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Preparing to compete in the 2020 Imagine Cup? Check out these business and innovation tips

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Editor’s note: This blog was contributed by the U.S. Department of Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST)GIST is led by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by VentureWell 

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup empowers student developers and aspiring entrepreneurs from all academic backgrounds to bring an idea to life with technology. Through competition and collaboration, it provides an opportunity to develop an application, create a business plan, and gain a keen understanding of whats needed to bring a concept to market to make an impact.We’ve partnered with GIST to provide some top tips for turning your idea into a marketable business solution and prepare you to present it effectively on a global stage. 

Key things to consider when developing a business idea

1. Assess whether your product is truly novel 

In the early development stages of a new idea, it’s important to assess whether your idea already exists in the current market and if so, what unique solution your application can provide. 

In the world of intellectual property law, “prior art” is the term used for relevant information that was publicly available before a patent claim. For example, if your company is working on a new type of football helmet, but another company has already given an interview about their own plans to invent such a helmet, that constitutes prior art – and it means your patent claim is likely to face a steep uphill battle. Start by asking yourself if your project is truly novelWhat problem does your application solve?  Are there similar solutions already on the market? If necessary, work with your university to establish if a patent already exists. 

2. Learn to take feedback  

It’s easy to get attached to an invention. However, being too lovestruck with your technology can prevent you from absorbing vital feedback from customers, professors, mentors, even teammates. “Feedback is learning,” says Dr. Lawrence Neeley, Associate Professor of Design and Entrepreneurship at Olin College of Engineering“Sure, feedback can hurt, but understand that you can’t improve your invention without learning what’s wrong with it. Feedback is a mechanism for growth.” In addition, don’t lose sight of the passion that originally drove you to developing a solution, as it can put you in the right mindset to listen to feedback. By keeping the core problem at the forefront, you can more effectively pivot your technology and business model to better address market demands. Read more about how to balance your passion with real-life data to make your project shine.

3. Incorporate diversity & inclusion 

Empower everyone to benefit from your solution by considering diversity and inclusion in your project early on. “When accessibility is at the heart of inclusive design, we not only make technology that is accessible for people with disabilities, we invest in the future of natural user interface design and improved usability for everyone,” says Megan Lawrence, an Accessibility Technical Evangelist at Microsoft. Check out some resources to help you build inclusion into your innovation: 

  • Use Accessibility Insights to run accessibility testing on web pages and applications. 
  • Learn how to create inclusive design through video tutorials and downloadable toolkits. 
  • Read the story of two Microsoft teams at Ability Hacks who embraced the transformative power of technology to create inclusive solutions now used by millions of people. 

Read more tips on using inclusion as a lens to drive innovation. 

4. Consider environmental responsibility 

To maximize impact from the start, it’s critical that student innovators develop an environmentally responsible mindset at the earliest stages of their innovation, business, or manufacturing process. Here are some examples from student innovators of how they integrated environmental responsibility into their business models: 

  • Use renewable energy sources where possible, such as solar power or implementing recycling processes. 
  • Incorporate sustainable processes through things like reducing packaging, limiting plastic waste, and sourcing materials that are reusable or biodegradable.  
  • Create an innovation that solves a key environmental issue or repurposes harmful by-products, such as recovering metal water contaminants or converting ocean waste.  

Read more about how they leveraged sustainability in their projects. 

Maximizing resources for your innovation 

It can be a challenge to seek support resources as a student entrepreneur.  Here are some top tips for maximizing on and off-campus benefits while you’re still in school  – check out additional advice if you’re interested in learning more.  

1. Take stock of university resources 

Assess what skills you may need beyond just technical and talk to faculty or administrators to develop a roadmap for your time in school. For instance, seek out seminars or courses in different departments to help sharpen writing or public speaking skills, or visit your university library to find out what resources they have to offer student entrepreneurs such as makerspaces, workshops, or guest lectures. 

2. Maximize networking opportunities 

Connect with others through LinkedIn, your university’s alumni network, classes, hackathons, and more to network with industry-specific experts. Pro-tip: Imagine Cup connects you to a global community of like-minded tech enthusiasts to collaborate and innovate together, in addition to giving you access to industry professionals. 

3. Take advantage of competitions  

Approach competitions as not just an opportunity to win, but also to further refine your project and go-to-market planLeverage feedback and insights from judges, mentors, and peers to continue ideating and developing a marketable solution.   

