Imagine Cup Winners Design Software to Solve Global Problems

Microsoft wrapped up its seventh annual Imagine Cup and announced the worldwide winners of the challenge Tuesday. At the four-day event in Cairo, Romania's Team SYTECH won the coveted software design award, South Korea's Team Wafree won for embedded development and Brazil's Team LEVV It won the game development contest.

This year's Imagine Cup challenged high school and university students to address the lofty United Nations Millennium goals, which include ending poverty and hunger, providing universal education and combating AIDs. Winning teams share up to US$25,000. A total of 444 students from 149 teams and 70 countries competed in nine categories that also included robotics and algorithm, photography and design.

The team from Romania built UpCity, a program that connects government agencies and cities by getting people involved at the grassroots level. The platform is planned to be used in the team's hometown of Iasi, Romania, and they hope to deploy it elsewhere soon. Adrian Buzgar, the team leader, said in a statement, "The project will be developed for the city hall of our city at the end of this month. Then we are going to try to build a company."

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, said students have been important for technology innovation, starting companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Facebook. "Students have an unbounded amount of energy. Students tend to be very idealistic. They look at the world how it is and see how'd they like to change it," he said at a press conference.

One of the teams representing the U.S. in Cairo had showcased a project called MultiPoint at the U.S. finals in May. It allows a computer to be used by several people simultaneously.

James Dickinson, the team leader and a student at Georgia State University, called it "a set of educational mini-games that allow multiple children to use the computer at the same time. It is also Web-based, and the advantage of it being Web-based is that you don't have to install anything," he said.

MultiPoint is built on Silverlight, but Microsoft's MultiPoint SDK did not support Silverlight or the Web, according to Dickinson. "We wrapped that in ActiveX and it communicates through Javascript directly to Silverlight," Dickinson said.

While the games are aimed at elementary school students and are somewhat basic, the team hopes that if the software gains traction, students and teachers will develop more content that can be shared with other users.

Organizers of the Imagine Cup hope it teaches students about more than just technology. "We focus on the business planning just as much as the technology. So it's those skills that we develop that they can use later on in their lives in addition to the competition element," Anthony Salcito, general manager of Microsoft's U.S. Education division, said during the U.S. finals.

The next Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals will be held next summer in Poland.

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