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    Meet the Phone Game Design finalists for Canadian Imagine Cup

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    IC-Logo_300pxWideMeet the teams who will be competing in the Windows Phone Game Design category at the Canadian Imagine Cup to win phones, Xbox, Kinect, mentorship opportunities and more!

    Last week our judges narrowed down the Canadian entries in Phone Game Design to the top three who we have invited to come present their games on stage at the Canadian Imagine Cup finals April 30th at the University of Waterloo.  Game development has become a huge industry over the years. These teams were challenged to not only build a game but tie it to the 2012 Imagine Cup Theme “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems”. You can come out and cheer the teams at the finals, register here.

    Let’s meet the teams who will be competing at the Canadian finals, in alphabetical order by team name.

    Novarum from Carleton University

    The Problem: Our team is attempting to solve the problem of world hunger, as well as the issues of active participation from the mass population in solving such problems.

    Our Solution: Our team is attempting to solve the problem of world hunger by donating to an effective charity that makes a real impact in the world. We do this by raising funds via in-game advertising and raising awareness through gameplay.

    Novarum Team Photo
    Team Novarum: Ryan Bottriel, Zara Tooth, Matthew Fournier, Skye Gagne and Jean-Sylvain Sormany (mentor)


     
    Phylo from McGill University

    The Problem: Traditionally, multiple sequence alignment algorithms use computationally complex heuristics to align the sequences. Unfortunately, the use of heuristics do not guarantee global optimization as it would be prohibitively computationally expensive to achieve an optimal alignment. This is due in part to the sheer size of the genome, which consists of roughly three billion base pairs, and the increasing computational complexity resulting from each additional sequence in an alignment.

    Our Solution: Humans have evolved to recognize patterns and solve visual problems efficiently. By abstracting multiple sequence alignment to manipulating patterns consisting of coloured shapes, we have adapted the problem to benefit from human capabilities. 
    By taking data which has already been aligned by a heuristic algorithm, we allow the user to optimize where the algorithm may have failed.

    Phylo

    Team Phylo: Chu Wu, Alfred Kam, Jerome Waldispuhl (mentor)


     
    Project Beacon from Carleton University

    The Problem: The problem with today’s society is that we take the environment for granted. We know the consequences but we lack the mentality to change because it does not affect us directly in our daily lives. Environmental damage is a long-term process that can only be solved through environmental sustainability, and with that, we will ensure future generations will live in a safe and sustainable world.

    Our Solution: The goal of Project Beacon is to show, through a game, the impact of human activity on the planet, and how actions of one person can help to improve the environment. Our game will highlight the importance of renewable energy sources (sun, wind, water), and focus on the art style in order to show, visually, a shift between a polluted world and a clean world.

    Team Beacon

    Team Project Beacon: Gar Lam, Clark McGillis, Curtis Field, Eva Demers-Brett and Jean-Sylvain Sormany (mentor)

       

    Congratulations again to our Canadian finalists and to all the other great entries we received in the Windows Phone game category! It's students like you who inspire all of us to make a difference! We’ll see you at the finals!

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    ImagineCup from a judge’s view

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    ET_2008As you know now, the ImagineCup final in Canada is soon, very soon. As this is the first step to go to the worldwide final, I thought it could be great to have a quick interview with one of the judges. Etienne Tremblay, also a Canadian, was kind enough to answer my questions.

     

    Hi Etienne, as a judge for the ImagineCup final for a couple of years now, in your own words what this competition is all about?
    This is the best “conference” I have attended in the last 5 years, first in Korea, next in Cairo, followed by Paris, then Poland and finally New York last year.  It is just the best gathering of selfless ideas by student that really want to change the world.  They are super motivated and really want to show us their idea and they want to be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.  They have a goal to solve the world biggest and hardest problems as stated by the Unesco Millennium goals and they do a great job doing it!


