Category: Education

Call for Proposals for the Amazon Research Awards

Amazon has opened a call for proposals for the 2017 round of Amazon Research Awards (ARA) in a number of areas, including machine translation, natural language understanding, search, robotics, and more. The program is open to faculty members at academic institutions in North America and Europe and awards up to 80,000 USD in cash and 20,000 USD in AWS promotional credits. ARA aims to fund projects leading to a PhD degree or conducted as a part of post-doctoral work. Check our Call for Proposals page for a list of focus areas supported this year. Proposal submissions are accepted until September 15, 2017.

AWS is working with ARA to help researchers process complex workloads by providing the cost-effective, scalable and secure compute, storage and database capabilities needed to accelerate time-to-science.

From Open Earth Observation to the Human Genome project to studying social media sentiment, researchers have used the AWS Cloud for their groundbreaking research. With AWS, scientists can quickly analyze massive data pipelines, store petabytes of data and share their results with collaborators around the world, focusing on science not servers. Learn more about AWS for research here.

For ARA call for proposal details and to apply, visit or contact

Ten Considerations for a Cloud Procurement

Cloud procurement presents an opportunity to reevaluate existing procurement strategies so you can create a flexible acquisition process that enables your public sector organization to extract the full benefits of the cloud. Download the whitepaper for “10 Considerations for a Cloud Procurement” for the public sector.

Are you ready to move to the cloud but looking for practical guidance? The following are key components to help streamline your cloud procurement strategy. Take a look at the tips below and download the full whitepaper here for more details.

  1. Understand why cloud computing is different
  2. Plan early to extract the full benefit of the cloud
  3. Avoid overly prescriptive requirements
  4. Separate cloud infrastructure (unmanaged services) from managed services
  5. Incorporate a utility pricing model
  6. Leverage third-party accreditations for security, privacy, and auditing
  7. Understand that security is a shared responsibility
  8. Design and implement cloud data governance
  9. Specify commercial item terms
  10. Define cloud evaluation criteria

Thousands of public sector customers use AWS to quickly launch services using an efficient cloud-centric procurement process. Keeping these steps in mind will help you deliver more quickly on citizen-, student-, and mission-focused outcomes.

For more detail, visit the AWS “How to Buy” page for the details you need to get started. Check out the latest procurement sessions from the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC: So You’ve Decided to Buy Cloud, Now What? and Get Started Today with Cloud-Ready Contracts for practical insights that will help you along your path.

Serverless Application: Walking into the Cloud at the University of Georgia

We have seen a push for innovation in distance learning across higher education in recent years. The University of Georgia’s virtual exercise course is one example of a university addressing this challenge. The goal of the online course is for students to learn to manage heart rate activity during exercise for optimal fitness results.

Initially, students had to manually export the data from their fitness tracker, then send it to the instructor. But this approach wasn’t ideal. “As a student, this process could be confusing because there were multiple reports and file types to choose from when downloading the data. With the wrong report or the wrong format, the data could be unusable. For some students, data management became a barrier to learning,” said James Castle, Lead Instructional Designer, University of Georgia Office of Online Learning.

To alleviate the burden on the students, James worked with a student majoring in computer science to develop an alternate solution. The team looked to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for an inexpensive way to run the application and seamlessly collect the data. They needed to make the data collection and analysis easier for both the students and the professor.

“I had to look up a lot of the documentation for AWS. I watched a lot of videos and it was fun learning about it,” said Chuma Atunzu, a junior at the University of Georgia majoring in computer science. “Starting with little experience with these technologies, I was able to build a modern, serverless application using many different AWS services.”

With AWS, they designed a serverless application that uses AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) along with Desire2Learn (D2L) and Fitbit. In anticipation of the start of the summer semester, they tested the application last month and received a bill of $0.01.

Now, students give access to the instructor once with a single click at the beginning of the semester—that’s it. And then, they walk. For professors, once given permission, they can request the data after each module and do the necessary analysis for the course.

The online fitness course is now live with Fitbit and the new serverless application monitoring the heart rate data of University of Georgia students across the globe, from Switzerland and South Korea to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. “So far it all seems to be working smoothly,” said James. “Our students are able to earn the physical education credit they need from almost anywhere on earth.”

