And…it’s on! Today marked the first day of the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals competition in N.Y.C. Teams from all over the world, including four of the U.A. teams, (note: Team LifeLens is presenting tomorrow) pitched judges in their representative project categories this afternoon, for their chance to get to the next level. We had the pleasure of sitting in on the presentations today, and wanted to be the first to give you the low down. Congratulations to all teams for making it this far in the process, and we’ll report back after the elimination round later tonight.
ICsquared, from Ithaca College, presented today to an esteemed panel of judges. Team members Ashley Alicea, Evan Marinaro, Corey Jeffers, and Marc Howard begun their pitch today, explaining “This battle is taking place every single day…in millions of women.” A powerful start for this team who created a fun and unique game that promotes maternal and child health. More than 500,000 women and 1 million children die each year from diseases ad ailments that take place in the embryonic stage.
Some of the game aspects—which they demoed in front of the judges this afternoon—including a demonstration of how to locate and remove (in the game) items such as alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine—virtually bring home the very real impact of poor health and lifestyle choices when a woman in pregnant. The medical resources section of their game has potential other applications as well, such as a resource for government agencies or school/university education.
The judges, which included Patricio Jutard the founder of Three Melons, a video game development company acquired by Playdom and later by The Walt Disney Company creator of the social game Bola, and Marina Pospergelis, a Computer Graphic Interface Developer from Russia at InfoWatch.
To vote for this team in the People's Choice (ending soon!) please visit: http://bit.ly/mLbFKM
Syntax Errors, a team from Santiago Canyon College, also presented today in front of a great group of judges. Their project, F.R.E.D. is a market-ready, fully functional disaster response system that helps emergency responders find medicine, food, water, and other emergency aid services. F.R.E.D., which stands for First Responders Embedded Device, is a self-contained mobile workstation based on an embedded RTOS platform that can track assets in real-time.
The team members - Gary Kelley, Dale Laizure, Hayden Donze, and Bill Vetter are mentored by Dr. Ronald P. Kessler, PhD. They stood up to present today, and each took turns explaining the various properties of F.R.E.D. that they worked on.
F.R.E.D. is a tool that can help with disasters such as the recent Tsunamis in Japan, the earthquake in Haiti, and any future disaster that might occur. The team pointed out that it is within the first few days after a disaster that access to supplies, and the need for a tool such as F.R.E.D. is the most critical. Getting help to victims of a disaster as fast as possible helps keep people alive.
F.R.E.D. is battery-powered asset with GPS capability providing the user’s exact location and it tracks assets such as food and medical supplies every 5 seconds.
The judges, who included Sam Phung, the VP of sales and marketing for ICOP Technology, and Erwin Zwart , an embedded technology expert from the Netherlands were impressed with the real-word capabilities, the competitive differentiation matrix, and with the end-to-end solution, which included low-cost and off-the-shelf components.
Azmo the Dragon
Team members Veronica Burkel, Pierre Elias, Eric lee, Chase Sandmann, presented today to judges that included Tracy Fullerton, the Director, USC Game Innovation Lab, an experimental design group and think tank known for games such as Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying and The Night Journey, and Frank J. Lee the Associate Teaching Professor, Co-Director, Drexel Game Design Program and RePlay Game Lab, Drexel University.
Team Dragon has created a game called Azmo the Dragon, where technology helps solve the world’s toughest problems. Pediatric asthma is a serious global problem that 8 out of 10 children suffer from. It has enormous financial costs as well as self-esteem and lifestyle costs for those that suffer from it.
The 2D role playing game combines emerging technology and is on the Windows phone. It’s main goal is to destroy villages—the more fire your breath has (measured by the game spirometer), the more fire you have to destroy the villages. As your lungs get stronger, you have more fire. The game records the readings and sends to a doctor or alerts the user if lung function is failing. The game includes a diagnostic strategy – to CAR: calibrate, assess, and review. The game goals to use twice a day and includes an 8-hour a cool down and limits playing time as a way to keep children healthy.
The team demonstrated their game and showed the Peak Flow meter used daily monitors the changes in your lungs day to day, when you have the strongest lung volume, and the entire loop of lung function. Daily measurement is critical for users since sufferers can see the decrease in lung function before they have an asthma attack. The game also includes homework assignments such as understanding your peak flow meter, and because the game is enjoyable and provides data to doctors (for research, too), it has practical application for improving health and quality of life. The team would like to do a clinical study with funding from the national asthma association and others.
The judges’ questions included asking why the team wanted to use mobile, and the team responded that children are on smartphones, and this way they could play while away from home. In the long run the team would love to make their game part of the phone. Great questions and another interesting presentation.