    Can you explain what is your role as a member of the fairness committee?
    For any completion to be considered fair, there needs to be rules, as part of the fairness committee, my fellow members and I make sure that the rules are looked at and that all the teams can get a fair shot at winning.  That involves making sure the scoring is normalized to account for judges ranges, we also look at all the rounds and what they (the teams) need to present, the time they are allotted and the time for QA with the judges.  There is a lot going on in the background that needs our attention and I’m really proud to be a member of that team.


    I’m sure it’s not easy to find a winner among all the amazing projects, but which one amaze you the most?
    I have seen a LOT of projects, about 20-25 each year (x5) is about 120 projects, plus the prelim rounds that can go up to more than 200.  There is such a variety of projects that it makes it hard to pick one.  The project that marry a good purpose, great innovation and architecture and an outstanding business model usually make the final 6 and that’s where the project really shine.  The team needs to be real cool cats presenting in front of 500-600 people plus all the media up at the top.  But they usually pull it off.  I don’t want to pick just one, making it to the top for me is a great achievement for all those teams and their project were all worth it.  Solving drought issues, malaria, communication over desert via the radio, Kinect rehabilitation programs for patients, a glove for the blind and mute to be able to read are just examples of the kind of project that make the finals.

    I need to say that I’m jealous as you will go to Australia for the final. Except the travel what are the other advantages for students to participate?
    This will be the best adventure of their lives for the camaraderie, the competitiveness, the global exposure, to see if they got what it takes to be an entrepreneur, for the meetings with other students, judges and the host country reception, I want to emphasize that fact, the host countries in all the Finals I have attended have all done a great job receiving, wining and dining, and showing off their best features to the student.  This will be something they will never forget and will talk about for a long time.  I might sound cliché but being nominated is more than just an honor for the students, they should view participation in an event like this their first door into the world of competitive work.


    Any tips and tricks for our Canadian students?
    Make sure you read all the criteria and cover them all.  Read the criteria and ask yourself if you were listening to your presentation would you understand what you are trying to present.  A good trick is to ask something that has no idea about your project (mom and dad or another student that doesn’t know what you are doing for example) and run the presentation to them make sure they tell you if they “got it”.  That goes a long way.  Also make sure you talk about how you plan on funding or making money with your idea this is worth 10% of your mark and can make a difference between being 12th or 13th…  

    Thanks for your time Etienne, and good luck to our Canadian team!

    Etienne Tremblay is an Associate Director in charge of the Microsoft technologies center at Fujitsu Canada in Montreal. He has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry and he specialized in Microsoft technologies in the last 12 years, specifically in managing the development process, he also has expertise in the mining and manufacturing industries. He has spoken at DevTeach since 2005 and is a Microsoft MVP and Imagine Cup Software Design judge since 2007.

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    Get those phone apps finished up, deadline for rewards is coming!

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    blog_smallTo get your free Xbox, Beats Headphones, Windows Phone, or other cool prizes from Developer Movement your app must be published by May 20, 2012!

    Just a reminder that the Developer movement “Start Something” competition that rewards you for publishing apps with cool prizes has a deadline of May 20th, 2012 at 11:59:59 PM Eastern Time.

    If you want to get your prizes you need to

    1. Get your app hub membership (free for students)
    2. Register for the competition at www.developermovement.ca
    3. Finish coding your Windows Phone application (need help getting started?)
    4. Go through the Application Submission checklist to improve the chances of passing certification the first time
    5. Submit your application.
    6. Your app must be a published application by the competition deadline. Certification takes a few days so don’t wait until May 19th to submit! Get those apps finished up and submitted!

    In case you’ve forgotten the goodies you could be taking home:

    Publish one app Kinect bundle
    10000 XBox live points
    Monster Beats Headphones
    1TB external hard drive
    KinectforWindows-Sensor angled_h_cL.jpeg
    Publish two apps Windows Phone
    35000 Xbox LIVE points
    $500 Prepaid American Express Card
    Xbox 360 Kinect bundle
    WindowsPhoneSmaller

    Publish three or more apps

    You are eligible for the final phase of the competition and could receive the Grand Reward

    promotion via Xbox Live and Microsoft properties of your application.