Build business skills through hands-on innovation 

What better way to put these tips into practice than through bringing your own solution to life? The Imagine Cup is your opportunity to build a technology innovation from what you’re most passionate about. Regardless of where you place in the competition, youll have the chance to connect with likeminded tech enthusiasts across the globe, including joining a network of over two million past competitors. In addition, teams who advance to the Regional Finals will receive mentorship from industry professionals and in-person entrepreneurship workshops from GISTled by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by VentureWellthelp elevate their solutions.   

Learn by doing, code for impact, and build purpose from your passion. Register now for the 2020 competition. 

 

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Free tools and a chance to shine for student developers

It sneaks up on me every year. One minute, my family is fully ensconced in summer break, the next we’re deep into school supply lists and pre-work to prep for the first day back.

This year, as I’ve helped my own students get ready to go back to school, I’ve been thinking about all the cool (and free!) offerings Microsoft provides to bridge the technology gap for student developers. We’re committed to empowering the next generation of creators with access to technology and training – after all, our future is in their hands! – and we have a little healthy competition thrown in for good measure. Here are a few of the offers that students can take advantage of today and throughout their educations:

One of the newest additions to our lineup, developer hub GitHub offers their Student Developer Pack, which provides access to the best real-world developer tools and training. Students who join the Pack receive GitHub Pro at no charge while in school, plus exclusive offers from GitHub Education partners, including Microsoft.

Microsoft Azure for Students offers a free annual renewal subscription to our top cloud services, plus access to dozens of other Azure and artificial intelligence (AI) tools and training. Students can build skills in trending tech including data science, AI, machine learning and other areas with access to professional developer tools like Visual Studio Code.

Microsoft Education has a plethora of resources available for students and educators, who can get Office 365 free as well, which includes powerful tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and now Microsoft Teams and a lot more. This isn’t a trial – it’s a full-featured product that is free while the student is in school and offered at a big discount after graduation. Educators also have a wealth of resources available to them to help students engage with STEM, from customized training opportunities to unique Minecraft editions to access to special guest speakers.

For college and university students, the annual Imagine Cup competition is now open for entry. I’m continually impressed by the impactful ideas that come out of Imagine Cup – many of which go on to become full-fledged products. But big ideas that make a difference aren’t born in a vacuum, and they can’t be achieved alone. I think that’s one of the things that makes Imagine Cup so special. Students learn how to work together, be resourceful, meet deadlines and a select few receive funding to help take their ideas to the next level.

This year’s Imagine Cup theme is AI for Good. Driven by inspiration and a growing sense of purpose, we’ve seen student competitors create applications tackling some of the world’s biggest social, environmental and health challenges – one user at a time – and that’s what Imagine Cup is all about! So, it only makes sense that there is a stronger focus on AI this year. It’s one of the most promising ways technology can help us be more inclusive, effective and productive. I encourage students with a dream of a better future and an idea to sign up and get to work.  I’m excited to see where the competitors take the challenge this year – and where the competition takes them.

Students who want to be a force for good and make a difference in their communities – while learning and sharing Microsoft technologies with their peers – can apply to be a Microsoft Student Partner, a program that lets student leaders gain experiences, access exclusive resources and gather real-world technical and career skills.

Finally, LinkedIn offers a wide variety of networking and educational opportunities to support students when it comes time to look for a job, learn a new skill or connect with classmates. A current and accurate LinkedIn profile is one of the best ways to build and maintain a career network.

Our goal is for all students to have access to the technology and support they need to make their dreams come true. Please share these offerings with the students in your life, and if you are a student, I hope you’ll take advantage of one or more of them to take your ideas to the next level this year.

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Students: 7 reasons why you should register for the 2020 Imagine Cup

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For nearly two decades, students from around the world have competed in the Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s global technology competition just for students, for the chance to win travel, mentoring, cash, and prizes, not to mention the coveted trophy. But the Imagine Cup is more than just a tech competition. It’s a chance to work with friends, network with professionals, gain new skills, showcases your work on a global stage, and meet other students who want to make a difference.

The Imagine Cup is looking for innovative and passion-driven tech solutions from students who want to share their purpose to improve the world around us. If you’ve been dreaming about a solution that shapes how we live, work, and play, this competition is for you. Here are 7 reasons why you should sign up for the 18th year of Imagine Cup:

1. Shape our world

Driven by inspiration and a growing sense of purpose, students have created applications tackling some of the world’s biggest social, environmental, and health challenges ––one user at a time. From a machine learning algorithm that detects wildfires to a HoloLens app that helps children with dyslexia to improve their reading skills, anything is possible when you blend passion and purpose.

