Australian Imagine Cup finalists have been announced. Three teams will go to ReMix later this month to duke it out to see who will reign supreme as Australian Imagine Cup champ (aswell as the chance to go on to Korea to compete in the International finals).

 I'm charged with organising the Australian competition this year, so thought I'd run through a quick QnA for those of you who are unfamiliar with Imagine Cup.

Q - "What the heck is Imagine Cup?"

A - It's the world's premier software deisng competition for uni students. Students from around the world compete in their local domestic finals, and the winner progresses to the World finals, which is usually held in some exotic locale. India, Japan, Korea, France - sound good?

Q - "OK, Why?"

A - It's a chance for us to do something cool with students that might be above and beyond what many universities offer. The competition gives a chance for students to make industry contacts, showcase their skills and talents, gives a chance for worldwide travel and a share in AU$25000 worth of prizes (and thats the prize pool in Australia alone). Having competed in a similar competition when finishing up study at University of Sydney all those years ago, I know the value these events can add to a semester long Information Systems or Computing Science subject.

Q - "What support is offered?"

A - Firstly, each team is supplied with an industry mentor to guide their entries and supply expert feedback. Secondly, they are supplied with an Imagine Cup launch kit, containing a copy of Visual Studio Express and materials and resources introducing them to the .NET platform (all entries must retain some element of .NET). Thirdly, in Australia, next year's competition will also involve real-world clients for those teams who wish to add an extra element to their project. Finally, there is room in the running of the Australian Imagine Cup to incorporate the competition into a semester's subject - universities that do so can rely on the support, expertise and resources of Microsoft Australia to help administer the course.

 Q - How do I find out more?

A - Any faculty member (or indeed anyone at all) wishing to find out more information about the Imagine Cup, check out http://www.microsoft.com/australia/imaginecup/competition.aspx or http://blogs.msdn.com/ic2007.

Since I'm heading up the charge to start recruiting for next year's competition, you can also shoot me an email t-nice@microsoft.com for more information or resources. It's too late for teams to enter this year, but the theme for next year's competition will be announced soon, and as soon as it is, teams can register for next year's competition. The 2008 finals are to be held in France, so if you'd like a French holiday on Microsoft, grab a bunch of your students and get coding!