    With this competition, and the excitement around the new Windows Phone devices like the Nokia Lumia, there’s never been a better time to publish a Windows Phone app, get coding!

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    Tips and gotchas for Windows Phone: Road Trip Runner

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    This series features interviews with student Windows Phone app developers who share the lessons they learned building windows phone applications.

    This week’s interview features Kam Shing (Joe) Yip a student from Concordia University who built a game called Road Trip Runner

    To see more stories like this go here.

    rtr

    Could you briefly describe your application/game?

    Road Trip Runner is based on the imaginary little man that I used to think was running next to the car as I was bored looking out the window during a road trip. The player can choose the side of the window from where he wants to play the game. The game displays a little man running across the scene on your car window as seen with the camera from your Windows Phone.

    Tap on the screen to jump and dodge the incoming shurikens. The simple gameplay keeps the game casual.

    Did you use XNA, Silverlight or both?

    I used both XNA and Silverlight, but the game is mostly made in XNA. In particular, the textures calls, game loop and logic are in XNA. However, the game cannot be completed with XNA alone as XNA does not have access to all the tools necessary. For Road Trip Runner, I needed the raw camera data which can be accessed only through Silverlight.

    What was your banging your head against a wall moment?

    Save and load data. FileIO is not the same on the phone, I didn’t know the proper way of accessing data. In my mind I thought that a game is not the same if there cannot be a high score to beat! So I kept on pushing for the feature.

    Did you ever solve that issue?

    I wouldn’t say I solved the issue by myself. Fortunately, I have other friends working on their own apps and games which require save/load features. I asked for their help and they managed to help me solve it.

    If you had to build this same app again from scratch, what would you do differently?

    The menu, I wish I could have made a nicer menu system and better screen manager.

    Any nice surprises?

    The simplicity of the camera API was a surprise to me. In the beginning I didn’t have the right tools. I was using the 7.0 SDK. Raw camera data access can be found in the 7.1 SDK only. It took me a little time before realizing this, but when I got the chance to code in the right environment, it wasn’t long until I got the camera working. It went smoother than I expected it would.

    Did you leverage the mobile platform?

    The game is very mobile specific I would say. It is design to use what is particular about the mobile platform. So, it cannot be just any game. Mobile may have less power in terms of process or graphic, but there are functionalities that are specific to the phone, so the game is designed to use what is particular about new smartphones, their camera.

    Did you leverage the touch screen?

    The game uses tap for having the little man jump. It is the only way to control him

    What is one thing you think you did really well in this application?

    The idea I would say. It is funny how many people actually imagine a little man running alongside their ride. I saw a post on a webpage about the topic and I realize how many people actually imagine a little man running or at least something similar. I would like to bring this little game of ours to life and I did it.

    Where can I learn more about your app/game?

    yipksj.blogspot.ca

    Who developed this application?

    Joe Yip, that’s my publisher name. People call me Joe, but some calls me Kam Shing which is my other name. I am a computer science student at Concordia University in the computer games option. I make games for school projects, personal projects or events. I enjoy making games, not only it is fun, but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment.

    Look for Road Trip Runner on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

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    If I can build a Windows Phone app anyone can! Extra controls for free!

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    While the default controls in the Windows Phone SDK are nice, there are more free controls you can download and use as well to make your applications even better!

    My continuing adventures exploring Windows Phone application development. If you missed my early stories, you can find them here. Don’t forget Canada, you only have until May 20th, 2012 to have your app published to get prizes from developermovement.com

    I finally have a bit of time to go back to my Windows Phone app. I have a textbox for entering a time which forces numeric input. It works but I can’t help but feel there should be a better control than just a textbox. When I look at other windows phone apps I see a lot of really nice looking controls that I don’t see in my toolbox. After a little searching I discovered you can download a Windows Phone Toolkit and get more new Windows Phone controls for free!

    In this blog post I’ll talk about.