2. Get help from mentors and network with industry pros

With the goal to empower everyone to achieve more, we have the tools, resources, learning materials, and mentors to help you bring your project to life. Whether you’re hoping to accelerate with artificial intelligence, create with cognitive services, invent with intelligent systems, or master machine learning, Imagine Cup is the place to start for beginning coders and developer pros alike. All you need is an idea (and a few smart friends).

 

“The experience, the learning, is priceless. You can’t get…the mentorship that Microsoft provides anywhere else in the world.” – Team Ekko, 2019 regional finalists

3. Win travel opportunities and other prizes

Teams selected to advance in the competition will travel across the globe to regional finals in Singapore, Amsterdam, and Mexico City to pitch their projects live, courtesy of Microsoft! Plus, the Imagine Cup Regional Finals are co-located with Microsoft Ignite | The Tour, where Microsoft shares the latest in cloud technologies and developer tools – providing additional opportunity for finalists to showcase their passion and network with industry professionals. 

4. Enhance your technology portfolio

Get hands-on with the latest and greatest in developer tools and resources while creating a project you can showcase in your personal portfolio. With advanced Microsoft Azure technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual machines, big data processing, computer vision, and more, almost anything is possible.

5. Meet new friends

From Sydney to Sao Paolo and everywhere in between, the Imagine Cup brings together students just like you who want to learn and innovate for the future. Get started with a team and meet likeminded peers along the competition journey. You could find future business partners, meet friends for life, and get inspired by others’ solutions.

“It’s a game-changing experience to know and interact with diverse people and their ideas.” – Team Odd Pack, 2019 regional finalists 

6. Develop a business framework to advance your career

Develop a project pitch, build entrepreneurship skills, and get feedback on your business model from industry experts to help propel you forward.

 

“This is an amazing opportunity…as students, we don’t really get the opportunity hack together a project and then show it off to a bunch of people, especially industry professionals.” – Team SpeakEasy, 2019 regional finalists

7. Dream it. Build it. Live it.

For some students, the chance to travel and pitch to industry leaders will create standout moments. For others, pursuing an idea that could change the world (even a little) will stretch their skills and boost their confidence. Whatever your motivation, we want to encourage you to take the next step–and join a like-minded community of passionate, purpose-driven tech enthusiasts who are ready to grow together.

Make your dreams a reality through creativity, collaboration, and competition. Register for Imagine Cup today.

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Meet team EasyGlucose, the 2019 Imagine Cup World Champion

The 17th annual Imagine Cup brought together thousands of students from across the globe over eight months of coding, collaboration, and competition. Through hackathons, online semifinals, and in-person Regional Final events, the 2019 competition season all built up to one moment—the World Championship stage live from Microsoft Build. For the first time, our finalist teams pitched their projects to kick off Microsoft’s premier developer conference.

Congratulations to team EasyGlucose from the United States, who took home the 2019 Imagine Cup trophy for his deep learning, low-cost, and non-invasive blood glucose level monitor for diabetics. He won USD100,000, a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, USD50,000 in Azure grants, and ongoing mentoring from M12.

Imagine Cup aims to empower future innovators with the tools and resources to bring their technology solutions to life with Azure. This year’s competition saw many teams developing inspiring and game-changing projects focused on solving key business and societal issues. Teams Caeli from Asia, Finderr from the UK, and EasyGlucose from the USA each won their Regional Final round to advance to the final stage of the competition. They gave a live pitch of their original Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Machine projects encompassing solutions in healthcare and accessibility to a panel of three expert judges at Microsoft Build, who selected the most comprehensive idea.

Watch the show and relive the moment of Team EasyGlucose winning the trophy:

Meet the top 3 teams and recap their journey to the World Championship:

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2019 Imagine Cup World Champion: Team EasyGlucose, United States

EasyGlucose is a cloud-powered, non-invasive, and cost-effective method of blood glucose monitoring for diabetic patients. A deep learning computer vision framework using convolutional neural networks developed with Azure Virtual Machines analyzes iris morphological variation in an eye image to predict a patient’s blood glucose level. Recap their journey through the Americas Regional Final.

“I want to make cost-effective and painless blood glucose monitoring to all diabetic patients around the globe, and Imagine Cup enables me not only to share my idea and get invaluable public feedback, but also to obtain funding and keep validating and improving EasyGlucose.” – Bryan, EasyGlucose 

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2nd place: Team Caeli, India

Caeli is a smart automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask specifically designed for asthmatic and chronic respiratory patients.  It implements breakthrough features and Azure Machine Learning in a portable format to improve the quality of life for respiratory patients living in polluted areas. Recap their journey through the Asia Regional Final.

