Imagine Cup 2014 is already off to a thrilling start. Since we launched this season in mid-September, thousands of students from countries all over the world have formed teams and begun creating brilliant projects. All of these students have one thing in common: they believe in themselves and in the skills they are developing. And in turn, here at Microsoft, we believe in the power of you. That’s why we created Imagine Cup, to provide students with a unique opportunity to grow their confidence and experience by competing on a global stage.
The job market today is changing rapidly. Worldwide we see a generation of young people having a hard time finding employment. In the technology field there is a skills gap between what students are learning and what the best jobs require. But Imagine Cup helps students prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, gaining direct experience in problem solving, project management, communication, and teamwork.
We also know that our students come from all kinds of countries and cultures. To ensure equal access to the latest tools and technology, we have once again partnered with Microsoft DreamSpark. DreamSpark provides students with our professional-level developer tools at no cost, providing an opportunity for students to get a head start on their technology careers while building their incredible projects.
When we began planning this season many months ago, we knew we wanted to make some changes to better address the world that students like you are already living in. We added new contests so you could find ways to compete all year long. We introduced our Software Development Lifecycle Challenges to get you real-world skills working in a cross-disciplinary team, learn some best practices for starting a business, and make the right decisions with the right information to bring your ideas to market.
The first of these new contests, the Pitch Video Challenge, ended recently with student teams from dozens of countries submitting their five-minute video pitches for their Imagine Cup projects. We are now in the final weeks of the Project Blueprint Challenge, where teams take a deep dive into their thinking and prepare a ten-page document exploring their concept and creating user personas, top user stories, business models, and demonstrate how they have already sought and incorporated feedback from potential users. In January we’ll launch the User Experience Challenge because great design is more important to great software than ever. We believe teams who compete in all three contests will end up with significantly better Imagine Cup projects as we head into National Finals because they will be prepared to effectively pitch, plan, and build their ideas.
Every year we have enormous numbers of students who compete in our three core Imagine Cup competitions of Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship. They do so either in our dozens of National Finals held by our subsidiaries around the world or in our Online Finals, which provides students without a National Final in their country a path to victory.
But in the end, only a few of the very best teams make it all the way to World Finals and receive global recognition for their hard work. This year, we decided to change that.
Every first-place winner in every National Finals and in our Online Finals will compete in a whole new round: the World Semifinals. Launching May 1, 2014, all of these first-place teams will be celebrated on our website as World Semifinalists so everyone can hear their stories, see their projects, and be inspired by their imagination and passion. All of these World Semfinalists will compete against each other in a global judging round to select the few teams invited to the World Finals in Seattle this July, 2014 – but every single World Semfinalist team will be eligible for prizes including our Visual Studio Online Boost, in which nine teams will receive $1,000 each for using the cloud-based power of Visual Studio Online to collaborate, plan, and implement their projects.
In July, 2014, Microsoft will bring the very best student teams in the world to Seattle to compete in the Imagine Cup World Finals. There the teams in our Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship categories will present their projects to our judges and we will celebrate the winners in each category.
Every day, students push themselves to develop their skills and build their futures. Through Imagine Cup contests students are not just inspired – they are driven, driven to compete and to learn and to master.
Today I am very happy to demonstrate those skills in action with the announcements of the winners of two contests!
In September we asked students to dream up their next great Imagine Cup project and pitch it to us in a short video. We received submissions from around the world – including thirty from Sri Lanka! – and our judges have chosen our winners:
Games Category Winner: Team Sticky Bits, Romania
Grimacizer is a terrific concept: a game you play on your Windows Phone by making outrageous faces at the camera! Using facial-recognition software, Grimacizer challenges players to replicate the crazy faces they see on screen with their own face – and to test their friends to see if they can make better faces faster. For pitching us this ingenious blend of creativity, expression, and technology, we are very proud to award Team Sticky Bits from Romania the first prize of $3,000 in the Games category.
World Citizenship Winner: Team Symbiote, Ireland
Nyx is a Kinect-powered Windows game designed for patients with Multiple Sclerosis or Muscular Dystrophy. Using motions based on actual physical-therapy techniques, patients play a series of manipulation puzzles designed to retain and improve their physical mobility and control. For pitching us this promising concept to aid people suffering from these diseases, we are very proud to award Team Symbiote from Ireland the first prize of $3,000 in the World Citizenship category.
Innovation Winner: Team Mote Labs, United States
Flinger.co is a clever solution for playing any web or video content you want onto the Smart TV of your choice. Team Mote Labs competed in the United States Imagine Cup National Finals in 2013 with an earlier version of this project. Based on what they learned about the power of Windows Azure and other technologies, Mote Labs re-envisioned their project and have taken it further than ever before. For pitching us this promising consumer media app, we are very proud to award Team Mote Labs from the United States the first prize of $3,000 in the Innovation category.
In addition to these first-place winners, nine more teams in each category were selected for Honorable Mention. All thirty teams will receive feedback on their projects from the judges to help them take their work forward and make it even better. For the complete list of winning teams, please visit our Pitch Video Challenge Winners page.
Our Imagine Cup Grant program awards cash, software, and access to resources to a select number of Imagine Cup World Finalists who are ready to take the next step and bring their project to market. We choose projects that are poised to make a difference in the world by addressing a social problem in areas such as health, the environment, and human rights. Imagine Cup Grants are part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative, our commitment to empowering 300 million young people with opportunities in education, employment, and entrepreneurship by 2015.
All 2013 World Finalist teams who competed in St. Petersburg, Russia with a project that focused on social good were invited to apply for this year’s grant program. A panel of external judges have selected our winners:
Grand Prize Winner ($100,000): Team OHS, Taiwan
Team OHS created a Windows Phone mobile application that helps ensure those who are hearing impaired have access to full hearing ability. Through a simple test, OHS helps users identify what their hearing difficulties are and creates customized settings to modify sounds that are out of hearing range to improve sound quality.
$50,000 Winner: Team Confufish, Australia
Team Confufish is changing the way Australia distributes food to those in need. Through Foodbank Local, a multiplatform mobile application, this team created a way to match local supply to local demand. This helps connect those individuals and businesses making donations with the groups in need, ensuring leftover food can be donated efficiently and without going to waste.
$50,000 Winner: Team RUOK, Ireland
This team from Ireland created RUOK, an engaging TV application that provides support to elderly people living independently. By connecting RUOK to the TV, users can interact with others through Skype, access exercise programs and receive important notifications from their home alarm systems, heart rate monitors, medication reminders and more.
$50,000 Winner: Team Dora, Slovenia
Eliminating the need for surgeons to leave a sterile operating room mid-procedure, Team Dora created an interactive physician’s assistant that provides patient information before and during a surgical procedure. Ultimately, this team’s solution can increase efficiencies reducing both cost and anesthesia time for a patient while under a surgeon’s care.
If you’re a student ages 16 and up, you can get involved in Imagine Cup today. Just register a free account at our website and you’ll be ready to form a team and compete in our contests.
We’ve published a list of Imagine Cup National Finals in the 2014 season as well as which countries are eligible to compete in our Online Finals. Check it out and get started!
The future is waiting for only one thing: The power of you.
John Scott Tynes
Imagine Cup Competition Manager
Microsoft Academic Programs