To vote for this team in the People's Choice (ending soon!) please visit: http://bit.ly/iPLpg0
Imagine not being able to see the board in a classroom, or on a whiteboard in your office. Sadly that is the case for millions of people with impaired vision. Team Note-Taker team members David Hayden, Michael Asterisks, Qian Yan, and Shashank Srinivas pitched the judges today on their technology, which allows visually impaired students to take notes. To start their presentation they explained the market need, how existing technologies were very limited.
The team, from Arizona State University (ASU), had a personal reason for starting the company. David Hayden, a straight A student who is also legally blind, added a math major in college, and discovered that the notes in class would fill a dozen boards. He was not able to follow class—and had to withdraw from the class. He came up with an ideal solution that take a tablet PC that takes touch and pen inputs; attaches a camera that zooms on the board (pan and tilt); and uses custom software to support handwritten and typed notes, with camera manipulation. Methods today do not allow students to manipulate the camera, or are not portable. By using a solution such as the Note-Taker, students who are vision impaired can reduce the time and struggle in keeping up with their sighted peers in classes.
The technologies used include C++, Windows 7 SDK, Win32, C sharp, .NET framework, and the manufactured design helps lower cost (injection mold, consolidate electronics to one board).
The target audience is people with low-vision and the blind—people who right now might forego higher education due to simply not being able to see in the classroom. Other markets would include vocational rehabilitation agencies.
The team is looking at simplified models for developing markets, and wants to help mainstream low-vision students—so they can help make a huge global impact.
Team Note-Taker’s assistive technology for vision-impaired students would require VC funding, and the team discussed this with the judges, during the Q&A, as well as pricing, assumptions on how students would use it, and additional modifications.
To vote for this team in the People's Choice (ending soon!) please visit: http://bit.ly/jFXOMz
Stay tuned for the announcement tonight on who moves on to the next round!
Last night we were privileged to attend the Women Innovators Dinner at the Marriot Times Square Ballroom in NYC.
Allison Watson of Microsoft introduced the panel and gave some background on her career and her group—which is 50% female. Watson is a Corporate Vice President of the U.S. Marketing & Operations Group and leads marketing and strategic business development for Microsoft's largest geographic market.
Watson said that this year, the Microsoft Imagine Cup expanded from 30 women to 65 women student participants, with 4 women-only teams (from Brazil, India, Taiwan and Romania).
The purpose of the panel and dinner was to help get more women involved in technology, and encourage the student women innovators attending to continue on their path, and continue on their technical initiatives. Watson discussed the strong shortage of women in technical fields—a 10% talent shortage worldwide. How do we bring more female students into the field of technology, computer science, biotech, and more?
With that, Watson introduced the panel, which included:
Earl Newsome, of Estee Lauder said that the company believes every woman is beautiful. They transform the world and the way everyone thinks of things, and as a company, they want to help empower women. He talked about knowing, at the mere age of 4 years old, that he was going to be a CIO, and he is focused now on innovation at Estee Lauder, figuring out how to digitize high-touch, and asked the student teams attending the dinner to talk with them if they had ideas.
Dr. Mary Fernandez was mentored by Andries (Andy) van Dam, who is Brown University’s legendary computer science guru, and the founder of the computer science department at Brown. She said she was drawn to the complete newness of the field—and the fact that her mentor talked about people someday being able to have computers in their home (this was when they were the size of minivans). When he said that eventually we will carry computers on our bodies, she changed her major to Computer Science, and ended up getting a PhD in it. “Besides having a good time, I wanted to be able to take care of myself,” she said, and the field allowed her to make a good income while being at the dawn of a whole new world in innovation. Because her mentors in life were so critical to her success, she started MentorNet, which connects women in science and technology with mentors. She gave the student attendees the advice to stick with science and technology, stick with their education, and to become technically deep with what you are working on. She said that women have an enormous advantage with communication and to seek out a career in computing.
Zainab Al-Suwaij, spoke next. Originally from Iraq, she said that her very religious family allowed the women to get an education, but not to work. She was the first one to break this rule and her grandfather told her that since her, all the women in the family broke the rule. Iraq was still under Saddam Hussein dictatorship when she grew up. When she was going to school to get her finals, she was called into the principal’s office and was told that she was the only person that was not part of Saddam’s political party, and that she couldn’t take her final exam without this. When she said she refused to have an affiliation, she had to sign a paper saying that she was not associated with any other political party and that she would be killed if that were the case or if she joined one. She was denied her graduation anyway, even after acing the final exams.
