, no matter what direction their career will take them, technology will have an increasing role. We demonstrate how the worlds of sport, music and design have been influenced by technology and also how Microsoft has been at the forefront of technological advancements in those industries. These sessions also include a hands-on component where students will use simple techniques to assemble and code a (banana) keyboard, a step counter and a robot. We also tell the story of Microsoft as a company and the work taking place in Ireland that features on computers all around the world. Finally, we showcase some of the unexpected roles that people work in with Microsoft.

DreamSpace launched in April 2018, and we will continue to work with Microsoft to improve and refine the experiences and also on wider recruitment and marketing communications to showcase the success of the programme.

To find out more about the work we did for Microsoft's DreamSpace, contact Eamonn Rohan.