Every day at Imagine Cup, we’re working to find new ways for students to succeed. This season our new Software Development Lifecycle Challenges have already given thousands of students worldwide experience with telling their project’s story, digging into user personas and business models, and really thinking through the user experience. Meanwhile, our National Finals are underway in 72 countries worldwide and our Online Finals are welcoming students everywhere else.
Today we’re announcing new prizes and new opportunities that will give more students around the world the chance to not just dream big, but to take real steps towards those dreams.
This July at our World Finals in Seattle, the top team from each category – Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship – will take home $50,000 USD. Today I’m very happy to announce something more: thanks to a trio of new partnerships, each of those teams is also going to have a life-changing experience.
We will send the winning team in this category to either London, Berlin, or Tel Aviv to spend four weeks in a Microsoft Ventures accelerator program. This team of students will have co-working space at the accelerator; coaching by our staff including a Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Director and a technical lead; and participation in a variety of accelerator activities that will help these students move forward towards launching their project in the market. We’ll schedule this experience for anytime in the twelve months following Imagine Cup World Finals so the students can work around their academic calendar, and of course travel and lodging expenses are covered.
Microsoft was once a student startup, as were great companies like Facebook and Dell. We want to ensure that this team of students starts their journey in the best possible way.
As part of the global Microsoft YouthSpark initiative to offer education, entrepreneurship and employability opportunities for young people, we will bring the winning team in the World Citizenship category directly to Microsoft global headquarters for a week of intensive sessions curated specifically for the team and their project. With consultation and mentoring from Microsoft engineers, business development professionals, and marketing staff – as well as networking with venture-capital resources – YouthSpark will give this team of students the guidance and insight they need to move their social-good project forward.
Imagine Cup is a Microsoft YouthSpark program and YouthSpark also sponsored the three-year Imagine Cup Grants program for our 2011-2013 seasons. We’re very pleased to continue our partnership for this next-stage program that will provide a uniquely tailored experience for students at Microsoft headquarters.
Launched in 2004, PAX has grown from a fan festival for gamer webcomic Penny Arcade into three events on two continents: the world’s premier celebrations of all things gaming. Imagine Cup will bring the winning student team from our Games category to PAX Prime in Seattle over the last weekend of August, 2014. They’ll spend all four days at the festival demoing their game to PAX Prime attendees, gaining unbeatable exposure and hands-on feedback from the most dedicated gamers in the world.
But their experience starts even sooner: this student team will also attend PAX Dev, the two-day game developer conference in Seattle that takes place immediately before the start of the PAX Prime. At this industry-only conference featuring many of the industry’s finest game designers, programmers, and artists, the team will attend learning sessions and meet their peers from around the world.
The PAX festivals have long been a powerful champion for independent game developers, notes PAX Show Director Robert Khoo. "Whether it's learning and collaborating with other creators at PAX Dev or showing their work to the tens of thousands of gamers at PAX Prime, we'll always jump at opportunities to support student developers in the indie gaming community who bring new ideas to the gaming world."
For our three category winners at Imagine Cup World Finals, those incredible Boot Camp experiences will really move their projects forward and be a great start to their careers, as they learn valuable skills across all facets. However, we have thousands of students worldwide who are an important part of Imagine Cup and we are creating new opportunities for them, too.
Starting this month, we are launching a new series of Imagine Camps: free, two-day events for student developers to improve their skills and get their projects reviewed by our on-site experts. Available in more than 70 countries around the world, these events will help support the Imagine Cup Windows & Windows Phone Challenge, which asks student teams to create “better together” pairs of apps for both platforms in collaboration with a local business, artist, performer, or nonprofit in their community. To compete in the Challenge, students will publish their apps in the Windows Store by April 30th, so our Imagine Camps will be a great opportunity for teams to push their project over the finish line.
Many of our Imagine Camps are already scheduled and students can sign up now, with more being added every week. For more information on our Imagine Camps program and a list of all the events available so far, please visit the new Imagine Camps page on our website.
We recently announced that one World Finals winning team will get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a private meeting with Microsoft founder and technology advisor, Bill Gates! If you have ideas for how you would spend your one-on-one time with Bill Gates, share them with us on Twitter and use the hashtag #ifImetBillG. And, if you haven’t already be sure to visit our National Finals and Online Finals page to learn what’s available in your country. No matter where you are, we want to see your project! We can’t wait to meet all of the World Finalists in Redmond, July 29 – August 2, 2014.
Are you excited about all this? I am! This is an incredible year for Imagine Cup and for our student teams worldwide. And if you’re one of them, please leave your thoughts in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
John Scott Tynes
Imagine Cup Program Lead
Microsoft Student Developers