Microsoft's Imagine Cup: Student Developers FTW

The Commons at Microsoft HQ

Last weekend I was lucky enough be a judge for the US Finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.  The Imagine Cup is a global competition that challenges students to use technology to solve the world’s toughest problems.  I am very passionate about getting more students and young people to learn how to code, so this competition is near and dear to my heart.

The Imagine Cup is considered the world’s largest student technology competition and drew 358,000 students representing 183 countries and regions last year.  This year the two primary categories were Software Design and Game Design and  I was asked to sit on the judging panel for Game Design submissions.  The final presentations, team expo and awards ceremony took place on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.

Making a Difference With Code

Remindavax - health solutions via SMS

I used to work at Microsoft, so I was well aware of the Imagine Cup, but I had never had a chance to participate in it or meet any of the student participants.  I was really floored by how passionate these student were in using technology to make a difference.  One of the teams who made the finals was a team from Harvard who developed a application that connects Indian health care providers and patients via SMS.  Their app, Remindavax, aspires to improve patient attendance at doctor’s appointments for maternal and child health care by automatically sending reminders to patients’ cell phones when they are due to meet with a doctor.

Augmented reality gaming - kill the germs!

Another team I bumped into was Team Wasabi Ninja.  They built a Windows Phone game called “Phagy” that was one of the first augmented reality games that I’ve ever seen.  The idea is that germs are all around us, and wouldn’t it be cool (and educational!) if you could point your phone a different objects that are around you and zap the germs to smithereens.  All they need now is a little bit of image recognition that can spot the truly filthy objects in the world around us and amp up the germ attach.

Flash Food Advances Down Under

Going to Australia for the Global Finals - Team Flash Food

Alas, as Microsoft VP Mark Hindsbo said “this is a competition, there can be only one first place winner.”  That winner, in the Software Design category, was the team from Arizona State University that built Flash Food.  Flash Food is an innovative mobile application that connects restaurants, bakeries and other sources of surplus food with facilities that serve the needy in that community.  These lucky students will be flown down to Australia in July to compete in the global Imagine Cup competition.

It was a privilege to sit on the judging panel for this competition and I’m really excited to see what student are capable of building today, given the proliferation of services, tools and services at their disposal.  I’m already looking forward to what’s coming in 2013!