Caeli wanted to build something that could help our society in surviving…here in Imagine Cup we found it suitable to showcase the possibilities and draw industry attention towards this global issue.” – Team Caeli

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3rd place: Team Finderr, United Kingdom

The team won the Azure Champ Challenge at OxfordHack, which inspired them to submit their project to Imagine Cup. They created an app solution which uses Cognitive Services and Virtual Machines to help make finding lost objects accessible to visually impaired individuals through their phones. Recap their journey through the EMEA Regional Final.

“We’re  really, really excited to have the chance to be able to bring our project to fruition to help the visually impaired users.” – Team Finderr

 

Registration for the 2020 competition is now open. Join over two million student competitors worldwide in creating purpose from your passion and sign up for Imagine Cup today!

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Introducing the 2019 Imagine Cup Americas Regional Final judges

Our 12 recently announced Imagine Cup Americas Regional Finalists are advancing to the in-person Regional Final in just less than a week to compete for over USD20,000 in prizes and the last spot in the 2019 World Championship.

Student teams will travel to Seattle, Washington and present a live demo of their projects in front of a panel of four expert judges. Coming from varied backgrounds in technology, industry, and management, judges’ professional experience will allow them to evaluate if a team’s solution uses innovative technology and presents an original idea built on Azure.

Judges for each Regional Final have the opportunity to ask questions and review each project hands-on before ultimately deciding who will move forward. Each team is judged on the same criteria: project technology, innovation, feasibility to take to market, and concept. The Americas Regional winner will advance to compete against teams Caeli from Asia and Finderr from the UK at the 2019 World Championship at Microsoft Build on May 6. Follow the action live on Twitter and Instagram as our Americas regional finalists and judges head to Seattle!

Meet our Americas Regional Final Judges

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Donovan Brown
Principal Cloud Advocate, Microsoft

Donovan Brown is the Principal DevOps Manager of the League. The League is a team of Cloud Developer Advocates, focusing on Azure and DevOps. Before joining Microsoft, Donovan spent seven years as a Process Consultant and a Certified Scrum Master. Donovan has traveled the globe helping companies develop solutions using agile practices in many industries. Donovan is an avid programmer, often finding ways to integrate software into his other hobbies and activities.

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Rebecca Lovell
Director at Create33

Mission-driven leader with over 20 years of operating and management experience in public and private sectors, within for-profit and non-profit organizations. Experienced in strategy and program development and implementation, mentorship, and team-building. Accomplished public speaker committed to race and social justice, gender equity, education, and entrepreneurship.

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Paul Maher
GM Industry Experiences, Microsoft

Paul has over 20 years in the IT industry across a variety of technology focused roles. He was asked to return to Microsoft by Scott Guthrie to build a new team in Azure engineering called Industry Experiences. The team is focused on helping industry customers and partners with their move to the cloud. Paul lives with his wife and two children in Seattle and holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Sheffield University.

ic19-shana-matthews-180x240-63e07e777db9.jpgShana Matthews
Program Manager, Microsoft

Shana Matthews is a Program Manager at Microsoft focused on learning content, strategies, and tools for student developers. She strives to make cloud computing intuitive for young programmers through improving products, documentation, and learning resources. Previously, Shana was a software engineer on the Windows Mixed Reality team where she created geospatial APIs for 3rd party developers. Shana holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Iowa State University.

Don’t miss out on the chance to see which student developer team will take home USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Save the date for May 6 at 8:00am PT to watch the 2019 Imagine Cup World Championship live at Microsoft Build.

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Building for the future: Imagine Cup competition helping students become global innovators

Every year, professionals from around the globe join us at Build, our premier developer conference, to learn about new technologies, gain hands-on experience, and level-up their development skills. It’s one of my favorite events, and this year, it’s getting even better as we extend these opportunities to students.

For the first time, Build attendees are invited to bring up to two family members aged 14-21 to participate with them—for free. We’ll also bring in local Seattle-area high school students to participate in some of these learning opportunities. The newly created Student Zone at Build is designed to provide an immersive educational experience for the students and attendees, with access to a Surface-equipped lab, on-site experts, a career center, workshops, tech talks and live co-coding opportunities. Naturally, there will be Minecraft—and so much more. Students can talk to cloud engineers, explore data with Azure Cognitive Services, learn about how to code on GitHub and use Visual Studio Code. There will be opportunities to learn more about AI and explore the most important technologies and skills developers of tomorrow will need.