Two workloads were built (for just a penny!) – one for students and one for professors.

Figure 1: Student workflow

Figure 2: Professor workflow

Learn more about the AWS Cloud for higher education here.

How Ellucian Delivers Scale, Security, and Innovation to Higher Education

Cloud adoption is a key priority for higher education. As colleges and universities continue to transform to meet changing student expectations, institutional leaders want to help students access advanced, easy-to-use solutions anytime, anywhere. They also need better and timelier access to institutional and student data to inform decision-making, amidst pressure for increased accountability.

Ellucian, an AWS Education Competency Partner, provides technology solutions and services that remove barriers, helping higher education institutions achieve student success. Ellucian’s work with AWS supports the company’s cloud strategy, offering colleges and universities a secure move to the cloud, at their own pace.

Focused on the mission-critical systems on campus, like student information, Ellucian chose AWS as its global cloud provider to deliver scale, security, and a rapid pace of innovation. Working with AWS enables Ellucian to efficiently deploy a broad and deep portfolio of cloud products to the higher education market in more than 20 countries around the world.

 “The AWS platform has given Ellucian a global, scalable, highly secure, and highly innovative platform to run all of our cloud applications and better serve our higher education clients worldwide,” said Toby Williams, Chief Product and Strategy Officer, Ellucian.

Security and scalability were key elements evaluated when Ellucian chose AWS because of its relationships to a broad range of higher education institutions and the sensitive student data that its customers manage. Fourteen of the top sixteen Ellucian products are currently deployed on AWS.

Ellucian’s relationship with AWS, its expansive application footprint, and large user base allows universities to scale up during peak registration times and then scale down to save costs and resources for their customers delivering a better time to value. This will give educational institutions access to critical data and analytics that influence teaching decisions and enable successful learning outcomes campus-wide.

Watch this video to learn more about how Ellucian uses AWS to host mission-critical apps to deliver scale, security, and innovation to higher education. And check out the fireside chat from Ellucian Live featuring Teresa Carlson, VP of Worldwide Public Sector, AWS and Jeff Ray, CEO, Ellucian.

Continue to learn more about how cloud computing is changing education and learning by watching Jeff Ralyea, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cloud at Ellucian, at the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C.

All in on AI: Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector

From computer vision systems for autonomous driving to FDA-approved medical imaging, artificial intelligence (AI) is driving public sector innovation. Governments, defense agencies, and other public sector organizations are adding AI into their platform, solutions, and products to perform tasks that usually require human-level intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, or translation.

In order to change the way services are delivered to the blind or to inspire the next generation of space explorers, organizations need to overcome hurdles related to the scale of data, scale of compute, and variety of devices and platforms that intelligent systems need to ultimately run on. To be able to realize impactful results, Amazon AI breaks down services into three main layers, which sit on top of the AWS infrastructure and network:

  • AI Services: Application developers can easily add built-in intelligence into their solutions using the Amazon AI Services. AI Services are powered by machine learning and deep learning, but provide higher level services to add intelligence into your applications. These AI Services include: Amazon Rekognition for image and facial analysis, Amazon Polly for text-to-speech, and Amazon Lex, an automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding service for building conversational chat bots. Within the public sector, Rekognition is being used to build facial search databases, user verification, sentiment analysis, and image classification and tagging of entities.
  • AI Platforms: If you have existing data and want to build custom models, we provide a set of AI platforms which remove the heavy lifting associated with deploying and managing AI training and model hosting: Amazon Machine Learning (with both batch and real-time prediction on custom linear models) and Amazon EMR (with Spark and Spark ML support).
  • AI Engines: A collection of open-source, deep learning frameworks for academics and data scientists who want to build cutting edge, sophisticated intelligent systems, pre-installed configured on a convenient machine image. Engines, such as Apache MXNet, TensorFlow, Caffe, Theano, Torch, and CNTK, provide flexible programming models for training custom models at scale. For example, Apache MXNet scales almost linearly across hundreds of GPUs, training efficient models which can be run anywhere from new, custom Intel processors and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to embedded devices on robots and drones.