She joined the uprising after the Kuwaiti war, during which she accidentally walked into a torture chamber. She then left Iraq and came to the United States where she went to college, started teaching at Yale, and built a family. After 911 happened she co-founded the American Islamic congress to empower rights and women rights. She has gone back to Iraq to help women in Iraq and started lobbying for 25% representation for women where she was told even Sweden doesn’t have 25% representation—but that simply made her want it more. Thanks to her efforts, Iraq has opened 10 schools across the country and has helped teachers who were cut from the outside world. 36,000 teachers have been taught on how to use technology and advance curriculum for students. They run an essay contest every year on human rights and how to use technology.
Al-Suwaij spoke about how technology makes change at a country level and encouraged the guests to use technology to deliver the best for your own country and for others around the world.
Meryl Frank started speaking at her seat, with the microphone and she asked the room, “Can you hear me now?” Then, she stood up, walked to the center of the stage, and boomed into the microphone, “Can you hear me now?” she explained that women are smaller, and when we stand, and speak from the belly, we are heard. She said that most women when they get excited talk too fast and in their throat. She said, “When women talk like this, men stop listening.” As the deputy U.S. representative to the Commission on the Status of Women (appointed by Barack Obama), her job is to empower women. She just came back from working with the women members of parliament of Jordan, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Africa. She said the universally women do not have the ability to speak up, and her role is to give them confidence, and to teach them to promote themselves.
She spoke about how her career has gone down many paths. She had four children and stayed home for 12 years, because, despite having 3 degrees, that is what she wanted to do and felt would be best for her family. She got involved in politics because she got angry and wanted to fix something, and she served as the mayor of Highland Park, New Jersey for 8 years. She got involved in national politics when Obama won and she literally applied online for the ambassador position. She mentioned how her strong network—including her mentors—helped her achieve this goal and help her now in her career. She loves the fact that she can help the world be a better place.
Jane Prey spoke next and started by describing her childhood in a traditional Chinese home where she was told she could be a doctor or PhD of mathematics (her brother only had the choice of being a doctor). Went to graduate school for mathematics and then went into computer science because he parents said it was the newest thing. She spoke about how in her day, they used punch cards since there was no computer on campus. The field was not quite understood yet, nor how important it would be in leading innovation. The IBM 360 mainframe was her first computer.
She became a developer in the corporate world and it was not until she was 40 years old that she went back to finish her PhD. She said this was thanks to a supportive husband who ate a lot of macaroni and cheese as he helped with their 3 children. Prey’s passion, she said, has always been in education and teaching. She worked with the National Science Association and then at MSFT in research. She said that her field allowed her to do all of the things she was passionate about: teaching, policy work, mentoring, and research. She mentioned her mentors and the people who helped her along the way and made her dreams possible. “Play nice in the sandbox, because those are the friends that will help you for life.”
She ended her talk by saying, “You, have the keys to the kingdom.”
After the talks, the speakers sat amongst the students at their tables, while eating a catered dinner. Discussions ranged from details about the Imagine cup projects students were working on, to more stories about the esteemed panels career paths and what there are working on. You could see the mentorship going both ways—something Jane Frey had mentioned as being critical. The generation gap from the women innovators who paved the possibilities, to the students who are taking this foundation and blazing new paths.
An incredible night full of wisdom. Thank you to all the speakers and for all the guests for attending!
At 4pm last night in NYC’s Lincoln Center, a packed auditorium waves flags, cheered, and impatiently waited for Microsoft’s Jon Perera, General Manager of the Education Group, to take the stage and kick off the finals.
The U.S.A. teams, sitting together next to Microsoft executives’ stage left, waved the American flag and had expressions of anticipation, hope, and inspiration.
The stage opened to an actor, who gave an inspiring monologue starting with the fact that seven billion people are in the world today, and it was only 4 billion when Microsoft was founded. The Imagine Cup represents a challenge to the genius students of today who come together to tackle the world’s biggest problems:
“It is up to us—you and me—our challenge, is to think out of the box and use technology and imagination.”
The World Has Won Because of What You Have Done
John Perera said, “This stage has been held by world leaders, top musicians, top artists – tonight it will hold the top technology students in the world. Powerful technology, innovation, and desire to make an impact—special things happen, change happens, people’s lives improve with what the Imagine Cup competitors have done. The world has won because of what you have done."
Team Gina from the Czech Republic came on stage to talk about how their project—which did not even place in the finals last year for Imagine Cup—is now a viable business being used in Haiti, and Japan, and places where natural disasters have occurred. Gina, (geographical Information device) is a mobile Windows 7 and collects info about the current situation, including environmental impact, medicine, and supplies. They realized that after Imagine Cp they could start this company—despite not winning, they did win. Because they built and implemented a product that changes the world.
