This week I traveled to Cambridge, Mass. for the U.S. finals of theImagine Cup, a student competition sponsored by Microsoft that encourages students to apply technology in creative ways to tackle real-world problems. This year’s competition specifically challenged students to use technology to achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, which include fighting hunger and poverty, eradicating AIDS, improving education and advancing environmental sustainability.
The winners were announced today, and Team MultiPoint Web took the top software prize. Jimmy, Mark and Luke Dickinson, three brothers from Oregon currently attending Georgia State University, Portland Community College and Tigard High School, respectively, developed an innovative application that helps advance the goal of universal primary education. The brothers built upon existing education programs to create a set of low- to no-cost, Web-based learning applications that allow multiple students to simultaneously use a single computer. Such an innovation can help cash-strapped schools get the most out of their computer hardware and software investments.
Team MangoBunnies, the first all-women team to reach the U.S. finals in the seven-year history of the U.S. Imagine Cup, was named first-runner-up for their invention of computer-assisted medication regimen adherence (CAMRA) application, which supports HIV and AIDS patients by providing medication reminders to their personal mobile devices. The second-runner-up was Team Special Child from the University of Arkansas Little Rock, for their application which seeks to streamline the adoption process and increase the number of children placed into adoptive families each year.
For me, one of the most compelling aspects of the Imagine Cup is that it sets lofty goals for the students that participate. I have learned that when you raise expectations for students and bet on their ability to meet a challenge, most of the time they will achieve it.
The growth of the program shows that students really respond to the challenges posed by the Imagine Cup. In 2003, we had roughly 1,000 competitors from 11 countries (our first winner now has his own companywith 27 employees). This year, the Imagine Cup has attracted over 300,000 students from more than 100 countries.
Now more than ever, encouraging interest in computer science in our young people is critical. Our goal withImagine Cup is to help inspire the next generation of technology and business leaders to drive innovation and job creation in the United States and around the world. Now, schools and educators need to continue to fuel this innovation by investing in computer science and technology education, and our children.
For more information about Microsoft’s education efforts please visit my blog.