Meet the Imagine Cup students turned social entrepreneurs


This week Dominik Tomičević from Croatia, Jason Mitsuyuki Wakizaka from the United States, Francisco Perez from Ecuador, and Mohammad Lu’ay Alazzam from Jordan were playing with the very latest Microsoft technology – in this case our new Microsoft Surface – in Davos, the Swiss village that hosts the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. They were in Davos as representatives of the four teams who have been chosen as the inaugural recipients of the Microsoft Imagine Cup grants program.

The Imagine Cup Grants program is a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program to help Imagine Cup participants take their ideas and their projects and transform them into a business or nonprofit that can bring the benefit of their technology to the communities that need it most.

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The students were in Davos to meet with Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates and to participate in a roundtable discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing young people today. (We’ll have a report on that coming very soon.)

The winning teams were chosen from 50 applicants that competed in the Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals last year in New York City. A judging panel of eminent industry experts from the worlds of technology, venture capitalism, software development, startup culture, and the nonprofit sector ranked each team based on specific criteria including project impact and viability, and team quality and motivation.

The judges included: Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Affairs, Microsoft Corporation; Peter Cowhey, Dean: Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Communications and Technology Policy, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies: University of California, San Diego; Tim Draper, Founder and Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson; Debra Dunn, Advisor to Social Ventures, Skoll Foundation; Edward G. Happ, Global Chief Information Officer of International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Chairman of NetHope; Zeev Klein, General Partner, Landmark Ventures; Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President: Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Microsoft Corporation; Jeff Raikes, Chief Executive Officer, Gates Foundation; and Ann Winblad, Managing Director, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners

While the judging process was very difficult, the winning projects are fantastic, and they show the incredible potential of providing young people with the skills and the opportunity to make a difference.

Here’s some more about the four winning teams:

Team Apptenders from Croatia: KiDnect

Ivan Antonic, Ivan Borko, Karmela Bresan, Dominik Tomicevic (pictured)

KiDnect is a Kinect-based solution for on-premise and remote physical therapy for children, especially those born with Cerebral Palsy. This software has the ability to monitor a child’s exercises to ensure they are being completed correctly, and then provides statistical analysis to the therapist. Team Apptenders hopes to add multilingual interfaces in order to integrate additional sensors for limb rotation monitoring and advanced data analysis.

Team Falcon Dev from Ecuador: SkillBox

José Vicente Anilema Guadalupe, Gerardo Francisco Pérez Layedra, Henry Javier Paca Quinaluiza, Juan José Morales Ruiz

SkillBox is an affordable solution to help children who are hearing impaired by translating all audio received from a teacher in a classroom into sign language. A wireless headset captures the sound, sends it to the computer and SkillBox then shows the corresponding sign for the word or phrase.  Team Falcon Dev hopes to take their first step in making SkillBox available to children by selling their technology solution to public schools in Ecuador.

Team OaSys from Jordan: Horizon

Hani AbuHuwaij, Mohammad Azzam, Monir Abu Hilal, Mohammad Saleh, Yousef Wadi

Horizon is a software and hardware system that allows people who do not have use of their hands/arms to use a computer. Specifically, it tracks head movements and translates these movements into mouse movements. Users get full control of a computer and a cellphone, and can browse the internet, type and connect with ease and at a low cost. Team OaSys hopes to improve the software stack by optimizing and adding features, pilot client lab preparations and hire sub-contractors.

Team LifeLens from the United States: LifeLens

Tristan Gibeau, Cy Khormaee, Wilson To, Jason Wakizaka, Helena Xu

Lifelens is an innovative point-of-care tool to diagnose malaria using an augmented Windows Phone application. The project addresses the unacceptably high child mortality rates caused by the lack of detection and availability of treatment of malarial diseases. Team Lifelens is ready to develop their project for launch. They will use the investment for distribution of their devices, subsidizing the phones and field testing.

So what about you?

Right now, students can register to be part of Imagine Cup 2012 and can sign up in any of eight different categories. From designing brand new technology in Software Design to building gadgets through the Kinect Fun Labs Challenge, there is something for every student to enjoy. Who knows – your team could be the next group of students Microsoft funds through the Imagine Cup Grants!