It's hard to believe it's only been a month since we launched the 2013 Imagine Cup season! The response has been fantastic and I've really enjoyed talking with so many of you on Facebook and Twitter. We did a Twitter chat recently with Imagine Cup alumna Sally Buberman that was great fun and you can read a transcript here. You can always find me at our Facebook page and of course at @ImagineCup so please say hello!

The question I've gotten more than any other this month is a great one:

Q: Can I use open source/videogame engines/middleware in my Imagine Cup project?

A: Yes. As per our official rules, your use of any copyrighted material (including open-source projects released under licenses such as Creative Commons) is allowed as long as you obey the law and any license agreements. So if there's a code library released under a Creative Commons license, you're welcome to use it -- just read the license and ensure you can do what it says. If you're making a game and want to use an engine like Unity, go ahead. If you're doing an Azure touchscreen web app and want to use Atari's MIT-licensed touchscreen HTML5+CSS+JavaScript libraries, sure thing!

Or for that matter, if you want to build a Windows Phone 7.5 app entirely within Microsoft Research's awesome TouchDevelop environment -- which lets you build an entire app right on your phone -- you're welcome to. You'll just need to export your TouchDevelop project to a binary package suitable for sideloading onto a developer-unlocked phone.

Related to that, I've heard from some people asking about how to submit projects that include hardware (like our Ukrainian winners from Sydney 2012, QuadSquad!) or that rely on secure logins or other infrastructure that would make it hard for our judges to evaluate your project. We're working on an official rules update to address these situations but the short version is: don't worry. We'll find a way to evaluate your projects. Of course, you'll need to be running part of your solution on one of our platforms -- Windows, Azure, etc. -- but we are very open to projects that span hardware/software, networks, and so on.

Behind the scenes, we've been working with our Microsoft offices around the world to organize their national finals events that lead into the announcement of our worldwide finalists this spring. You can expect to hear about Imagine Cup national competitions in the next few weeks so you'll have the latest on their deadlines and submission requirements. We're also doing some work on our website to ensure that you'll see the right information for whatever country you're competing in.

And finally, we're working on more new contests and more ways to win! We launched with three competitions and three challenges, but we have a few surprises for you still to be revealed. Stay tuned, and if you haven't registered a free account on our website to get our monthly newsletter, please do! Because around here, we aren't done dreaming either.

John Scott Tynes
Imagine Cup Competition Manager
Microsoft Academic Engagement