Students show off inventions to tackle health, environment issues at Imagine Cup

July 7th, 2012 | by Raymond Lau
Students show off inventions to tackle health, environment issues at Imagine Cup

(Image credit: Microsoft)

From tackling disabilities to alleviating environment issues, more than 350 students from 75 countries are showing off year-long projects that use technology to solve some of the planet’s biggest issues at Microsoft’s annual Imagine Cup in the next few days.

Kicking off in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, this year’s technology competition for students marks a decade of bringing together youths to create innovative solutions to the world’s problems. More than 1.65 million students have participated in the event since its inception in 2003.

“It’s like the 2012 Summer (Olympic) Games, the World Cup of Soccer, and the World Series of baseball all rolled into one,” said Walid Abu-Hadba, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for developer and platform evangelism, at the opening ceremony of this year’s worldwide finals.

Among the projects this year are a wide range of ideas. Some 65 per cent will use technology to solve health topics, 23 per cent of projects will tackle disabilities and diseases that limit a human’s physical mobility, and 49 per cent aim to solve environmental issues. (These project categories are not mutually exclusive and some overlap each other.)

Singapore’s own finalists from Nanyang Polytechnic undertook the task of helping dementia patients.

As expected, Microsoft’s new products were a core part of the projects. Windows Phone and Windows 8 were popular with contestants, as was the Kinect, which was used on virtually everything from game design to education and accessibility projects.

Over the next few days, the students will be presenting their ideas to judging panels made up of Microsoft executives and industry experts.

Naturally, not everyone can win. But teams which don’t make the final cut may still apply for the Imagine Cup Grant. Introduced in 2011, the grant will help a select few aspiring entrepreneurs to jump start and build their idea into a sustainable business, and is estimated to be worth between US$75,000 to US$100,000 per team.

“Even if a team doesn’t win, they’ll get a job in two years on the back of a pitch they gave,” said Rob Miles, lecturer at the University of Hull and one of the judges for software design.

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