At 4pm last night in NYC’s Lincoln Center, a packed auditorium waves flags, cheered, and impatiently waited for Microsoft’s Jon Perera, General Manager of the Education Group, to take the stage and kick off the finals.
The U.S.A. teams, sitting together next to Microsoft executives’ stage left, waved the American flag and had expressions of anticipation, hope, and inspiration.
The stage opened to an actor, who gave an inspiring monologue starting with the fact that seven billion people are in the world today, and it was only 4 billion when Microsoft was founded. The Imagine Cup represents a challenge to the genius students of today who come together to tackle the world’s biggest problems:
- 80% of the world’s population lives in poverty
- 160 million people cannot read or write.
- 1 in 8 don’t have access to safe drinking water.
- 5 million tons of toxic chemicals released.
“It is up to us—you and me—our challenge, is to think out of the box and use technology and imagination.”
The World Has Won Because of What You Have Done
John Perera said, “This stage has been held by world leaders, top musicians, top artists – tonight it will hold the top technology students in the world. Powerful technology, innovation, and desire to make an impact—special things happen, change happens, people’s lives improve with what the Imagine Cup competitors have done. The world has won because of what you have done.”
Team Gina from the Czech Republic came on stage to talk about how their project—which did not even place in the finals last year for Imagine Cup—is now a viable business being used in Haiti, and Japan, and places where natural disasters have occurred. Gina, (geographical Information device) is a mobile Windows 7 and collects info about the current situation, including environmental impact, medicine, and supplies. They realized that after Imagine Cp they could start this company—despite not winning, they did win. Because they built and implemented a product that changes the world.
Mayor Bloomberg then took the stage, making everyone laugh by saying, “How did I know that I was only going to be the one in a suit and tie?” He encouraged students to do two things: help Jon (Perera) get a bit more enthusiasm and promise him that you are going to spend some money in New York. Bloomberg then went on to explain how “40% of the people you see in NYC were born outside of the US; we live as a mixture rather than a mosaic” and how important it was to use technology to work together to preserve our environment and fight poverty. He discussed getting to know Bill and Melinda Gates personally and how much they are an inspiration for changing the world—and how each of these students could do the same. “NYC welcomes dreamers from around the world and doers from anyplace.”
And with that, the announcements began for the competition.
Challenge Award Winners
Windows 7 Touch Challenge:
First Place winner: Team India Rose from France
First Place winners: Team MP Brun, Denmark
- 3rd Place, Poland Team Demoscene Spirit
- 2nd place Brazil, Bells Team
- 1st place: Greece, Team alaniarides
Carol Post, the first female CIO for NYC came on stage for the IT Challenge announcements. She said to the students, and particularly the fellow female technologists: dream big.
- 3rd Place, Yunheng Mong from Singapore
- 2nd place, blazej Matuszyk from Poland
- 1st place jean-sebastien Duchene from France.
Windows 7 Phone Competition
Walid Abu-Hadba, who is a corporate vice president and creative director, announced the Windows phone competitions. First he announced that every student in the audience who promised to build three applications, gets the brand new Windows 7.5 phone. He then said that all first place winners would get to go to the Build conference held annually in Anaheim as his personal guest. This year it is held Sept 13-16.
Windows Phone 7 Winners:
- 3rd Place: Lifelens project US
- 2nd place: Zipi Zigi, Korea
- First place: Homerun, Korea
Digital Media Competition
For the Digital Media Award: Dr. Fiona Wood (Burn surgeon) says that she has always dreamed big. She wants to see scarless healing; repair by regeneration and wants to know what is wrong with the skin all the way to the cells. She questioned the students to ponder, “Can we think ourselves our whole?”
Digital Media Winners:
- 3rd place: cotton candy Taiwan
- 2nd place: Brothers Forever, Oman
- First place: MNA Romania
Game Design Competition
Game Design Web winners:
- 3rd place: Slovakia Quegee
- 2nd place: Philippines, signum fidei
- 1st place: Poland, cellardoor
Next up, Ken Lobb, the Creative Director Microsoft game studios, who owns more than 10,000 games, spoke about how games today earn more money that Hollywood box office, and how the Kinect is now used to save lives and help people with health—not just entertainment.
Game Design Mobile winners:
- 3rd place: Team Dragon, USA
- 2nd Place: Close World Mobile, France
- 1st place: Geekologic France
For the Game Design (Xbox), Trisha Thompson, the Vice President for Corporate Responsibility at Dell talked about how Dell was founded in Michael Dell’s garage, and all good companies are founded by people with really big dreams who want to democratize technology and unleash human potential
Game Design Xbox Winners:
- 3rd place-Wicket Team Czech Republic
- 2nd place Jub Jub Thailand
- First place: Signum Games, Brazil
Embedded Development Competition
For the Embedded Development category, the founder of Priceline, Scott Case, who is now the CEO of talked about how this room is full of the next business leaders of the world.
Embedded Development Winners:
- 3rd place: endeavor design from Romania
- 2nd place: Harmonicare from China
- 1st place: nthucs from Taiwan; the team received a big waist-belt and they said that they would successfully kept the belt in Taiwan and next year the challenge is to fight for it, to a cheering crowd.
People’s Choice Awards
Next up for the People’s Choice Award, Eva Longoria took the stage to massive applause. She said she was especially thrilled to be here because the Imagine Cup marries philanthropy and technology, her two biggest passions. She was impressed by all the teams, and how students were being activists for change. She spoke about several of the team projects she had walked around earlier, at the showcase. “Thank you for using your energy in taking technology to save problems. There is no limit to what you can create.”
2011 People’s Choice Award Winner:
Team Rapture from Bangladesh.
Software Design Competition
For the Software Design award, Sr. VP of Microsoft Developer Division S. Somasegar said they were impressed when nine years ago, at the first Imagine Cup, 1,000 students entered the competition, and here we are today, with 350,000 teams participating from all over the world. He talked about giving free access to BizSpark to all Imagine Cup finalist teams. He also went on to announce a new grant, $3 million over the next three years, for Imagine Cup teams. “We are here to help you reach your potential.” He told the students to continue to think, dream, dream big, and follow up on your dreams in terms of execution. “You are and you will be the future and that gives me great optimism for the world!”
Software Design Winners
- 3rd place: team Oasis from Jordan
- 2nd place: Team Note Taker from USA
- 1st place: team Hermes from Ireland
Hal Plotkin, Sr. Policy Advisor for the Obama administration, and a former Silicon Valley journalist covering startups and emerging companies, said that if every corporation gave back to students like Microsoft, the world would be a better place. “Obama would have loved to been with you,” and he repeated that earlier, when Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, walked around the student showcase, the one word he kept repeating was “amazing”, which is what all of the students are. He made three key points:
- Don’t believe what you read in the media about start up companies. It takes hard work. He wrote about Microsoft when they were a 30 person emerging company, Cisco when they had 47 employees, and he just knew they would be an important force in the world. “99% of companies were not the product of overnight success but of hard work.” And that “Refusal to give up in the face of adversity,” was the key factor in making it happen.
- What will technology bring to the next generation? Why the students are the most important people in the world, it’s because they are the future. “The power is in your hands and I pray you will use it well.’
- He said that now his generation is passing it off to future generations, and then discussed passing the Imagine Cup flag from one country to the next.
And with that, the Microsoft Australia representative and the representing Australian diplomat took the stage and were passed the imagine Cup flag.
Want to win the Imagine Cup next year? NYC was great but Sydney will be amazing.