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I have been in the Seattle area (mostly Bellevue and Redmond) the past couple of days for the US Imagine Cup Finals. And it has been an amazing time with the best yet to come. There are teams from all over the US here. They are competing in the Software Design Invitational and two categories of game development – Windows/Xbox (XNA) and Windows Mobile. (You can read about all of the teams on the Imagine Cup Facebook tab). These competitors are amazing. We had over 70,000 people register, hundreds of teams enter in the early rounds and picked 22 teams to make the trip to Redmond for the US Finals. So some really smart students are here.

Last night we had our opening with a welcome reception and a dinner for the teams at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond. Our keynote speaker was Alex Kipman, General Manager of Incubation for Microsoft Xbox. Alex is one of  the key people behind the Kinect device from Microsoft and he illustrated his talk with stories and lessons learned for its development. BTW  I only found out after the fact that he was speaking while being under the weather with a high fever. He was inspiring anyway. I really can’t imagine how good he is when he’s feeling 100%. He said a number of things that  really stuck with me. On of these was that “With software the only barrier is lack of imagination.” I think I’ve seen that proved time and again in my career as things I thought could not be done have been done. That leads directly to another quote "When someone tells you it’s impossible, code it and prove them wrong.” So true.

Today we had the first round of judging. This year I served as a facilitator for judging. Not an actual judge myself but helping to manage the judging process. This involved being the strict timekeeper – 20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for questions and answers. I also lead the discussion about which teams would advance into Monday’s final round. What a great experience. One of the judges in my room was Ken Lobb who is a game designer for Microsoft Game Studio. He’s listed in the credits for an amazing number of games and has probably forgotten more about what makes a good game than I will ever know. He’s a great guy who, as with all of the judges, took his role very seriously.  I learned a lot listening to his feedback to the teams. And the teams will get more feedback from Ken and the other judges as they all took lots of notes. Can you imagine getting game design feedback from someone like that while you are still a student? If you ask me that was a prize in and of itself.

For more information check out these blog links and be sure to follow @ImagineCup, @MSTechStudent and hashtag #ICUS on Twitter this weekend to stay up-to-date on the Imagine Cup US Finals event and learn who the winners are on Monday, April 11. And yes I will be tweeting all weekend at @AlfredTwo Please follow!

Check out our Flickr channel for additional photos of the Imagine Cup U.S. Finals event!