Today, we are announcing the new Imagine Cup Kodu Challenge for students worldwide ages nine to 18. This new contest uses Microsoft Research’s Kodu Game Lab, a Windows PC software package that enables even young kids to create their own video games. Available for free and translated into a dozen languages, Kodu includes a complete kid-friendly programming language and tools to sculpt landscapes; decorate them with trees, buildings, lakes and other objects; and populate them with interactive characters, gameplay, scoring systems and more. Kids can program real game logic using nothing more than an Xbox game controller (or a mouse and keyboard). To date, kids around the world have created more than 16,000 video games with Kodu, which are available for free download from KoduGameLab.com.

We know kids love video games. With Kodu Game Lab, they can make them, learning and mastering diverse skills in the process. When kids realize that they too can transition from being passive consumers of content to vigorously engaged creators, they will understand that their futures are unbounded and that embracing risk and learning from failure are how good minds become great.

For this contest we have two age brackets: 9-12 and 13-18. Within each age bracket we are awarding 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes of $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000. You can submit your project whenever you're ready up until our deadline of May 17.

We also have a theme: Water & People. Water is our world's most precious resource and it can both give life and take it away. To explore this theme we've partnered with Mercy Corps, a fantastic organization based in Portland, Oregon, that works with people in crisis zones all over the world. With their help we will be bringing you some great new videos exploring real Mercy Corps projects involving the role of water around the world and giving you some jumping-off points to create games inspired by their work. Stay tuned for these to start turning up in April!

And just to get you going, we've collaborated with the Kodu team in Microsoft Studios to bring you a brand new version of Kodu Game Lab! You'll find new features and new characters created specifically for this contest, including Octo, water-current generators, and more. We've even added Windows 8 touchscreen support! As always, Kodu Game Lab is a free download for your Windows PC. It's been a real pleasure to work with Scott Fintel on the Kodu team to bring this new version of Kodu to the world.

Finally, I'd like to thank our friends at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a foundation studying the ways kids use digital media. Based within Sesame Workshop, the team at the Cooney Center helped us create the theme for this contest and are strong supporters of games for learning.

      

If you know a student ages 9-18, please send them our way. They may not yet know what they're capable of creating, but they're about to find out!

John Scott Tynes
Imagine Cup Competition Manager
Microsoft Academic Programs