Microsoft is committed to empowering the next generation of creators to pursue their dreams through access to technology, resources and learning opportunities. One way we encourage students to break boundaries and address real problems is through the Imagine Cup, which has seen students from around the world continually raise the innovation bar through teamwork. Now in its 17th year, the competition empowers tomorrow’s talent to use their creativity, passion and diverse perspectives to solve the world’s most pressing issues.

Momentum for the Imagine Cup continues to grow—more than 2 million students from 190 countries have competed in Imagine Cup since it started—and this year, I’m excited the World Championship will be held during Build. In fact, the Imagine Cup champion will be announced to kick off Day One of the event and will be immediately followed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote.

Returning host, Corey Sanders, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Solutions, is especially fitting for the Imagine Cup—he holds four patents and was the creator of the Infrastructure-as-a-service offering for Azure, so he’s deeply familiar with the innovation cycle on many dimensions. Last year’s MC, Kate Yeager, is also making a return appearance to call the action.

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To get to the World Championship, teams must win their highly competitive regional competitions, which are wrapping up soon. These finalists have developed truly life- and world-changing ideas, like last year’s winning concept, smartARM, a robotic hand that uses a camera embedded in the palm to recognize objects and calculate the most appropriate grip for the object.

This year’s champion will take home $100,000 USD, $50,000 USD in Azure credits, mentorship from the team at M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures) and a mentoring session with Satya Nadella. A team of business and technology professionals will collectively decide the 2019 winning team, and you can watch the championship via live stream on the Build site on Monday, May 6 at 8 a.m. Pacific Time. If you are interested in attending Build and haven’t signed up, there is still time to register.

Judges include:

  • Amy Hood, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, who leads Microsoft’s worldwide finance operations, including acquisitions, treasury activities, tax planning, accounting and reporting, and internal audit and investor relations.

Amy Hood

  • Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, who built a venture capital fund from the ground up, while homeless. Her firm is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBTQ.

Arlan Hamilton

  • Amjad Masad, CEO and founder of it, who has dedicated his career to making programming more accessible. A founding engineer of Codecademy, he helped build the platform that introduced tens of millions of people to coding. He later joined Facebook to lead the JavaScript Infrastructure team to build and maintain developer tools like React.js. With Repl.it, he’s focused on building collaborative developer tools that lower the barriers to entry for building and shipping software.

Amjad Masad

Each year, I’m more and more impressed by the solutions created by Imagine Cup students. And I’m thrilled that hundreds of students will be joining us at Build this year to form lifelong memories while exploring what could become a future career in tech. The future is in their hands, and I’m confident they’re up for the challenge!

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Meet the 2019 Imagine Cup Americas regional finalists

Our last group of finalists competing in 2019 Imagine Cup Regional events have been announced! 12 student developer teams from countries across the Americas have been selected to travel to Seattle this May and pitch their projects at the Americas Regional Final. They will compete for USD15,000 and the chance to win the last spot in the World Championship at Microsoft Build.

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup empowers student developers with the tools and resources to turn their technology ideas into reality. We believe that the next great thing could come from anyone, at any time. Now in its 17th year with nearly 2 million competitors across the globe, Imagine Cup combines the chance to develop key business and technology skills through hands-on competition, plus the opportunity to win mentoring, travel, cash, and more.

Students this year were challenged to develop an original idea built on Azure in teams of up to three and submit a project proposal and video pitch for the chance to advance in the competition. Hundreds of students submitted projects to the Americas Online Semifinal, and we are excited to introduce the teams who will be moving forward to the Americas Regional Finals in Seattle this May! Follow along with their competition journey on Twitter and Instagram.

Meet our Americas Finalists!

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Easy2Pet

Brazil

Easy 2 Pet – Share Love, Sow Life: Easy 2 Pet is an IoT project which, through the partnership of socially responsible companies, aims to feed street animals using a system of Convolutional Neural Network and Azure Storage Services.

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Brazil

Speex: The team’s project helps the user improve their presentations through mixed reality. The user can empower themselves, while acquiring experience and confidence in speaking to their audience.

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SafeTrip

Canada

SafeTrip: SafeTrip is a reactive car-accident app that tracks the eyes of a driver to monitor if they are impaired; alerting first responders of the exact location of the driver if they are deemed inattentive.

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Accutrack

Canada

AccuTrack: The team created an IoT device for tracking and improving the ergonomic efficiency of blue-collar workers.

