Imagine Cup goes far beyond the imagination to change lives — and it’s time to register for 2018

Photo of students and others smiling and celebrating at last year's Imagine Cup World Finals

My team at Microsoft has a guiding principle as the foundation of everything we do: Today’s students are tomorrow’s developers.

As the head of cloud growth and ecosystems at Microsoft, working with students is one of the most fulfilling parts of my job because it gives me a lens into the future through the next generation of innovators. That’s why I’m excited to announce the launch of the 2018 Imagine Cup. Now in its 16th year, this global technology competition aims to give young developers the opportunity to acquire new and critical technical, business and team-building skills — all while having fun along the way.

Every great idea needs a few vital components to succeed: A driven team, a platform for its message and funding. With Imagine Cup, students bring the purpose, and Microsoft helps with the platform — and, for a handful of standouts, funding to take the idea to the next level. This year the prize value of cash, travel and Azure credits totals more than $700,000. We’ve also added three special awards that represent the current state of digital transformation: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Mixed Reality. Plus, the winning team will receive mentorship time with Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, to ask questions, seek advice and learn from a Fortune 100 CEO.

I’m just wrapping up my first year at Microsoft, and this summer was my initial opportunity to see the magic that happens when the great ideas of tomorrow’s leaders are fostered in a big, bold way.

At this year’s World Finals, dozens of teams from 39 countries presented their ideas about how to change the world using code, running the gamut from solutions that locate products in large warehouses to drones that can be dispatched to help in natural disasters. Ultimately, Team X.GLU of the Czech Republic took home the top prize. Their innovation is a glucose meter for children with Type 1 diabetes paired with a Microsoft Azure cloud solution in the form of an app that rewards behaviors that keep diabetes in check, managed through motivational in-app games.

Team AMANDA, a 2016 finalist from Greece, is lighting up the conference circuit with their solution for bullying detection and intervention. They participated in WE DAY Toronto along with Judson Althoff, the leader of our commercial business, with the purpose of spreading technology solutions against bullying worldwide and providing inspiration to more than 23,000 teenagers. The team has also been active in the International Conference of Anti-Bullying Practices and spoke at TEDxUniversityofPiraeus 2017, where they engaged more than 3,000 users with the AMANDA app.

In 2015, Team World Opaque Media was highlighted for their Virtual Dementia Experience, a high-tech way to help caregivers better understand and gain an immersive experience of people living with dementia. The Australian team is now bringing their technology to a completely new frontier: outer space. Two members of the team, Norman Wang and Liam McGuire, developed a game called “Earthlight” that combines Microsoft’s Kinect technology and a virtual reality headset to allow users to experience the feeling of being an astronaut on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. The project caught NASA’s attention, and eventually evolved into a collaboration to create realistic simulations for astronaut training.

While Imagine Cup is both fun and intellectually challenging, we think it prepares students to face situations in the business world that will make their ideas come to light.

Registration is now open for Imagine Cup, and I can’t wait to see what great ideas today’s students are developing. Good luck to all the competitors, and I hope to see you at Microsoft headquarters for the 2018 World Championship!

Charlotte Yarkoni

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter for Imagine Cup updates, as well as other news of note in the cloud and ecosystem space.


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