As someone who works with Academics and students my year starts and ends in line with the Academic year (which is also more or less aligned with the Microsoft fiscal year but that is a different story).

So every year before term, we look back at what we have done “last year” and start thinking about what to do “next year”, so I thought I would share with you some of this.

image We kicked off “in style” with the Student Technology Day. It was a full day of talks and demos that we run on October 1st at the Royal Festival Hall in London. More than 300 students joined us there to learn about some of the cool things we are working on in search and ranking in games. But the real highlights of the day were Steve Ballmer’s keynote and (at least if you ask me) my session on Future User Experience and the Microsoft Surface.

image After such a great start we (meaning myself and my colleague Ed Dunhill) started travelling across the country for the Inspiration Tour a national series of technology talks for students where we showed some of our coolest technologies around design and games development.

In total we visited 35 Universities and met about 3,000 students in just more than three months. It was quite busy and tiring with all the travel up and down the country but I really enjoyed visiting so many places and meeting so many enthusiastic students!

Here is the list of all the Universities we visited:

image One of the technologies that has generated (and keeps generating) a lot of interest in students and Universities is XNA (for those who don’t know it, it is a technology and a set of tools that allow games development on PCs, Xbox 360 and mobile devices such as the Zune). Last year for the first time we organised X48 a marathon gamecamp where students and indie developers use Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio 3.0 to create a game in less than 48 hours on the theme of Evolution.

It was a spectacular event were the students consumed tons of pizzas, Red Bulls, Coke and created a lot of code and some really cool games (which you can find listed here).

image While doing all of this, we also run the 2009 Imagine Cup. The Imagine Cup the Imagine Cup is a global student technology competition focused on finding solutions to real-world issues.

The competition encourages the world's most talented software designers, programmers, game developers, and digital media enthusiasts to tackle, head on, issues related to: hunger relief, poverty, education, disease control, healthcare, the environment and other crucial problems facing our world today.

During the course of the year, we provide support, mentoring and advice to the competitors and it culminates with two main events: the UK final and the Worldwide Finals.

Last year we run the UK Finals at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, in an event we called Student Celebration Day, which was an event packed with interesting presentation by researchers at MSR and an award ceremony (you can see all the videos in Ed’s blog).

Eventually from the UK, 5 teams qualified for the worldwide finals:

The experience of the finals in Cairo was simply fantastic!!! We had a great time with all the competitors presenting their projects but also enjoying visits in the best spots of the city (pyramids, the Sphynx, the Egyptian museum, the Saladin fort, etc).

At the end we also had an incredibly good result:

The Software Design (Team KCL) and the Embedded Development (uUH) teams both qualified for the second round and finished in the world’s top 12.

The Games Design team (Sanguine Labs) won the third prize

The Fulham Four team won the overall competition, which is an amazing achievement!!!


All in all was a really busy and successful year. Now we are busy finalising the details of what we’ll do this year.

We of course would welcome any feedback on what you would like to see from us so especially if you are a student or an academic in the UK, please get in touch!