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nekoTap

Canada

nekoTap: nekoTap is an easy-to-use solution to help patients better engage their medication therapy. Pharmacists can record counselling sessions and attach them to the prescription bottles through NFC tags. At home, patients can review the recordings.

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Smart Eyes

Canada

Smart Eyes: Smart Eyes is a mobile application that uses video processing and object detection to inform the visually impaired or legally blind users of their surroundings using audio feedback.

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United States

EasyGlucose: EasyGlucose is a low-cost, non-invasive, painless blood glucose level monitor for diabetics using deep learning and smartphone-based ophthalmic imaging.

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EcoSort

United States

EcoSort: EcoSort is a smart waste-disposal container. The hardware uses Microsoft cloud tools to predict which item is tossed into the bin. Based on the response, the machine knows how to sort the item.

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Packop

United States

Packop: Packop is developed for solving package theft issues. Packop is a service that not only monitors suspicious activities outside the home, but also actively engages in monitored situations by detecting and recognizing people and packages.

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Solar fund/strong>

United States

Solar Fund: Built on blockchain and IoT, the team’s project showcases a new and innovative financial model. Built ground up for financing rooftop solar power projects, it not only makes the investment in solar projects more viable, but also more flexible.

speakeasy.jpgSpeakEasy

United States

SpeakEasy: SpeakEasy is an intelligent and personalized public speaking trainer. SpeakEasy takes advantage of speech and gesture recognition to provide detailed feedback on each user’s presentation skills.

vocapture.jpgVocapture

United States

Vocapture: The team developed a mobile application that enables users to identify objects around them, quickly and intuitively see the objects’ translations, and practice their foreign language skills with handwriting recognition.

Don’t miss the chance to see who will move forward to the World Championship at Microsoft Build to compete against Team Caeli from India and Team Finderr from the UK. Who will take home the trophy and USD100,000? Sign up for updates to follow the 2019 competition action.

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UK’s Team Finderr wins Imagine Cup EMEA for smartphone app that helps find lost objects

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The Imagine Cup 2019 competition is well underway with our second Regional Final wrapping up in Amsterdam, the Netherlands this week. Team Finderr from the United Kingdom took home the first-place title and a spot in the World Championship for their app solution to find lost objects with a smartphone. Congratulations!

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup aims to empower student developers around the globe to develop the next great technology solutions. “We understand that today’s students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. They will also become technology decision makes. Whatever we can do to help make them better for tomorrow, we want to invest in that,” shares Jennifer Ritzinger, our Senior Director of Academic Ecosystems.

Students are given the opportunity to travel, receive one on one mentorship, develop business and technology skills, and network with like-minded peers to bring their ideas to life. Out of hundreds of EMEA submissions, 12 finalists from 10 countries were selected to travel to Amsterdam and compete at the Regional Final, hosted at Microsoft Ignite | The Tour. The first-place prize  up for grabs? USD15,000 and a trip to the 2019 World Championship. Challenged with creating an original technology solution, finalist projects ranged from tackling issues in healthcare, agriculture, accessibility and education, among others, and utilized a variety of Microsoft technologies including Azure Virtual Machines, Mixed Reality, and AI. “Imagine Cup is amazing, we feel empowered to do more,” said Ian Kamau from team iCropal of his competition experience. “For us, this is not only a competition, but also a way to exchange opinions with colleagues in order to develop ourselves and our product,” elaborated team AirCloud on their decision to enter.

Over three days of competition, teams had the opportunity participate in an Entrepreneur Day and Ignite | The Tour activities to learn how to perfect their pitches and integrate the latest and greatest technologies into their solutions. The Regional Final culminated with each team giving a live demo of their projects to a panel of judges, and the top three were chosen.

The competition doesn’t end here! On April 1 we will announce the Americas Regional finalists competing for the final spot in the World Championship. Team Finderr and our Asia Regional Final winners, Team Caeli from India, will travel to Seattle this May for the chance at the 2019 trophy. Who will go home with USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella? Follow the action on Twitter and Instagram to find out.

Meet the top 3 EMEA Teams

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1st place – Finderr, United Kingdom

Prize: USD15,000 and a spot in the 2019 World Championship

The team created an app solution which uses Cognitive Services and Virtual Machines to help make finding lost objects accessible to everyone through their phones, including visually impaired individuals.

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2nd place – Athena-IO, Tunisia

The team created a cross-platform solution enabling content creation and visualization on Mixed Reality devices to help corporations train their workforce and make technology more accessible to everyone. 