Mayor Bloomberg then took the stage, making everyone laugh by saying, “How did I know that I was only going to be the one in a suit and tie?” He encouraged students to do two things: help Jon (Perera) get a bit more enthusiasm and promise him that you are going to spend some money in New York. Bloomberg then went on to explain how “40% of the people you see in NYC were born outside of the US; we live as a mixture rather than a mosaic” and how important it was to use technology to work together to preserve our environment and fight poverty. He discussed getting to know Bill and Melinda Gates personally and how much they are an inspiration for changing the world—and how each of these students could do the same. “NYC welcomes dreamers from around the world and doers from anyplace.”
And with that, the announcements began for the competition.
Challenge Award Winners
Windows 7 Touch Challenge:
First Place winner: Team India Rose from France
First Place winners: Team MP Brun, Denmark
Carol Post, the first female CIO for NYC came on stage for the IT Challenge announcements. She said to the students, and particularly the fellow female technologists: dream big.
Windows 7 Phone Competition
Walid Abu-Hadba, who is a corporate vice president and creative director, announced the Windows phone competitions. First he announced that every student in the audience who promised to build three applications, gets the brand new Windows 7.5 phone. He then said that all first place winners would get to go to the Build conference held annually in Anaheim as his personal guest. This year it is held Sept 13-16.
Windows Phone 7 Winners:
Digital Media Competition
For the Digital Media Award: Dr. Fiona Wood (Burn surgeon) says that she has always dreamed big. She wants to see scarless healing; repair by regeneration and wants to know what is wrong with the skin all the way to the cells. She questioned the students to ponder, "Can we think ourselves our whole?"
Digital Media Winners:
Game Design Competition
Game Design Web winners:
Next up, Ken Lobb, the Creative Director Microsoft game studios, who owns more than 10,000 games, spoke about how games today earn more money that Hollywood box office, and how the Kinect is now used to save lives and help people with health—not just entertainment.
Game Design Mobile winners:
For the Game Design (Xbox), Trisha Thompson, the Vice President for Corporate Responsibility at Dell talked about how Dell was founded in Michael Dell’s garage, and all good companies are founded by people with really big dreams who want to democratize technology and unleash human potential
Game Design Xbox Winners:
Embedded Development Competition
For the Embedded Development category, the founder of Priceline, Scott Case, who is now the CEO of talked about how this room is full of the next business leaders of the world.
Embedded Development Winners:
People’s Choice Awards
Next up for the People’s Choice Award, Eva Longoria took the stage to massive applause. She said she was especially thrilled to be here because the Imagine Cup marries philanthropy and technology, her two biggest passions. She was impressed by all the teams, and how students were being activists for change. She spoke about several of the team projects she had walked around earlier, at the showcase. “Thank you for using your energy in taking technology to save problems. There is no limit to what you can create.”
2011 People’s Choice Award Winner:
Team Rapture from Bangladesh.
Software Design Competition
For the Software Design award, Sr. VP of Microsoft Developer Division S. Somasegar said they were impressed when nine years ago, at the first Imagine Cup, 1,000 students entered the competition, and here we are today, with 350,000 teams participating from all over the world. He talked about giving free access to BizSpark to all Imagine Cup finalist teams. He also went on to announce a new grant, $3 million over the next three years, for Imagine Cup teams. “We are here to help you reach your potential.” He told the students to continue to think, dream, dream big, and follow up on your dreams in terms of execution. “You are and you will be the future and that gives me great optimism for the world!”
Software Design Winners
Hal Plotkin, Sr. Policy Advisor for the Obama administration, and a former Silicon Valley journalist covering startups and emerging companies, said that if every corporation gave back to students like Microsoft, the world would be a better place. “Obama would have loved to been with you,” and he repeated that earlier, when Arne Duncan, the United States Secretary of Education, walked around the student showcase, the one word he kept repeating was “amazing”, which is what all of the students are. He made three key points:
And with that, the Microsoft Australia representative and the representing Australian diplomat took the stage and were passed the imagine Cup flag.
Want to win the Imagine Cup next year? NYC was great but Sydney will be amazing.
Sign up now for the 2012 Imagine Cup!
“Since you have come, New York City is a smarter place.”
Arthur Vanderveen, Chief of Innovation
What better place to hold the 9th annual Imagine Cup than NYC, the center of innovation. Arthur Vanderveen, @avveen, who Leads New York City iZone, education innovation, leadership, and systemic change, spoke at the ceremony about how the city inspires him—and seeing all the student teams, and their enthusiasm, renews his commitment to innovation.
