Sydney, Australia — 9 July, 2008: Microsoft today announced that a team of Australian university students has won its global Imagine Cup 2008 competition. Chosen from a field of more than 200,000 student entrants from over 100 countries and regions, the four students were recognised overnight at the Louvre Museum in Paris for their winning entry.
The winners, Team SOAK, won the competition for their innovative solution which provides tools for farmers to manage their water use and increase crop production in times of drought. Motivated by the challenges presented by the 2007 Australian drought, which resulted in the worst crop yields in 20 years, the team designed a comprehensive and easy-to-use water control system.
“As a team, we thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Imagine Cup competition. The challenge stimulated us to develop a practical solution to achieve a more sustainable environment. We learned a lot through this competition about the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Representing Australia in the world finals has been a fantastic opportunity and has allowed us to leave our mark on the world,” said Long Zheng on behalf of Team SOAK.
After a week of intense competition at the worldwide finals, against 370 students from 124 teams representing 61 countries and regions competing for USD$240,000 worth of prizes, Team SOAK won the worldwide Software Design category, becoming the first Australian team in history to win first place at the competition.
Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is a worldwide innovation competition that is designed specifically for students. The competition provides students with the opportunity to showcase their skills by creating technology solutions to address some of the biggest issues concerning our world today.
This year, students were asked to “Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment.” Team SOAK chose to address the issue of limited water supply. Climate change has meant that water has become scarcer, which greatly impacts the success of farmers across the globe. In 2007, Australian farmers had the worst crop production in 20 years, with a 59% yield reduction from the previous year.
Team SOAK’s solution works by using sensors that measure moisture, rainfall, wind, dam depth, temperature and water flow so that farmers can chose the best conditions for watering their crops. It uses this information, along with weather forecasts, to let farmers know when watering their crops will be optimal. For example, if it rains, the system will not water the crops. Farmers can also use the system to be notified when their fields reach critical moisture level via SMS or ‘Microsoft Live Alerts’. It will also let farmers know when there has been an irrigation failure, such as a broken water main.
“Australia has experienced terrible times of drought, which have had wide-reaching effects on our economy; SOAK demonstrates so powerfully the role that local innovation and our local talent can play in helping solve big problems, not only in Australia, but across the world. One of the strong points of Team SOAK’s solution is that it has real-world commercial application and the whole system can be implemented for less than AUD$2,000. The fact that an Australian team has won is incredible and showcases our talents and capabilities on a global scale,” said Ben English, technical audience manager, Microsoft Australia.
Six finalist Imagine Cup teams, including Team SOAK, will have the opportunity to explore how their software solutions can potentially turn into business realities. The teams will receive intense business and technology training as part of the Imagine Cup Innovation Accelerator program, co-sponsored by Microsoft and British Telecommunications plc (BT).
“The creativity demonstrated by the competitors this year has shown that tomorrow’s technology leaders are ready to apply their solutions to real-world issues,” said Joe Black, director of business development for emerging technologies, BT. “The Imagine Cup Innovation Accelerator is an exceptional opportunity for young developers to explore the entrepreneurial possibilities of their software solutions. We are excited to offer our encouragement, guidance, and support to these talented students through comprehensive training sessions to help them bring their ideas to fruition.”
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