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It was suddenly the final day… literally the day of judgement! It had flown by, and we had had such an amazing experience, but it wasn’t all over just yet. Our last day consisted of another showcase, but this time demoing to the young Russian community and then finally the moment we had all been waiting for- the awards ceremony!
We absolutely loved the Community showcase, It was amazing and probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the competition so far! SoundSYNK are very big on giving back and we help out at our own university already with students who want to start companies. We came from the same humble beginnings as they did, and if we could help people have the same amazing experiences as we have had, that is incredible. We are very proud of where we come from and we loved to see that the Imagine Cup have similar values to us. We really tried to put on a show for all the kids and even started to attempt our first stunt of catching a tune in mid air!
After the fun of the showcase and the amazing feelings we got from the smile and awe on the kids and parents faces, we were ecstatic, but again didn’t have much time to think before we were whisked away to go to the awards ceremony!
Our emotions had rapidly developed from nervous to Scared witless. We almost had prepared ourselves to lose as the thought of winning seemed so far from reach. At that point we had finally had time to have a sneak preview of the other teams and they really were as good as everyone described, which really didn’t help the nerves!
When we reached the venue for the awards ceremony it was beautiful, which doesn’t surprise us, as it matched the whole of St. Petersburg. We were lucky enough to get to go to the Alexandrovsky theatre which was jaw dropping and truly majestic. It was awesome that the core team at the Imagine Cup had been able to secure such an amazing place it really made the ending!
The ceremony started, and in true Imagine Cup style, it was stunning. They had the Russian Ballet perform, traditional Russian folk dancers and many more performances that stunned us. It was more than we could ever expect and it was made better by the whole ceremony being presented by a UK local, Matt Smith (Doctor who). What a show!
The closer we got the the Innovation category announcement the worse our nerves got. We were picking up the itinerary every 2 mins in the hope that the innovation category would move closer. Having to sit through an, albeit epic, 2 hour ceremony before your own category is announced, really doesn’t help with your heart rate!
But finally it started! They had saved the best till last and Innovation category was announced. Steve Guggenheimer, the Chief Vice President and Chief Evangelist at Microsoft, presented the award alongside Matt Smith, and went through the runners up of the category at what seemed like a painstakingly slow pace! First came 3rd place, which we were hoping like crazy wasn't us. Then came second and it was the exact same feeling same with second. But that’s when the nerves really started to kick in. It dawned on us it was all or nothing. This was it… Could we have actually won!?
They opened the first place envelope and a smile spread across the Dr’s face and the mention of ‘You will like this one Matt’ gave us a rush of excitement. We honestly had no idea until that moment that we could even have won it. Then they announced ‘And the winners are team Co-linked from the UK’... I don’t think happy describes it. You can see in the image, that moment was truly Epic. We SoundSYNK had represented our University, our friends and family and more importantly our country and managed to actually win! it was one of the best moments of our life and we will never forget! The support everyone has given us is what got us there.
It’s true what they say about life-changing moments, and the Imagine Cup was definitely one of those for SoundSYNK and our own lives. We couldn’t recommend the process more to young people out there the competition is 100% worth it! We have learnt more through this process than 2 years at university and no internship could provide any where near as many skills as we have learnt on this process. Not to mention the adventure is just amazing! To think that without this competition there would be no SoundSYNK or Co-linked is completely alien, and we are forever thankful to everyone who has supported us from the Microsoft Representative Natasha Joseph, Tracy Costello and the amazing people from the Exeter Guild, Setsquared Camps, Exeter Business School, our mentor Calum Cawley, Creative England and every single person who has liked a post or given us criticism or praise. Every single person is key to the journey we have been on and they are all a part of our family. We are so grateful to all of them for helping us!
