Microsoft Taps Next Generation For Ideas at Imagine Cup

The always innovative Microsoft is turning to the next generation for inspiration. The company sponsored U.S. Imagine Cup 2010, a contest with the sole purpose encouraging (and rewarding) innovation with Microsoft products. The winners of the Cup are being flown to Warsaw, Poland for the final round of competition against a worldwide group of competitors. The winners also get plenty of other cash and prizes but the real story here is the innovative ideas and solutions these students have come up with.

About the Imagine Cup

There are five different competitions with winners being chosen from each.

Software Design – Think Global. Start Local.

Your mission is simple: create real-world software and service applications that use Microsoft technologies, and address the U.S. Imagine Cup theme of imagining a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.

When considering your project, get inspired and educated by reviewing the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The competition pushes you to use your creativity and drive to make it to the Worldwide Finals stage. This is where legends are born and lives are changed—where an application starts as an idea and ends up making a difference.

Software Design – Think Global. Start Local.

Your mission is simple: create real-world software and service applications that use Microsoft technologies, and address the U.S. Imagine Cup theme of imagining a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.

When considering your project, get inspired and educated by reviewing the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The competition pushes you to use your creativity and drive to make it to the Worldwide Finals stage. This is where legends are born and lives are changed—where an application starts as an idea and ends up making a difference.

Game Design – You win. We all win.

Who says saving the world isn’t fun? First, it’s thrilling to make a difference, and with the power of gaming, people can have fun while fighting global issues.

Blow us away! Build a full game from scratch. Make it something that is truly outside the box. Think of this competition as an important step in your budding career either as a game developer or an entrepreneur in the game business.

Digital Media Competition – Lights. Camera. Embed.

You’ve seen The Evolution of Dance, and thought “I can do that”. You’ve seen Leave Britney Alone, and thought “I definitely don’t want to do that”. Team up with a friend to shoot, edit, and share the web’s next viral video hit by entering the World Wide Imagine Cup Digital Media competition.

Submissions for the Digital Media Competition are open now on the Imagine Cup World Wide Site. Head over and sign up today!

IT Challenge Competition – Grab your CAT 5 cables.

Network Admins need to be made of steel – the World Wide Imagine Cup IT Challenge Competition highlights the art and science of developing, deploying, and maintaining IT systems that are efficient, functional, robust and secure. Grab your CAT 5 cables, and join in this unique competition – get the real-world experience that recruiters look for on a resume.

Quizzes for the IT Challenge Competition begin November 16th, 2009 on the Imagine Cup World Wide Site!

Embedded Design – Perform a dedicated function

Embedded systems are dedicated to specific tasks, like a car’s GPS unit, or Ford Motors Sync. Embedded systems are a huge market, and getting bigger everyday, and companies are looking for developers with serious chops to take embedded to the next level. Sign up for the Imagine Cup World Wide Embedded Systems competition and get the real-world experience that recruiters look for on a resume.

The envelope, please…

Images and captions courtesy Microsoft (many more images at that link)

Hun Wang of Wayne State University’s team LifeCode shows his project to James Cameron and Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer. LifeCode uses mobile technology and biosensors to support patients in rural areas by letting doctors monitor their medical information.

Members of Tufts University’s team AwesomeSauce give Craig Mundie a quick lesson in their game Nanobots!, an “arcade-style top-down 2D shooter where players take control of nanobots armed with the latest technology to fight bacteria, diseases and even each other.”

Alaa Gharandoq of the University of Houston’s Ifrit Salsa demonstrates RoboRecyler, a recycling game for kids.

Utah State University’s Team Extraplaid dreamed up Aidventure, a Facebook application that links entrepreneurs with investors in the micro-banking industry.

UCLA’s Team Fortran C programmed a computer game to make players more environmentally conscious. Here they demo it for James Cameron.

Helena Xu, Kavon Gaffari, Wilson To, and Audrey Lee of Team Mobilife took the top prize at this year’s competition for their project, which uses Windows technology to remotely track microangiopathy in children. The group will head to Warsaw this summer for the world finals.

Disagree with who won? There’s a ‘People’s Choice’ award too!

Bill Gates’ Thoughts On Imagine Cup

(from GatesNotes)

When I was a student tinkering with the first personal computers, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how PCs could be used. But in the 35 years since, I’ve never ceased to be amazed at the power of computing to make a difference in so many parts of our lives.

What excites me about the Imagine Cup is the combination of the huge potential of technology and the passion and idealism of the hundreds of thousands of high school and college students who participate around the world. Last year, more than 300,000 students participated from 142 countries, which makes this contest that Microsoft sponsors one of the most important science competitions in the world.

I’m especially enthusiastic about the challenge of this year’s competition, which is to imagine how technology can help meet the United Nation’s Millennium Goals and solve some of the world’s toughest problems—including eliminating poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and providing universal primary education.

The U.S. Imagine Cup Finals happened over the weekend in Washington, D.C. and culminate today in the announcement of the winning teams—in software design and game development—that will advance to the worldwide finals in Poland in July. The projects the teams have developed over the course of the year are impressive. It might seem surprising, but no U.S. team has ever won the Imagine Cup. Perhaps that will change this year or sometime soon. In the meantime, it’s a reminder of the importance of exposing young people to technology in the classroom early on and encouraging them to develop the technology skills needed in so many different careers.

To continue to be competitive in the global economy, America needs to ignite a lifelong passion for math and science in more of our students, and encourage more of our young people to pursue careers in technology.