Prize: USD5,000

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3rd place – π-project, Russia

The team developed a low-cost and non-invasive solution for everyday health monitoring using Artificial Intelligence to analyze the urine transmission spectra.

Prize: USD1,000

Congratulations to all our EMEA Regional Finalists for their incredible projects and hard work. The competition doesn’t end here! Sign up for updates to follow this year’s competition and see who’ll take home the 2019 Imagine Cup trophy.

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Imagine Cup: From students to technology’s next superheroes

Imagine this: A problem impacts you, or maybe your family, your friends, your community, your country, or even the whole world. You and your student peers form a smart and passionate team that not only thinks up a great solution – it also accesses amazing new technologies to make that fix a reality.

You work hard, collaboratively, and creatively for months. Along the way, you get high-powered technical and practical advice on how to refine your solution, start a business, win over investors, and bring in customers. Having learned and achieved much along the way, you come together and compete with other great teams from around the world and face expert judges who are eager to hear about the next big thing.

Welcome to Imagine Cup: an annual global student competition akin to a youth Olympics of technology. It’s prestigious, innovative, entrepreneurial, and impactful as a first step toward changing the world.

More than 2 million students from around 190 countries have competed in Imagine Cup since it started in 2003, including hundreds of thousands from across Asia Pacific. Using the latest technologies – which nowadays include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), and cloud computing – they have taken on some of society’s toughest challenges.

Team RailinNova’s Nan Wang presenting his team’s Rail Component Inspection Robot

With the contest now in its 17th year, 12 teams of impressive young women and men from 10 countries converged on Sydney for its Asia regional finals. To qualify, they had to move through a series of online competitions and national playoffs that ran from late last year.

Annie Parker, Global Head of Microsoft for Startups

“You are all superheroes. You have done amazing work to get here,” Annie Parker, the Global Head of Microsoft for Startups, said in a welcome address made just before each team pitched their solutions to a panel of five judges.

“These are young people wanting to solve the world’s problems, wanting to take on the big issues, and they are not afraid of that at all,” says Jennifer Ritzinger, Senior Director of Microsoft’s Academic Ecosystems and Reactors, whose team manages the competition. “They understand it is about having the right idea, and the dream, and the passion.”

Underscoring the importance of Imagine Cup’s mission, the Asia finals in Sydney were held just before Ignite the Tour – a premier Microsoft event for tech professionals and developers.

What surfaced through a day of presentations and demonstrations by the students was a sophisticated, inspirational, and eclectic mix of solutions for all sorts of sectors from the environment to disabilities, business, transport, security and more.

Team SUFECS explaining their Smart Urban Farming with Automated Environmental Controlled System to Judge Mark Pesce, Author, Inventor & Futurist

Among the entries were: an augmented reality solution for wheelchair users to navigate city streets (Singapore’s Team InclusiveAR); a social media sales tool to empower small businesses (Indonesia’s Team CodeSell); and a better way for people with dyslexia to use the internet (New Zealand’s Team LookUP).

READ more about each of the Asia Finalists here

Sri Lanka’s Team Straw Hats had a solution that reads the brain waves of people with debilitating neural disorders to help them communicate. Team Alpha-India created an augmented reality solution that discerns ingredients in packages foods while compatriots RVSAFE developed a one-stop communications and management solution to cope with natural disasters. Thailand’s Team Maker Playground came up with a software package to create IoT products.

“They all sat in a sweet spot where the technology, the application, and the thoughtfulness came together,” said futurist and entrepreneur Mark Pesce, who was on the jury.

Team Fisherman presenting their application, FishingPhishing

Some teams had personal reasons for deciding to tackle specific problems. For instance, the distress of friends and relatives losing money to phone scammers prompted South Korea’s Team Fisherman to create an app that has machine-learned voice analysis capabilities to detect suspicious cold calls.

Team SUFECS from Malaysia won the “People’s Choice Award” for developing a smart urban farming system that monitors and controls artificial environments best suited for growing crops in crowded cities.

Third-placed Team AidUSC from the Philippines wanted to help poor rural communities when they created an app that uses Azure Custom Vision to check the safety levels of water samples via a smartphone camera. Second-placed Team RalinNova of China came up with a robotic solution to automatically inspect train lines for defects with multi-sensor fusion capabilities.

The eventual winners, India’s Team Caeli, pulled their idea out of thin, or rather, polluted, air. Tired of choking on traffic fumes and industrial smog on their daily commute to their college in Delhi, they asked a simple question: If they were finding it hard to breathe, how were people with asthma and other chronic conditions coping?