“We were making grilled cheeses around my kitchen table, now we have 1 million new users per month."
Dennis Crowley, Foursquare Cofounder
We loved hearing from Dennis Crowley, @dens, who talked about how success stems from failure, and how never losing sight of your passion is the most important quality he could see with all the competing teams. “Don’t give up,” Crowley said. “Whether you win or lose the competition. People will always tell you that they love your stuff, that they hate your stuff. There are always haters. Just keep plugging at what you are doing.”
Steve Ballmer + Free Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 = Good Times
Just in case we weren’t inspired enough, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer brought his boundless energy and enthusiasm unto the stage, surprising the students with his announcement that all students would receive a Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360—and that the event would include a Kinect app-a-thon (held today, Saturday). His words of wisdom around the Kinect “Just make sure you hook it up!”
Dear Students: You’re the Ones Inspiring Steve Ballmer
It is Steve Ballmer’s first Imagine Cup, and he met with 11 teams yesterday and was impressed at seeing people who just love technology and do amazing work with it. This type of passion is what inspired him to join Microsoft—which was a 30-person startup at the time—and what drives him today.
In 1999 Microsoft decided to create the Xbox—a risky move to many at the time, and now a critical component of the innovation within the company. Ballmer also discussed how everything is moving to the cloud—something people couldn’t conceive of a few decades ago and is now a bigger thing than connecting to the Internet. Now, many student teams are using Azure to complete their projects.
Keys of Wisdom
Steve Ballmer offered some words of wisdom to the students:
What have you learned from the Imagine Cup? According to Steve Ballmer, you made a great choice of an area to get interested in. You’ve got 40-50 years of opportunity in high tech.
We’ve kicked off the most exciting technology event in the world—and we can’t wait to see which ideas will change the world.
To have your chance at changing the world, meeting influential people, traveling the world, and receiving sweet prizes, sign up now: http://on.fb.me/oVWqOO
This afternoon, U.S.A. team LifeLens presented their project—the goal of which is to stop the more than one million deaths a year due to malaria—with more than 85% of deaths occurring in children under five years of age. LifeLens has created a device that delivers an accurate screening of malaria. Team members Tristan Gibeau, Wilson To, Cy Khomaee, Jason Wakizaka started their presentation by handing out a pamphlet that all room attendees could view, that contained biography information on the team, a summary of the device, the reasons they started the project, and the any universities, programs, and investors they have presented their innovation to.
LifeLens helps reduce child mortality caused by lack of detection to malaria. Early intervention means children can be treated effectively. While rapid diagnostic tests are effective, they are sensitive with certain environments, and have error rates up to 60% of the time—whereas LifeLens has a 94.4% accuracy.
The team uses the Windows Phone 7, because the patient doesn’t need to be in close proximity, and cell-phone based technologies are seen as the new trend for healthcare and diagnostics. The product does not need the cloud or a connection with a server. It will store the analysis locally with areas if no connection then send the data in the future for data mining. The device shows Bing maps and a web portal to see all malaria cases globally, and contains a database that stores all info (GPS, cell imagery, data on cell, case and patient data). The data is also distributable across multiple phones.
As a tool, LifeLens can help diagnosis other conditions, such as anemia, and it’s reach could be larger than the current condition the team is focused on diagnosing. The product detects and analyzes the cells, and for malaria, which is caused by a parasite, it specifically looks for the parasite in the cells. The team demonstrated the use of their product—with a leaf—and we could see the cellular structure of the leaf, and the user interface for how the product detects and analyzes cellular structure, captures it, and how the information about it is stored and shared.
In 2009, 700M was spent to combat malaria, so there is a huge financial incentive for government agencies and others to use the LifeLens technology. Only a handful of technologies that are competitive and all of them require a doctor’s judgment. LifeLens shows very clearly whether you have malaria, or you don’t, and it doesn’t give false positives. LifeLens is also a cost saving solution, at.56 cents per person vs. 3.40. This enormous savings has made the product attractive to many agencies, such as Hope Enterprises and Real Medicine Foundation, which the team is forming partnerships with.
During the Q&A session, the judges asked the team how they work remotely, and the team answered that due to their specializations, (finance, marketing, computer science, biological sciences), they can simply focus on their individual parts and use collaborative online time with live meeting and web cams.
The judges asked how would the product work if there was no Internet access, and the team explained the product will update on database side, and has backwards compatibility. The device reports what version the user has.
The team also explained that they looked at other phones but decided the Windows Phone has a better angle, and that the product mat to used for other diseases and possibly have a consumer version in the future.
Great work today LifeLens, and congratulations on a terrific presentation.