July 10, 2009

Teams Compete In Technology Competition

Hundreds of thousands of college students from around the globe took on Microsoft's challenge to find new technology that can help achieve the UN Millennium Development goals.

The finalists for Microsoft's annual Imagine Cup showed up in Egypt to show off their ideas on Wednesday, urging and persuading with high goals like eliminating poverty and saving nature.

"They really are taking on all these problems," Microsoft senior director of academic initiatives Joe Wilson told AFP in an interview prior to the finals.

"This audience wants social change in a way generations before didn't, and innovations in technology are coming from these people who live with it, not from the guys in the corporations."

Over 300,000 students from 110 countries competed in the event, which was the best since Imagine Cup's launch in 2002.

Teams faced off in Cairo for the top spots in nine categories, including software design, robotics and game development.

"It's befitting that we do this here in Cairo," said Walid Abu-Hadba, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism Group. "Egypt is the cradle of civilization."

The winner in the software design category was a team from Romania called SYTECH.  Their UpCity program allows citizens be involved with government agencies.

"The project will be developed for the city hall of our city at the end of this month," Adrian Buzgar of SYTECH said in a Microsoft release.

"Then we're going to try to build a company."

Top honors in the embedded category went to team Wafree from South Korea.  They created an easy-to-use machine for raising insects that can be used as food sources where fertile land and water are scarce.

According to Microsoft, the winning team of each category gets $25,000 to divide between members.

Wilson said that Imagine Cup victors are routinely targeted for job offers, grants or venture capital funding to continue working on projects or turn ideas into business enterprises.

"They go home and they are rock stars in their own countries," he added. "Corporations around the world line up to hire these people. These are the best of the best... I will trust these brains any day."

According to Wilson, the number of participants in Imagine Cup has grown annually, and the new goals the UN has set forth has seemed to imbue this year's event with special enthusiasm.

The UN set a 2015 deadline to meet goals in universal education, gender equality, environmental sustainability, global partnership, battling HIV/AIDS, improving child and maternal health, and ending poverty and hunger.

"This connection between the Imagine Cup and social cause, there is real meat on the bone with that," Wilson said. "When we pointed it at problems and let students direct us, that is when participation took off."


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