After what can only be described as an extremely long and tiring day the day before, we were exhausted when we woke up. Our task today was to present to each of the judges one on one, in a 15 minute hands on showcase. It was their chance to get their hands on our technology, ask us all of the questions they had been dying to ask from the presentation showcase we did the day before, but also to find out a bit more about us as a business. We knew we were in for some more grilling!!
We had researched all of the judges in detail so we knew all about them and allowed us to deduce what questions they were likely to ask. This preparation allowed us to answer almost everything with confidence although there were a couple of future questions which we quite didn't know how to answer. Overall this was the perfect way for us to get some real industry insight into how our app is perceived by the professionals and it was a great way for us to keep refining our business model.
That was it, the judging and essentially the competition was officially over!! We could do no more. It was such a nice relief. We honestly didn't know who the competition was as we hadn't even had time to have a look around. We kept hearing some snippets of awesome ideas which made us slightly nervous but chose to forget about them and just have some fun. At that point we had done everything we could so all we wanted to do was enjoy the rest of the ride. We didn’t have much time to think after the Judging Showcase, as we were immediately whisked away to our cultural day out with all of the teams and it was brilliant!!
From stroking bears, sawing logs, tug of war and extreme pillow fighting, the beautiful Russian Village they had taken us to literally had it all! It was our chance to finally relax, and it was much needed!
We were then taken to one of St. Petersburg’s most beautiful attractions, the ‘Peterhof Palace and Park Gardens’. There was truly no sight like it, and we are ecstatic to be able to say that we have been able to see such beauty…that and the many Russian girls!!!
Time to put all the practise into action….
It seemed like it was a long time coming, but finally the competition began. It was not about peacocking around in our fancy dress or dominating a blackboard anymore, but about really selling ourselves and our company. The night before we had done as much presentation as possible, with our script being pretty much spot on and in all honesty we were ready. We won’t lie, we were extremely nervous but we went in with the attitude we can only do our best and see what happens.
After what seemed like the longest 30 minutes of our life, the presentation was finally done! But this was only the beginning… Everyone complimented us and said it went well but we were disappointed. We got cut off too early and didn’t have a chance to showcase our big finale routine which was frustrating, especially since in practises our time was perfect. Nevertheless our demo went amazing and the look on peoples faces was priceless, and that is what SoundSYNK is all about. We then had 10 minutes of questioning, which went really well, we answered all of them smoothly and with confidence it was a really nice feeling to have such a strong understanding of our own business. To have industry experts grill us about our business and actually seem to like our answers was an amazing feeling, and made the previous mess up seem obsolete.
After the early start it was time for a break and we needed to relax, so what better way than to explore St Petersburg. It was beautiful! The buildings, the history, it was all amazing. I think there is no doubt in our minds that we will definitely be travelling back!
We even got to sample some of the local cuisine…amusingly we decided instead of going to a Russian restaurant we would go to McDonald’s! Clearly we were more interested in comparing the difference of ‘Big Mac’ quality in Russia, than we were of tasting something traditional- although it’s safe to say the quality was good! We wandered all over St Petersburg that afternoon having a jolly old time with some amusing stories coming out of that day!
After a really nice day out we returned back to the hotel just in time for the press showcase, which was our chance to try and get as much global publicity as we could. We performed in a demo space to crowds of journalists and PR people getting lots of attraction and even catching the attention of other teams. It was brilliant and it was our first chance to allow people a hands on experience of our app and a chance to see what we are all about!
After a tough day travelling it was time for the team to make their first mark….
The next day we were up bright and early and had a look around the place. One word… AWESOME! Microsoft really know how to throw an event! After looking around we managed to spot two large empty blackboards, at this point our immaturity kicked in and we decided to take over the whole blackboard with our logo!
It was safe to say, we were already dominating the competition!