AI in the Real World

The below organizations serving the public use some of Amazon AI services:

Nonprofits: The Royal National Institute of Blind People is able to change the way services are being delivered to the blind by using AWS. “We are currently using Amazon’s Speech-to-Text technology to create and distribute accessible information in the form of synthesized audio content for our many B2B and B2C customers, including utility companies, financial institutions, and media companies, as well as other customer-facing material such as magazines and publications. With the announcement of Amazon Polly, we’re excited about the ability to provide an even better experience to these customers by delivering incredibly lifelike voices that will captivate and engage our audience,” said John Worsfold, Solutions Implementation Manager, Royal National Institute of Blind People.

Health: Ohio Health, a nonprofit health organization, is utilizing evolving speech recognition and natural language processing technology to enhance the lives of its customers. “Amazon Lex represents a great opportunity for us to deliver a better experience to our patients. Everything we do at OhioHealth is ultimately about providing the right care to our patients at the right time and in the right place. Amazon Lex’s next generation technology and the innovative applications we are developing using it will help provide an improved customer experience. We are just scratching the surface of what is possible,” said Michael Krouse, Senior Vice President Operational Support and Chief Information Officer, Ohio Health.

Government: Leveraging Lex, the backend that powers Amazon Alexa, NASA, in order to spark innovation, has built a voice activated version of the MARS robot. A star robotic ambassador is “Rov-E,” a close replica of real NASA Mars rovers. NASA staff can easily navigate Rov-E via voice commands. Multi-turn dialog management capability enables Rov-E “to talk,” answering students’ questions about Mars in an engaging way. Integration with AWS services allows Rov-E to connect and scale with various data sources to retrieve NASA’s Mars exploration information.

Financial Services: Using Amazon EMR, FINRA is able to capture, analyze, and store a daily influx of 75 billion records in order to identify fraud and other anonymous activities.

Law Enforcement: Using various models, ShotSpotter delivers real-time gunshot notifications to law enforcement so they can dispatch to the precise location of the gunshot, engage with the community, look for evidence and occasionally help victims and make arrests. Their goal is to help drive down illegal gun use. Also, Washington County Sheriff’s Department uses Rekognition to be able to cross reference persons of interest with mugshots in their system. This allows for the department to drive leads quicker and allow investigators to focus on valuable leads.

Defense Agencies: The defense community is also starting to use machine learning systems to identify advanced persistent threats in their networks. They are using machine learning to provide enhanced endpoint protections and predict the potential threat of certain behaviors by privileged users with system admin roles.

Education: Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana uses machine learning for more than 70% accuracy in predicting students who are struggling, enabling faster intervention.

Learn more about AI at AWS here as well as in Werner Vogels’ keynote from the AWS Public Sector Summit and other AI-related sessions.

AWS Cloud Meets Growing Needs of K-12 Students

Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS), the 12th largest school district in Florida with more than 67,000 students and 10,000 employees, required a secure and mobile responsive website that could keep up with the growth in Seminole County.

As a premier district nationally, they wanted a website that reflected their high standards. Their old website, created in house by their IT department almost five years ago, was filled with outdated information (wrong numbers and incorrect contact information) and spanned over 2,000 pages. The dated aesthetic, combined with a cumbersome back-end system for web authors, led the IT team to look to streamline their website, one of the biggest marketing tools available for a school district.

SCPS chose Solodev Web Experience Platform to provide the face lift for their internally and externally facing websites. Now the SCPS team has inline editing tools, SEO-optimized web pages, enterprise permissions, SEO-friendly URLs, dynamic site navigation and breadcrumbs, content scheduling, and the ability to create custom apps or easily add entries to existing apps.

APN Partner Solodev runs on the AWS Cloud, thus providing SCPS with everything from load balancing to auto-scaling and elastic file storage. Solodev uses Amazon CloudFront to increase the delivery speed of SCPS’ website. By leveraging the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Solodev can quickly auto-scale capacity up and down as SCPS’ computing requirements change. Solodev implemented Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS), which gives the SCPS website elastic storage capacity, growing and shrinking automatically as SCPS adds and removes files. And SCPS applications have the storage they need, when they need it.

