Wow. I had an update meeting on Friday to see how things were progressing for Student Day and found out that registrations are really hotting up. We're very rapidly approaching the upper limit in terms of numbers, particularly for the high school session in the morning. This is fantastic news, because I know how much value attendees are going to get out of this free conference. So, this is a call out to all students, university and high school, and teachers, tutors, mentors and lecturers; if you've been thinking "I'll get around to that later", you might want to start thinking "I'll get around to that today"! :)

One of the things I mentioned in my last post was Imagine Cup ( www.imaginecup.com ). Imagine Cup is a global competition run by Microsoft to engage the creativity, imagination and passion of students all over the world. Each year the competition runs with a number of categories such as Software Development and Design, Game Development and IT challenges, but the categories also include more media-based and more accessible categories. There are categories for Short Film and Photography and, for the first time this year, Mashups.

Students can win cash prizes, trips overseas and the chance to participate in some cool programs that help them take their creations further. All you need to do is ask Team SOAK, the winners of the premier category, Software Development and Design, about how much they got out of going to Paris, presenting their solution in the Louvre, and coming out on top, to see how much of an impact participating in Imagine Cup has had on them.

But the really cool thing is that the competition provokes students to think about global issues and how they can play a part in raising awareness or even to help solve them, regardless of how small a part that might be.

This year's theme is Solve the World's Toughest Problems, and the competition is taking the United Nations' lead on which problems need to be looked at through the 8 Millennium Goals).  We're talking about things like ending poverty, providing universal education, increased child health and gender equality around the world (check out the link for the complete list: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ ).

Remember, the competition isn't just for programmers - it's for anyone who has a passion for using technology to help make the world a better place. The finalists in each category will be flown to Egypt to compete against their global competition, and any student team can enter, so what are you waiting for? :)

Here's a quick description of each of the categories:

  • Software Design - We are asking students to create real world software and services applications that use Microsoft tools and technology.  It's not just about the PC anymore - students need to think about taking advantage of mobile devices as well.  Think big!  The judging requires students to use their creativity and drive if they want to compete on the world stage.  This is where legends are born and lives are changed - where an application starts as an idea and ends up being used all over the world.  
  • Embedded Development - The object of the Embedded Development Invitational is to unleash students' creativity in an effort to change the world into a better place. They will develop their own embedded device whose function is to better us all. The Embedded Development Invitational challenges students to go beyond the PC desktop and work in both hardware and software to build an embedded solution using Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 and the provided embedded platform.
  • Game Development - The object of the Game Development Invitational is to create a new game that uses both Microsoft's XNA Game Studio 3.0 and Visual Studio. Competitors' games should illustrate the Imagine Cup theme "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today." This is a chance for students who've always enjoyed playing games to create their own game and at the same time help change the global community. The Game Development Invitational is a great opportunity for learning and advancement towards an important step in their budding careers either as a game developer or as an entrepreneur in the game business. This is the students' opportunity to build a full game from scratch!
  • Robotics - Robots need more than gears and wires - they require highly sophisticated algorithms to interpret and interact with the world around them. This competition is a mathematical obstacle course where students must navigate a series of brain teasers, code challenges and algorithmic puzzles to demonstrate their ability to understand the potential of robots in our world.  This exciting event takes place in a virtual world as students progress through increasingly difficult rounds.
  • IT Challenge - Students are challenged to develop, deploy, and maintain IT systems that are elegant, functional, robust and secure.  This demanding competition requires students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the science of networks, databases, and servers. They also need to show their analytical abilities and make tough decisions in IT environments.
  • MashUp - The object of the MashUp competition is to create a new and useful Web 2.0 application that is connected to the Imagine Cup theme "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today." Students will use Microsoft PopFly to leverage current third party data and services available on the internet to create a new and unique tool that is effectively consumed by other internet users as their Imagine Cup entry. 
  • Photography - Great photographers know a single image can change the world.  In this competition, students communicate a story that explores a critical issue through a photo essay of inspiring still images. The photos must grab the audience and illustrate the students' personal insight into these global issues. 
  • Short Film - We all love to go to the movies but some of us love to make movies! Filmmaking is a technical craft combined with the art of storytelling using moving images. A short film has the difficulty of conveying a message in a brief period of time while also being visually stimulating.  In this competition, students will be challenged to create an original short film and also demonstrate excellence in filmmaking at all levels from concept art to polished editing.

As I mentioned earlier, these last three categories are perfect for any student to use technology in creative ways to promote awareness and even help solve the world's greatest issues.

If you want more info, please register for Student Day - Joe Wilson will talk about Imagine Cup in his opening keynote and university students will have an opportunity to hear from the worldwide winners for 2008 directly.

Also, feel free to contact me if you have any queries about Imagine Cup and I'll do my best to answer them for you. You can contact me at aparson {at} microsoft {dot} com.