“Everyone says you need to have experience, well Imagine Cup gives you the experience you need.”

Those are the words of Francesca Guerrera of Reverse, a team of students from Italy who competed in the Imagine Cup World Finals last month. The quote sums up what we heard from participants throughout the competition. It’s not just the final competition they will remember, but the year of learning that will last a lifetime.

Talking to teams who made it to Seattle gave us a renewed perspective on what exactly student developers take home from Imagine Cup. The teams’ ideas and experiences vary, but most agree the competition and year leading up to it taught them not just to develop innovative products and solutions, but important life skills. They learned team work, how to create business models, and public-speaking skills. They got access to mentors and industry professionals, and learned of other programs that could help push their projects along.

Simple ideas blossomed into projects and then businesses. Some planned to return home and start companies, others returned to school and planned to encourage fellow students to participate. And a few team members vowed to mentor students with projects.

KC Grant of Access Earth of Ireland said Imagine Cup helped her team quickly turn an idea for an app into a project. The team plans to launch a startup next year and introduce the world to its solution to help people with mobility issues. But that aside, KC says she learned lessons that will help her in school, in work, and in life.

“Everything we learned was very practical and will come in handy in our careers,” KC said. “We were coached on interview techniques and presentation skills. Imagine Cup gave us skills that will help us in the real world.”

Hayden Do of Team Estimeet from New Zealand agreed, and encouraged students around the world to consider entering.

“Participation in the competition teaches you skills you don’t learn in university,” he said. “You get to network with students and businesses and IT professionals from around the world. When I
first decided to enter, I had absolutely no idea that seven months later I would be half way across the world representing my country.”

Hayden also understands that taking on a project like this may concern those with limited time, but challenged students to look at the big picture rather than focusing on the hours. He said the experience is worth the investment.

“When I was deciding whether to compete, I was worried about the time it would take,” he said. “But I managed to balance it, and it also allowed me to develop my time management skills in prioritizing and setting deadlines.”

All of these valuable skills came with the competition. As we plan to kick off the new season this month, we look forward to  watching more student developers get excited about improving the future of the world through innovative projects. Use Imagine Cup as an opportunity to come up with an idea, turn it into a solution, maybe even launch a startup. And along the way, you will learn valuable lessons. Register now for the 2015 season!