In addition to scalability and speed, SCPS also needed to implement ADA compliance and find a solution to prevent website security concerns. AWS security capabilities and services increase privacy and control network access with network firewalls built into AWS, providing SCPS with world-class security.

“With the anticipation of a new school year, application deadlines, and hurricane season, SCPS is confident that we have the infrastructure to weather any storm,” said Michael Lawrence, Communications Officer, SCPS. “By using an AWS cloud-based system, we have a powerful system where parents and students can access grades, homework assignments, and latest news with just one or two clicks.”

Since the launch of the new website in January 2017, the district has experienced a 13% increase in returning visitors and a 3% increase in new visitors. They also can utilize advertising on their site, creating a new revenue stream for the district.

“Our new website allows us to tell our story. We now have the capabilities to highlight videos, stream board meetings, and provide our users with an interactive calendar,” said Maria Iftikhar, Information and Communication Manager, SCPS. “The next phase is to bring this technology into every school within our district to continue to bolster the district’s culture and reputation.”

Seminole County Public Schools now has a beautifully crafted design and the infrastructure to support it, providing SCPS with the peace of mind that their website runs on the cutting edge of modern web technologies.

Learn more about other City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge winners here.


Announcements from the AWS Public Sector Summit 2017

We just wrapped the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington D.C with over 10,000 registrations, 100 business and technical sessions, and 95 partners participating.

At the Summit, Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO, and Teresa Carlson, AWS’s VP of Worldwide Public Sector, took the main stage at the Summit to share announcements affecting our public sector customers.

Read about the announcements below:

  • AWS GovCloud (US) Heads East – New Region in the Works for 2018: AWS GovCloud (US) gives AWS customers a place to host sensitive data and regulated workloads in the AWS Cloud. The first AWS GovCloud (US) Region was launched in 2011 and is located in the western US. We are working on a second Region that we expect to open in 2018. The upcoming AWS GovCloud (US-East) Region will provide customers with added redundancy, data durability, and resiliency, and will also provide additional options for disaster recovery. Learn more here.
  • Amazon Rekognition Available in AWS GovCloud (US-West): Amazon Rekognition, an AI service, that enables software developers to quickly and easily build applications that analyze images, and recognize faces, objects, and scenes, is now available in AWS GovCloud (US-West). Amazon Rekognition uses deep learning technologies to automatically identify objects and scenes, such as vehicles, weapon or alley, and provides a confidence score that lets developers tag images, so that application users can search for specific images using key words.
  • City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge: AWS announced the winners of the 2017 AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge at the AWS Public Sector Summit. We recognized 19 winners across the three award categories of the competition – Best Practices, Dream Big, and Partners in Innovation. The competition was designed to recognize how local and regional governments are innovating on behalf of citizens across the globe.
  • AWS Education Competency: We announced the AWS Education Competency, a recognition of the highest bar for AWS Partner Network (APN) Partners who provide solutions to meet the needs of education customers. AWS Education Competency Partners have demonstrated technical proficiency and proven customer success providing specialized solutions aligning with AWS architectural best practices to help support teaching and learning, administration, and academic research efforts in education.
  • California Polytechnic State University Goes All-In on AWS:  Also, we announced that California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), one of the top engineering schools in the nation, will migrate all core applications to AWS. By choosing the cloud with the most functionality, the fastest pace of innovation, the largest ecosystem of customers and partners, and the most proven operating and security expertise, Cal Poly is well-positioned to offer a best-in-class student experience. Learn more here.

We also heard from global cloud leaders transforming their organization with the power of the cloud, including Ocean Conservancy, UK Ministry of Justice, Australian Taxation Office, Blackboard, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Check out some of the photos from the event and stay tuned for videos and slides from the breakout sessions.

Announcing the New AWS Education Competency

On-demand compute, storage, and database services help higher education, K-12 and research IT teams build secure environments for mission-critical applications, freeing them to focus on student success. As more educational institutions move to the cloud, it is important for our customers to be able to identify specialized APN Partners to assist them in this segment.

