One of the things I care most deeply about is education, ensuring that the next generation has the opportunities they need to help build a better tomorrow.  This is why I personally invest time in support of the Imagine Cup, which brings together students from all over the world to apply their learning, their skills, their inspirations, and their passions to the world’s toughest problems.

In the 10 years the Imagine Cup has been running, millions of students from hundreds of countries have participated, using technology to help fix the environment, eradicate diseases, address world hunger, improve gender equality, ensure people everywhere have access to education and healthcare, and more.  The goals are lofty, but more impressive than the goals themselves are the solutions these students devise to achieve them.

This year, the 10th worldwide finals are being held in Australia in July, with 372 students from 106 teams across 75 countries competing.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in the program for all 10 years, and you can participate as well, from the comfort of your own office or home.  Over 60 of these teams have submitted videos to the People’s Choice Award competition, where you get to vote for your favorite team and solution. These votes will determine which team gets the $10,000 prize.

I urge anyone reading this blog post to go to the People’s Choice Award site, view the videos, and vote.  If the humanitarian nature of the projects alone is not enough to garner your interest, you might be interested from a technological perspective, as well: many of these projects are just plain cool, making use of all manner of Microsoft technology.  Across all of the finalists worldwide, 20% of all of the projects involve Windows 8 and Metro style apps.  Almost 50% of all of the finalists are using Windows Azure.  Almost 70% of the education-related projects are using Kinect for natural user interfaces.  And more than 60% of the finalists have created solutions for Windows Phone 7.

Note that if you’re a student, through DreamSpark you can get Visual Studio, SQL Server, and other software and training for free to help you build similar solutions.  Simply create an account, verify your student status, and you’re off and developing.

I’m both excited and humbled by what these minds have been able to achieve.  I’ve no doubt you will be, too.