The first day was so much fun! Although there was no official competing just yet, we could still feel it in the air, but in true SoundSYNK manner, we didn’t want to take things too seriously just yet and instead decided to cause a little bit of a stir…
We had planned beforehand on trying to get people’s attention whilst we were out there, and had devised a plan.. The usual attire of teams is to wear a hoody or a tracksuit with your team name on it, but we decided to go that step further and introduced the team Onesie! Everyone loved them and they definitely had the affect we wanted! From what we hear, Onesies will be the new global team uniforms… great to know we started the trend!
After prancing around causing a scene, we finally decided to get registered and sat through a briefing session informing us on what we should be expecting over the next few days and it finally dawned on us just how many amazing student teams we were competing against. It wasn’t just the UK any more, we had gone global! After a quick team chat and pep talk, we head off back to our rooms for a night of practicing. We had a lot to polish up on especially since our presentation slot was at 8.30 the next morning!
There are moments in life that truly change everything. Whether it’s good or bad, your life can really turn just from one instant. February 15th, four students came together to form what could be a real game changer in the Windows Store space. It all started at an Imagine Cup regional event. Teams from around the country came together, all hoping to create award winning apps in the space of 48 hours. With a trip to St Petersburg, Russia, and $50,000 at stake, competition was stiff, and teams weren’t taking things lightly. It was at this event that SoundSYNK were born.
To give you some context, the Imagine Cup is a Microsoft Global app competition, bringing together some of the world’s brightest student technologists, who all compete to try and win cash prizes, trophies and the title… Think Eurovision but for apps! This year there were over 750,000 entries worldwide, with each country choosing one team that will represent them on the worldwide stage, and those finalist teams then battle it out to win the top prize. The UK have never won the Imagine cup thus far in its 10 years of existence, and have rarely made it past the first round. But this year it was all about to change…
SoundSYNK are a team of students from Exeter University, who started the competition not knowing each other, but all had the dream of learning how to create and deploy an app into store and with the more important aspiration of winning big money! But who knew that just by randomly sitting together at the start of a day, would equal the creation of a dream team! Read about how the team began here.
Since winning both the UK rounds of the Imagine cup competition, and being named ‘UK Imagine Cup Winners’, the boys spent day and night preparing for the Worldwide finals in Russia, and last week (8th July-12th July) they competed against all the other top teams around the world. To read their day-by-day diary of their gruelling but life-changing week, read on…
6 am is an early start for any student, and there was no change here! Our flight was leaving early that morning from Heathrow and although we showed a groggy and somewhat calm exterior, our nerves were high for the upcoming competition. We didn’t really know what to expect, so the best thing to do was to keep an open mind, just have a great time and most of all meet some amazing people!
After what we’d assume was a gentle flight- although nothing can be confirmed as we were all fast asleep!- we got off the plane to a seemingly dingy building and a massive queue.. Was this Russia!?
Around 2 hours later, we finally made it through customs, grabbed our bags and were greeted by some cheerful Imagine Cup representatives. We were soon sorted out and before we knew it we were making some amazing friends on the bus and driving through St. Petersburg, which we can only describe as one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen!
When we got to the hotel it was quite late around 9pm so we headed to the restaurant and had a nice dinner then decided to get an early night… We had a big week ahead of us!
We’ll post about Day 2 tomorrow!
Hi everyone! My name is Rebecca Moore and I've just joined the Academic Team within the Developer Platforms Evangelist (DPE) team at Microsoft. I'm taking over Natasha’s role, though I am very lucky to have Natasha with me still here until the 1st of August. Although I've only been here just over a week, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere different for this year. In this blog I want to share my journey on how I came to be in this unbelievable situation, a week into my year at Microsoft.
As a bit of background on me, I study International Business at Loughborough University and absolutely love it. I'm originally from Maidenhead in Berkshire, so very near to the Microsoft HQ which is great for me.
Loughborough University is actually where this unreal Microsoft journey began. I came across an opportunity from On Campus Promotions to be a Microsoft Student Brand Ambassador for Loughborough University, and decided this would be something I would really love to do - so I applied. I sent an initial application, and when I passed the first stage I then had a Skype interview. My Skype interview was actually on my lunch break of my NPLQ lifeguarding course, so I rushed home soaking wet out of the swimming pool into my interview which was entertaining! I was so happy when I found out I'd been successful.
