Microsoft’s Imagine Cup asks students to take on the challenge to develop technology to make a difference in the world. In the process we hope they’ll have an experience that will inspire them to think broadly about the future.

This year nearly 300 teams of Kiwi tertiary students took on the challenge of imagining a world where technology solves the toughest problems – and to prove it can be done. It’s a gauntlet of ingenuity, perseverance and entrepreneurial skill. Just twenty teams were chosen to compete at the NZ Imagine Cup 2011 finals festival in April 2011 at the University of Auckland.

“The calibre of entries was incredible this year,” says Nigel Parker, who is closely involved in organizing the competition. The Kiwi teams are working on diverse technology concepts, ranging from software for education, to assisting the blind, to rewarding social responsibility, and zapping mosquitoes.

They’ll build from an idea into a proof of concept and business plan that is tested in front of an audience of hundreds of their peers and the competition judges. The winning team will take part in an international qualifying round to earn the chance to represent our country at the world wide finals in New York.

Worldwide, more than 300,000 students compete in Microsoft Imagine Cup events. Earlier this year we were enormously proud of Team OneBeep from New Zealand, who achieved third place at the worldwide finals in Warsaw, Poland after winning this year’s New Zealand event.

You can read more about the finalists and follow their progress on Twitter by searching for #icnz.