    • How to install the toolkit
    • How to add the new controls to my toolbar
    • What controls are in the toolkit

    So let’s see if I can figure out how to install this and take a look at what it gives me.

    Install the toolkit

    1. First I download the Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit.msi file to install the toolkit
    2. Agree to the terms of use.
    3. Run the file (you can save it then run it if you prefer, but I have pretty good internet connectivity so I’m going to run it directly)
    4. Now the installer launches, I accept the license agreement, click install, choose allow when prompted whether I want to let Windows run this software, and within a minute I get a message saying the software is successfully installed.

    Getting the new controls on your toolbox

    It’s installed, so now I launch Visual Studio and open up my project, but…uh… I don’t see anything different! When I go to the toolbox I still see the same list of controls. I look at the documentation tab ‘This project does not have documentation yet’, I read the page,lots of stuff about the controls, nothing about how to get them to show up in Visual Studio! Developer community to the rescue, a few Bing searches reveals the answer.

    1. In the Solution Explorer, add a reference to toolkit.dll which was installed but may not be added as a reference to your project. It shows up as Microsoft.Phone.Controls.Toolkit after you add the reference.

    image

    2. Add a new tab to your toolbox by right clicking on the toolbox and choosing Add Tab (You don’t have to do this, but by creating a new tab you can put all the new controls in one place so you can easily find them)

    3. Add the controls to the toolbox by going to your new tab in the toolbox, right click and choose Choose Items. In the Filter box type Microsoft.Phone.Controls so that all the phone controls are listed. Then select all the new controls you want to add. Just a quick note, some of these aren’t really controls unto themselves and are classes that are used by the controls (for example ListPickerItem is an item in the ListPicker Control). So you may not want to add all of them to your toolbox. Adding the reference allows you to use their functionality, adding them to the toolbox just gives you the ability to drag and drop them to your screens.

    image

    4. You should now see the controls in your toolbox

    image

    What new controls do I get?

    Wow there are a lot of them I’ll do what I can here to summarize, but I may not cover every single control. I’ll break it down the same way I did when I talked about the Windows Phone standard controls. There is no formal documentation of this toolkit so I have hunted for blog posts to help wherever possible.

    Controls for entering and displaying data

    • AutoComplete – This control allows you to have a list of words in the properties of the control. For example states, cities, provinces, countries. When someone starts typing in the control if they start typing a value in your list it will autocomplete the word. Found a blog with some tips on how to use it here
    • DatePicker – I like this one, it allows users to choose a date by scrolling to choose the day, month and year. image
    • ListPicker – This is basically a combo box control for Windows Phone, for really long lists you might prefer the LongList control. I found a blog post on ListPicker here.
    • RecurringDaysPicker – Enables you to select one or more days of the weekimage
    • TimePicker – allows you to select a time of day

    image

    • PhoneTextBox – is a rich text box control that allows action icons inside the text box that the user can tap as well as hints for users and length indicators. Good blog post here
    • LongListSelector – This is a good control for list boxes with a lot of values for the user to choose from. Found a good blog post here.
    • MultiSelectList – this is a list box control that allows you to select more than one value. Good blog post here.
    • ToggleSwitch – This is a great little control that is used in many Windows Phone applications for specifying ON/OFF values. Good blog post here.image

    Controls that do stuff

    • ContextMenu – you’ve seen this before, when someone taps and holds an item on the screen and a little pop up menu appears. We do it a lot in Windows applications. Like when you are in Microsoft Word and you right click you get a context menu for Cut, Copy & Paste. I found a blog post with some tips on this control here
    • PerformanceProgressBar – This control allows you to give feedback to a user about progress of a long running operation. Blog post here.

    Controls to make things look pretty

    • HubTile – just like the live tiles you see on the front page, you can add tiles to your application. Good blog post here.
    • WrapPanelControl – this allows you to create a panel that will organize child controls either horizontally or vertically. Blog post here.
    • LockablePivot – this control allows you to add a mode to the pivot control so that only the current item is shown. Blog post here.
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