Developers from around the world are participating in the SPARKS Will Fly contest for hobbiest interested in Windows Embedded. The contest challenges you to develop in Windows Embedded CE and Visual Studio; both of which are provided. The contest offers over $50,000 in total prize money with the  first place winner taking home $15K and a trip to Microsoft Tech Ed US 2009.  The contest is not only fun but is a great way to gain world-wide exposure, a world-wide respect, for embedded developers.

The contest is an extension to the SPARK Your Imagination program for Windows Embedded hobbiests.

The contest consists of several rounds. In Round 1, you submit a one- to three-page paper that outlines an embedded project. In Round 2, the top 50 receive a embedded board and the developer tools needed to build a working prototype. The top three finalists present at a conference in Silicon Valley. The winner shows off the entry at Tech Ed.

Deadline for the first round is January 7.

Windows Embedded operating systems enables you to build next generation 32-bit devices. Select from a range of products that provide robust toolsets and development platforms for small to large device footprints.

The next generation of Windows Embedded Standard, code-named “Quebec” will be built on Windows 7. Windows Embedded “Quebec” delivers powerful next-generation Microsoft technologies including Silverlight 2, Windows Presentation Foundation and interoperability with Visual Studio 2010. Alignment with Windows 7 features will give OEMs access to the skills and contributions of a global community of Windows developers familiar with Visual Studio. OEMs will be able to quickly develop applications and drivers for connected device scenarios requiring rich applications, services and end-user experiences connecting to Windows-based PCs, servers and Windows Web services.