As a Microsoft Student Brand Ambassador, I worked directly with On Campus Promotions as the face for Microsoft on Campus at Loughborough University. My role was to engage with the student population, giving information and advice on placements and the MACH scheme at Microsoft. This involved frequent social media, emails, attending careers fairs, putting up posters and being involved in the Cube Event – a HUGE white inflatable Cube which we brought onto campus, filled with all the latest Microsoft technology, current interns and HR. All ambassadors attended a training day at Microsoft UK HQ here at TVP last August. I was genuinely in awe of the unbelievable offices and facilities here, and it was from that day I had no doubt that I wanted to become a part of Microsoft.
If you're interested in Microsoft, being an Ambassador is an opportunity which I would really recommend going for in order to start off. It really drove my love for Microsoft and the innovative ‘what makes you makes Microsoft’ culture. Similar opportunities include being a Microsoft Windows 8 Ambassador, or a Microsoft Student Partner. If being an Ambassador for Microsoft isn't for you, On Campus Promotions offer opportunities to students with over 25 big name companies, such as Deloitte, Barclays, IBM and Nestle. If you love engaging with people and want to boost your CV, I'd really recommend checking these opportunities out. You can contact me directly for any further information if you like.
If you're serious about applying for Microsoft as an intern, a really useful resource is the www.beyourfuture.net blog. I'd honestly say that if you could imagine yourself working at Microsoft – apply. You don't have to be advanced in technology, if Microsoft see you can offer something to the business, they'll offer you a role. This applies to you whatever University you went to and whatever degree background you have. I never completely believed it could be me sitting here writing this article – so it could be exactly the same for you too!
I'm so excited for my year with Microsoft and am really keen to hear as much as possible from you guys as students. If you have any questions or feedback at all, just get in touch with the Microsoft UK Students Facebook page which I'll be running. You can also follow me on Twitter at @t_remoor, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in touch!
Whilst it's not a student who's written this app it is a very well structured article describing their app design and development process and I thought you'd find it interesting.
UI Centric are the brains behind the amazing new Great British Chefs app (GBC), which is pretty much the most beautiful app on Windows 8. Check out the video at the end of the article to see it in action. Despite having hugely successful GBC apps in the iOS and Android Stores, UI Centric were charged with creating no less than the best app in the Windows 8 Store. UI Centric’s Director of Service Dan Ulzhoefer explains how they sweated over the UX and design process to bring the idea to life.
“We were really excited by the opportunity of taking the GBC digital experience to a whole new level on Windows 8.. When I met with the CEO of GBC, Oliver Lloyd, we discussed very early on during the pitch process our desire to create a standout application that really showcased the incredible content. We had a mutual passion and commitment to create a truly spectacular experience, which along with our strong credentials in developing for the Windows ecosystem meant we were lucky enough to be selected as their design and development partner. Our goal from the very outset was to create the best application in the Windows Store, with a UX that surpassed that of other platforms (and they’re pretty good as well, to be totally impartial!).
We identified two primary use cases for the app. Firstly, to entertain, delight and inform users through the beautiful high res food imagery, chef bios, articles and video content. Secondly, to aid in cooking recipes using the advanced recipe search function, recipe details and step-by-step cooking mode interface, timer function and shopping list with isle and ingredients views (you do need to buy the ingredients before you can start cooking, after all).
Our Information Architects (IA) led the UX process. Starting with defined user requirements and our knowledge of the platform we started to wireframe, in detail, the UX. Wireframes are the blueprint of the UX that detail navigation, taxonomy and hierarchy of content, features and functionality.