At first, they launched a research project on air pollution, but soon decided “to develop a product to help all those patients who are suffering from respiratory issues and need it the most,” said team member Aakash Bhadana. They came up with #breathefreely – an AI and data-driven personal anti-pollution system that dispenses medications with the use of a smart face mask. They hope to launch their product to market by the end of this year.

Members of Team Caeli celebrate after they are named winners of the Asia Finals.

Team Caeli will represent Asia at the World Final at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, near Seattle, in May. They will compete against the winners of two other soon-to-be-held regional finals for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and the Americas.

READ MORE: Imagine Cup Asia champs take on the world with Azure-driven anti-pollution mask

Ritzinger regards the global nature of Imagine Cup as one of its most valuable attributes. As well as bringing forward new ideas in the application of technology, the experience of competing internationally at such a high-level also changes the lives of participants who come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. Everyone is exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, and experiences that open new lines of communication and collaboration. “Some students have never been on a plane before. They have never had a passport before. They never thought that they could be so empowered.”

Jennifer Ritzinger, Senior Director of Microsoft’s Academic Ecosystems and Reactors

She and colleague, Keith Loeber, Director in Academic Ecosystems, work at the forefront of Microsoft’s investment in emerging talent through a series of student programs and initiatives. “We are really all about preparing students for the future,” Loeber says. “Imagine Cup gives them an opportunity to innovate on their own and to showcase that innovation. It is about empowering students to make that next great technology.

“We understand that today’s students are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. They will also become technology decision makers. Whatever we can do to help make them better for tomorrow, we want to invest in that.”

Parker, who is also a former Imagine Cup judge, regards the competition as a wise long-term bet for the not-too-distant future. “If you invest in smart people – and give them the skills and the knowledge they need to build and innovate for themselves – they will become the startups of tomorrow,” she explains.

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Introducing the Imagine Cup Asia Regional Champions: Team Caeli from India

We are excited to introduce the winners of the Asia Regional Final! Team Caeli won top honors for their automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask which utilizes Azure Machine Learning to improve quality of life for respiratory patients living in polluted areas. 
 

At its core, Microsoft Imagine Cup has a mission to empower student developers to achieve more and create the next great technology solutions for the chance to win cash, prizes, mentoring, and travel. We believe that with student innovation and creativity, partnered with Microsoft technologies and Azure cloud resources, the possibilities are endless.

The first out of three Regional Final events kicked off this weekend at Ignite | The Tour. Asia regional competitors were challenged to submit an original technology project utilizing Azure, and hundreds of teams were evaluated in the preliminary Online Semifinals round. 12 finalists were selected to move forward to the in-person Asia Regional Finals. The finalist teams traveled to Sydney, Australia on February 11 and participated in an Entrepreneurship Day and Ignite | The Tour activities to learn how to take their project to the next level and integrate the latest and greatest technologies into their solutions. Their experience culminated in giving a live demo of their Imagine Cup projects to a panel of judges and the top three were selected.   

Team Caeli will advance to the Imagine Cup World Championship this May, where they will compete against the winners of the EMEA and Americas Regional finals for a chance at USD100,000 and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Follow the action on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date with the competition.

Caeli FIRST PLACE.jpg

1st placeCaeli, India

Caeli is a smart automated anti-pollution and drug delivery mask specifically designed for asthmatic and chronic respiratory patients. Caeli implements breakthrough features and Azure Machine Learning in a portable format to improve the quality of life for respiratory patients living in polluted areas.

Prize: USD15,000 and a spot in the Imagine Cup World Championship

RailinNova Second Place.jpg

2nd placeRailinNova, China

The team developed a Rail Component Inspection Robot which operates through automatic positioning using AI and IoT, and identifies various railroad defects through multi-sensor fusion in order to replace the number of workers needed in a rail inspection project. The results can be processed in real-time to identify possible defect areas.

Prize: USD5,000

AidUSC Third Place.jpg

3rd placeAidUSC, Philippines 

The team developed Aqua Check, which utilizes Microsoft Azure’s Custom Vision to empower anyone to analyze for contamination by taking a photo of a water sample through a microscope. Using Azure Web and Azure Maps, the project can map contamination locations.

Prize: USD1,000

Congratulations to all the Asia Regional Finalists for all their incredible innovations this year. Do you want to build the skills necessary to bring your technology solution to the next Imagine Cup? Get started learning Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Mixed Reality and more with Azure for Students.