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Be inspired to learn and do more. Imagine Cup 2015

Want to be inspired, humbled and excited all at the same time? I’ve got an easy way for you to do just that. Imagine Cup is the Microsoft’s premier technology competition for students and runs worldwide. Tens of thousands of college and university students from more than one hundred countries enter multiple challenges across the year. And it all culminates with the Imagine Cup World Finals, this year held in Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

 

Starting on July 27, 33 finalist teams arrived in sunny Seattle, bleary eyed but hyped up on adrenaline and the realization that they were only hours away from the biggest moment of their lives. At Microsoft, we’re fully committed to helping and supporting these students show off their creations to their best ability. So, as they arrive, we give them access to top notch presenters and technical evangelists, masters of crafting a story and distilling important facts into a short but engaging presentation.

 

But really, it’s the students that are the masters this week. Every single team has brought a literal masterpiece to compete with, some kind of technical marvel that often defies expectation. I’ll give you three examples to try to convey just how marvelous these young entrepreneurial and technical minds are.

 

IzHard is a team of three young Russians who only got together less than a year ago at a hackathon in St Petersburg. In less than 24 hours, the trio had come up with a concept for a 2D puzzle-platforming game and built the prototype. And this despite none of them having any experience in game development previously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their puzzle game is inspired by the likes of Escher and optical illusions and eschews a very simple black and white aesthetic with multiple gravities. As the player progresses, the levels become more complex and challenging and the judges agreed that it has the makings of a hit. Check it out here.

 

eFitFashion from Brazil are true entrepreneurs. They’re a small team who had a goal to revolutionize the tailor-made fashion industry by allowing customers to enter their measurements into the Clothes For Me marketplace and have patterns from designers and tailors be automatically cut to fit to their exact size, allowing customers, seamstresses and clothing firms to come together in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

 

Leveraging Azure to do the calculations and backend that powers the entire solution, eFitFashion were eloquent on stage at every step of the competition, revealing that they’ve already been doing deals with firms and potential investors. What were you doing at 20 years of age? I certainly wasn’t wowing the world with an amazing blend of business nous and technical ability!

 

The final team I wanted to highlight are near and dear to my heart – three very talented and passionate Australian students from Swinburne university known as Opaque Multimedia have created the Virtual Dementia Experience (VDE). The VDE simulates the effects of aging and dementia in a virtual environment, giving users an unsettlingly realistic view of what it’s like to have conditions like Alzheimer’s.

 

Designed from the ground up to help carers have a greater appreciation of their patients and loved ones, the project has been under development for over 18 months and has already won many awards.

 

I could have highlighted many others. Like the French team with their rollercoaster simulator taking advantage of the Oculus and combining it with a large wooden crate contraption. Or the Singaporean team who developed a system that included a laser that they used to count the flaps of a mosquito’s wings.

 

Everywhere you turn at the World Finals, you get wowed. You blink in surprise. You look around in amazement and awe. These are incredibly talented people who have created things that are beyond your imagination. And they’re students. They’re not only at the start of their sure-to-be long and productive careers, but they’re still learning! And they’re a testament to what can be done with technology if you’re willing to learn.

 

It’s why I do what I do. It’s what WE do what we do here at Microsoft Learning Experiences. It’s why Microsoft Virtual Academy was created. Why certifications – the key way people can validate their skills and approach creating things with confidence – are still front and center of what we do. Microsoft Press. Training options. Imagine@MVA>. IT Academy. Know it. Prove it. Born to Learn. All of these things are here to help people learn more, do more, create more.

 

I feel incredibly privileged to have been part of Imagine Cup for the past 7 years. Every year, I have taken part by serving the students and the judges who help guide them through the competition and beyond. Every year I see more students bring their talents to a world stage and show the massive promise we have coming our way. I’m ready to welcome them. How about you? 

 

One last thing. Those three teams I highlighted above? They are the winners of the three primary competitions – Games, Innovation and World Citizenship. On Friday, July 31, in front of thousands of technologists, and a multitude who watched the live stream, the three teams presented their solutions and one was ultimately crowned the winner of the Imagine Cup. Who won? Check for yourself – www.imaginecup.com.