Our UX ideation process was very involved – we conducted multiple workshops with GBC before inking any designs. It was important to first understand the experience we intended to create to meet the needs of our users. We went through numerous iterations of the UX before moving on to the design to make sure we didn’t just build a beautiful application. We wanted to go much deeper and build an intelligent UX that leveraged many of the native capabilities of the Windows 8 platform. Multiple iterations of wireframes were worked and reworked until we were satisfied with the application we intended to build. The final application experience was designed to capture the user’s attention straight from the initial loading of the hub pages’ elegant transitions (created in Expression Blend), stunning imagery and an immersive and playful recipe search randomizer. The information architecture was devised to ensure that navigation between content is fluid, feeling like an evolving exploration rather than diving deeper and deeper into a hierarchical structure with potential dead ends. Sweating over the UX doesn’t ad overhead, instead it means saving time and money further down the build process and results in a much happier customer!
Windows 8 was the ideal platform to fulfil the two primary use cases because of its native capabilities, such as semantic zoom, snap views, notifications, live and secondary tiles, search and share. Each of these Windows 8 features has been instrumental in taking the GBC app to a new level of refinement. Separating the graphic design stage from the UX process removes biased decision-making influencing the planning of the experience. Once the UX is largely agreed the graphic designs can kick off in earnest. We invest an equal amount of effort in design, working collaboratively with GBC to ensure compliance with brand guidelines, whilst creating a visually arresting interface design. We really were able to create something special. The “content first” philosophy of the Windows 8 platform is a fantastic fit for the Great British Chefs’ brand. The platform highlights their fantastic imagery and recipe content.
Once the design was approved we started the build using C# and XAML in Visual Studio, which gave us a lot of flexibility. From our perspective, developing for Windows 8 is really productive due to its coding flexibility and the development tools made available using Visual Studio and Expression Blend. This lets us continually push the design and animation envelope, but still deliver within deadlines and to budget. Performance was key, every transition, animation and interaction had to be elegant. We wrote an entirely bespoke navigation stack that let us completely manage page loading, caching and transitions. We could selectively preload sections of forthcoming pages, cache already created visuals and pages for re-use and selectively overlap pages to allow for smoother page transitions. This led to a much faster and improved experience. The entire team works in an open plan office and regular interaction is encouraged. All team members have full visibility of iterative work throughout the project to make sure that the UX envisaged at the start of the project is manifested in development. Building the GBC app was unique in that we took a joint development approach with GBC to transfer knowledge to the GBC development team so they could continue to maintain the application. To support this Windows 8 development onboarding we hosted GBC regularly at our offices and collaboratively developed the application, offering guidance and advice throughout the process. They were and remain to be an absolutely pleasure to work with. We have an excellent rapport, built on a common ambition to create something special that we’re all proud of. We used Windows Azure to host all the videos and articles because it allowed GBC to host their extensive catalogue of videos in a cost-effective way that can scale with their business. The streaming quality and speed is fantastic!
We’ve got lots going on at the moment – we just launched Time Out for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 across 6 regions and we’re about to launch a sophisticated Line of Business application that leverages a Windows 8 UI and Windows Azure backend. On top of that we’ve got two Xbox media applications due to launch in July 2013 and several other Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 applications in production. Our customers are getting phenomenal results from the platform and we encourage them to take a closer look (or get in touch!)
Company Bio UI Centric are market leading multi-platform User Experience (UX) Solutions Company. We provide services to clients in the United Kingdom, Continental Europe and North America. Our services include Information Architecture (IA), Design, Development/QA and Project Management. Additionally we have an in-house state-of-the-art user-testing lab, enabling early testing of UX and design concepts. We’re a Microsoft development partner and have successfully developed over 55+ Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox applications. We are expert in creating digital experiences that blend stunning design and best-in-class UX principles to ensure our client's digital properties work hard to deliver results. We are passionate about making things easier for users, ensuring that they can engage with their favourite brands in the most delightful manner, whenever and however within the contexts of their lives. You can find out more at www.uicentric.com.