Team Sano from the University of Calgary took home the KFC Russia award at Microsoft Imagine Cup worldwide finals. Their project will be featured at the Kentucky Fried Chicken flagship Store in Moscow and they received a $10,000 cash prize.WWFAwardsOnStage

We are sitting we are nervous thinking we will get it, we wont get it, we will get it, you can never tell and suddenly they said Team Sano, and we were just sitting and suddenly they said from Canada and we started shouting we went to the stage and it was very very nice, very exciting.” – Omar Addam, Team Sano.

It’s hard to put into words the atmosphere at the Imagine Cup worldwide finals awards ceremony. But I’ll try. First you have to understand the bulid up.

There are 71 countries and over 80 teams at world finals. Each team was selected as either top in their country or because they were outstanding in their category. For the past 3 days these teams have sacrificed sleep and any non-essential activities. Instead they are putting the finishing touches on their projects, demos, and presentations.

When I went to bed at 2 AM (the white nights and time zone changes mess you up), there are students still working. When I got up at 5 AM, students were asleep on bean bag chairs, or hard at work updating code and practicing pitches.

Most of these students have already spent 6 months, a year, or more, working on their projects, if one more sleepless night will help them win at the world finals, then it’s worth it.

Matt Smith (aka Dr Who) was our MC for the evening and had a chance to see a few projects before the big night (you can read his interview on The Next Web). When asked what he thought of the work by the students, he said he was impressed. He arrived expecting paper volcanoes, but instead saw a project from Uganda that is using a phone to help diagnose Malaria.

WWFMattSmith

Each team has a 10 minute presentation to a panel of four judges. Each judge gets 15 minutes (timed to the second!) to visit your booth and see the project first hand. After that there is nothing more the students can do. You would think they would catch up on sleep, but they are surrounded by other brilliant students from around the world who are just as passionate about technology as they are. Don’t forget we are in St Petersburg, Russia, so they take part in an amazing evening of cultural activities that includes getting your picture taken with a live bear!

Meanwhile the judges have deliberated, decisions have been made.

We arrive by bus to the stunning Alexdranski theatre. The teams are sitting on the lower level clutching their flags. A nervous chatter abounds. Emotion and tensions run high. This is what they’ve been working for, this is the moment where they find out if that hard work has paid off. Whenever a presenter walks on stage to announce the winner of a category, there is a hush shortly followed by a few screams as the winning team realizes they have just been called to the stage. Of course when Team Sano from Canada was announced there were screams from the balcony as well, I was more than a little excited!

WWFTheatre

So what happens next? Well Team Sano won the KFC Russia Award. That means they get $10,000 and their application will be featured at the KFC flagship store in Moscow. The team from KFC is really excited about Team Sano’s work. They can’t wait to start working with the team!

Congratulations Team Sano! You worked hard, you earned this! I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Thank you HTC for sponsoring the Canadian finals, and Alberta Innovates for your work encouraging teams like Sano to take part.