We are pleased to announce the AWS Education Competency, a recognition of the highest bar for AWS Partner Network (APN) Partners who provide solutions to meet the needs of education customers. AWS Education Competency Partners have demonstrated technical proficiency and proven customer success providing specialized solutions aligning with AWS architectural best practices to help support teaching and learning, administration, and academic research efforts in education.

Customers can now explore partner solutions across:

Teaching and Learning: Solutions that bring innovative teaching and learning technology to help educators adapt to new standards, personalize learning, and deliver new and exciting digital learning experiences to students. Solutions in this category include, but not limited to: Learning Management Systems; Content Management Systems; and Virtual Classroom.

Administrative and Operations: Solutions that assist educational institutions operate efficiently both on-campus and online. Technology that empowers educational institutions to gain better visibility into IT operations and assist with regulatory requirements. Solutions in this category include, but not limited to: Analytical Solutions; Resource Management Systems; Student Information Systems; and Facilities Management Systems.

Congratulations to the following APN Partners who have achieved the AWS Education Competency designation:

APN Consulting Partners:

  • Cloudmas
  • DLT Solutions
  • Enquizit Inc.
  • Infiniti Consulting Group
  • ITEra
  • Northbay
  • REAN Cloud

APN Technology Partners:

Teaching and Learning

  • Alfresco
  • Blackboard
  • D2L
  • Echo360
  • Instructure
  • Remind

Administrative and Operations

  • Acquia
  • Ellucian
  • Preservica
  • Solodev
  • Splunk
  • TechnologyOne

Learn more about this program and our APN Partners here.

City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge – Winners Announced!

Today, AWS announced the winners of the 2017 AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge at the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC. We recognized 19 winners across the three award categories of the competition – Best Practices, Dream Big, and Partners in Innovation. The competition was designed to recognize how local and regional governments are innovating on behalf of citizens across the globe.

“We continue to be amazed by the work that our customers are doing around the world to better serve citizens. This year’s City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge produced inspiring applications from cities, police departments, school districts, and our partners that use real-time data analytics, IoT services, and open data projects, all on the AWS Cloud,” said Teresa Carlson, VP of Worldwide Public Sector, AWS. “AWS is proud to recognize this year’s winners and showcase the innovation to improve our roads, provide digital learning to all students, and benefit first responders.”

Congratulations to this year’s winners!

Best Practices (Large)

  • City of Virginia Beach: StormSense enhances the capability of Virginia Beach and neighboring communities to predict coastal flooding resulting from storm surge, rain, and tides in ways that are replicable, scalable, measurable, and make a difference worldwide.
  • Transport for London: Built on the AWS Cloud, LondonWorks 2 provides a modern cloud-based solution that provides a complete picture of all roadwork to allow London’s service providers to plan on a city-wide basis and alleviates the potential for significant disruption and delay.
  • Solodev and Seminole County Public Schools: By utilizing the power of the Solodev platform built on AWS, Seminole County Public Schools were able to set a new standard for modern K-12 websites while saving money and streamlining operations.

Best Practices (Small)

  • Lawrence Police Department: The Lawrence Police Department partnered with BodyWorn by Utility to provide Body Worn Camera technology using AWS for big data storage and analytics. Video and audio recording collected by police officers is instantly, effortlessly uploaded in a safe, encrypted storage environment.
  • Intermediate School District 287: With a mission to provide high-quality learning opportunities to Minnesota public school students, Intermediate School District 287 turned to the AWS Cloud for affordable storage and management of digital resources.

Best Practices – Honorable Mention

  • Caltrans: The Caltrans project has one main goal: to reinvent traffic incident response for California. The project relies on an all-in move to the AWS Cloud to support data storage, analytics, and scaling for testing.

