Microsoft visits MNSU for DREAM workshop

Michael McShane
News Editor

Students in the data-focused organization DREAM were treated to a special educational workshop Friday in Morris Hall led by employees from Microsoft.

The workshop, titled “Knowledge mining using cognitive search in Azure”, had the instructors teach students about knowledge mining. 

Knowledge mining is the process of discovering actionable information from large sets of unstructured data. Cognitive search is Microsoft’s solution to knowledge mining which was the primary focus of the workshop.

Dr. Rajeev Bukralia, the founder and current academic advisor to DREAM, helped organize the event and gave an introductory speech before the workshop began.

“This is an opportunity for you to learn something that you might not learn in your classes,” Dr. Bukralia said to the classroom full of students.

Dr. Bukralia stressed the importance of the field of data science and how crucial it is for students to get their feet wet in the profession. 

“Trainings like this will help you tremendesly,” Dr. Bukralia said.

Dr. Bukralia ended his speech by giving the floor to the three Microsoft employees, Matt Stenzel, Tonio Lora and Erik Zwiefel. Of the three, Stenzel is the only one who went to Minnesota State Univeristy, Mankato. Stenzel graduated from MNSU in 2009 with a degree in Information Technology.

“This lab was actually not created by us, this lab was created by different teams within Microsoft,” Stenzel said. “This is actually meant to be a two-day, 16-hour bootcamp where people come in, this presentation is part of it.” 

Stenzel said that many things involved in the bootcamp had to be removed to keep with the timeframe of the workshop and that the select part involving knowledge mining and cognitive search remained.

The workshop was split into four labs, each involving different aspects of knowledge mining. 

During the first half of the workshop, there were many students struggling with students sitting next to each other helping each other. Stenzel, Lora and Zwiefel were also going around the room wherever hands were raised asking for assistance.

“So right now [the students] are provisioning the resources in Azure. So this will be, like, we have data centers all over the world, so they are getting some computers set up for them in those data centers,” Zwiefel said during the first step of the workshop. “This is kinda like getting everything ready to go and then they’ll build on top of what they create.”

The workshop, which went from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., had an hour and a half lunch which allowed students a chance to eat and recharge from the long workshop.

During the lunch break, students were led to the Heritage Room in the Centenial Student Union where they were met by Dr. Bukralia. 

After getting plates of food, students ate as Dr. Bukralia gave an impassioned speech about the inroads DREAM has made and the growth the organization has had since its beginning.

Dr. Bukralia spke about how advancements in AI have made data science so important in today’s age and that students must jump for the oppertunities put in front of them.

“We know how much the demand is in the market; the salaries are excellent, job oppertunites are excellent, that’s why we have all this excitement,” Dr. Bukralia said.

From hackathons to the prestigious MUDAC competition which will be held for the second year in a row at MNSU March 2019, Dr. Bukralia spoke of the grear successes MNSU’s data science community has made. 

Midway through the speech he spoke about how 2019 will be the first year in which students were accepted into the Masters of Data Science Program. He then asked students in the program to stand up and receive a round of appluse from the room.

Dr. Bukralia was not the only one to speak during the lunch break as Aaron Budge, the dean of MNSU’s College of Science and Engineering was also in attendence and spoke to the students and thanked Microsoft for taking the time to come out and educate MNSU students.

“I appreciate Microsoft being here, you have been a great partner here for several years,” Dr. Budge said. “On behalf of the college we thank you for your efforts.”

After the lunch break was over, students returned to Morris Hall to continue the remaing labs which involved text and image skills.

Header photo: Minnesota State University, Mankato students during a DREAM event in Morris Hall Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 in Mankato, Minn. (Jack Linell/MSU Reporter)

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