Dream Big (Large)

  • Louisville Metro Government: By utilizing machine learning, real-time traffic data, and IoT, Louisville is building an adaptive traffic flow management system that can sense detrimental systemic changes to traffic and automatically adjust city infrastructure to mitigate the impact.
  • Tulsa Public Schools: Tulsa Public Schools aims to build a recommendation engine to support school teams with data-informed decision making. Tulsa Public Schools seeks to be a proof-point in public education by leveraging data as strategic asset to improve academic outcomes for kids.

Dream Big (Small)

  • City of Iowa City: Johnson County, Iowa is expanding their post-booking jail diversion program using inter-departmental data to predict and identify populations that would benefit from a pre-jail diversion program, better understand infrastructure costs, where to increase efficiencies, and show improved outcomes.
  • Marmion Academy: Marmion CPARC Engineering Center is a prototype for business and education STEM collaboration. They require high performance computing, remote learning, and virtual desktop solution assets to advance this to other schools.

Dream Big – Honorable Mentions

  • City of Ottawa: Ottawa would like to create a repeatable process in other Canadian cities and abroad using IoT sensors for water distribution, traffic applications, and disaster recovery, and further leverage the existing infrastructure of to handle surges in web traffic.
  • WSIPC: WSIPC plans to build a user interface so trainers will be able to select a database backup to be used for professional development and troubleshooting. Training has been rolled out to five states and over 20,000 users, and has expanded internationally.
  • Seattle Public Schools: Seattle Public Schools intends to design a system to close the opportunity gap for historically underserved students. The AWS Cloud will enable advanced data services, such as predictive analytics, to focus on the improvement of student outcomes.
  • City of Las Vegas: Las Vegas would like to use AWS and Amazon Alexa to help local students at risk of falling behind in school due to challenges with attendance and keep them up to speed on knowledge and literacy.

Partners in Innovation

  • Anthemis Technologies (France): Anthemis Technologies has developed a beacon called “Help-me,” allowing firefighters to save time during interventions. The application provides information about location and people injured, details about the dwelling access code, as well as medical history data that could help save lives.
  • Blue Spurs (Canada): In partnership with the Government of New Brunswick, Blue Spurs created the Blue Kit, a creative, low-cost IoT educational starter kit that allows middle and high school students to understand the fundamentals of IoT in an interactive, fun environment.
  • LearnZillion (US): LearnZillion is changing the paradigm of K12 curriculum from a static product to an adaptable, cloud-based service. They promote productive struggle in traditional and blended classrooms, allow for localization of the curriculum to better meet the needs of teachers and students, and empower teachers to better orchestrate meaningful learning experiences.
  • Tolemi (US): Tolemi is building a platform that integrates seamlessly with all government systems and databases to collect, aggregate, and cleanse data, creating a data standard for the BuildingBlocks software to derive insights.
  • Xaqt (US): Xaqt’s urban analytics platform bridges people and data with policy and best practices to help policymakers and citizens better understand how cities function. The platform handles: data integration, deep analytics, and making insights accessible to drive collaboration and data sharing across the city.

For more information on the winner’s projects, click here.

Thank you to all of this year’s participants!

Technical Training for the Future Cloud Workforce

This week, the Washington, DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP) and AWS celebrated the first cohort in the Pathways Scholarship program. The program is designed to create tech opportunities for the under and unemployed in Washington, DC, by providing a program with resources, training, employment, and ongoing support. This is a collaboration between the DC government, AWS, and local nonprofit organizations focused on technical training.

At the launch event at Washington DC’s Inclusion Innovation Incubator (In3), Tricia Davis-Muffett, Senior Leader for AWS Public Sector Marketing said, “without engaging the whole population of available tech talent, our customers will not be able to build, our partners will not be able to build, and we will not be able to build. It is critical for us that we engage every person in the technology revolution.”

Every person and organization involved with the program is committed to building an inclusive environment within their own organization. The individual path that an organization takes will be unique, but the outcome must be the same – include the excluded, train the untrained, and employ the under and unemployed.

The organizations involved include the nonprofits Byte Back and Thinkful, along with mentoring support from In3 and The Mentor Method.

With thousands of open technical and non-technical roles at AWS and within our customers and partner organizations, AWS aims to be at the forefront of training and building the future tech workforce.

To get started with training or learn about our inclusion efforts, visit