Two teams represented Sri Lanka at the Imagine Cup 2008 World Finals in France - Team Sasrutha (Software Design category) and Team Genes|Pictures (Short Film category)
370 finalists, 124 teams, 61 countries and USD240,000/- in prize money are the elements that comprised The Imagine Cup 2008 World Finals, concluded this July in Paris. Considering the fact that the finalists were obtained after pairing down a total of well over 200,000 applicants from over 100 countries, goes on to show how popular the global event, Imagine Cup; a concept actualised by Microsoft six year ago, has become. This truly global competition and symposium, held for the sixth consecutive year in a dynamic world capital (previously in Seoul, South Korea and Cairo and next year in Alexandria, Egypt,), true to its name, has succeeded in capturing the imagination of the youth of the world, fuelling their thirst and yearning to create innovative new solutions that may benefit the whole of mankind. Founded by Microsoft in 2003, the Imagine Cup challenges students to imagine a world where their own ideas could shape solutions to real-world problems; the theme of the 2008 Imagine Cup being ‘Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment.’ The competition was conducted over several diverse categories, in keeping with topical global needs, which included Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Development, “Project Hoshimi” (Programming Battle), IT Challenge, Algorithm, Photography, Short Film and Interface Design.
Of the 370 finalists 8 were Sri Lankan, representing two teams, competing in the categories of Software Design and Short Film. Team Sasrutha competing in the Software Design category, consisting of Sapumal Ahangama, Chethiya Abeysinghe, Supunmali Ahangama and Dasuni Kannangara, with their project “Haritha Prayathna”, which was aimed at popularising and encouraging the public to reuse and recycle waste, as a measure of reducing environmental pollution, and the 2nd team, Team Genes|Pictures who competed in the Short Film category, comprised of two students from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) – Buddhika Perera, and Malika Fernando, Gimantha Aponso from Tec Sri Lanka and Salinga Kodikara from the National Institute of Technical Education. Team Genes|Pictures , enjoyed the immense honour of becoming one of the six finalists in that category with their novel storyline, joining other international teams: ‘Team Circle’ – Taiwan, ‘Team Lava Lamp’ – Mexico, ‘Team NEIP’ – Korea, ‘Team OTTOMANS’ – Turkey and ‘Team Robotree from Canada, all competing in the grand final.
Sharing his team’s experience in Paris, Sapumal Ahangama, leader of Team Sasrutha stated, “As a team, we felt privileged and happy to represent our country and also the University of Moratuwa at this prestigious global event. It was fascinating to witness the diverse cultural backgrounds of different countries united by core technologies. The fact that we spent a week in one of the most beautiful cities in world was amazing. First of all we were all thrilled to witness the glamorous opening ceremony at the City Hall and felt honoured to be welcomed by the mayor of Paris. The City Tour gave us the opportunity of experiencing a bit of the culturally rich city of Paris. The most memorable event was the Dinner Cruise along Seine River, where we enjoyed ourselves with the rest of competitors. The City Tour, Dinner Cruise and final farewell party under the bridge were well planned and gave us the freedom to socialize with others. During the student showcase, we had the prospect of meeting the teams from all over the world and sharing ideas with them. We learnt about the unique ways of applying cutting edge Microsoft technologies in Software Design, in Embedded Development and in Game Development. The collective enthusiasm shown by all the participants in technology, in cultural exchange and at the finally the enthusiasm shown to build a better world together could be considered as the most unforgettable experience from the whole event.”
“It was once in a lifetime experience,” added Buddhika Perera, leader of team Genes|Pictures, “As a world finalist in Short Film category I believe our team did a great job during the 36 hour competition. It was a new challenge to us, the hardest part being to come up with an idea and finding the resources needed to shoot our film in a foreign country. It is noteworthy that the organizers of the Imagine Cup world festival had done a remarkable job to make the event a memorable one.
The winners of The Imagine Cup were announced in a gala awards ceremony during the Imagine Cup World Festival, a celebration drawing Imagine Cup competitors, mentors and other key attendees all together. It featured keynote addresses from several dignitaries from around the world. The software design category saw winners emerging from Australia with Slovakia and Hungary following close behind in second and third places respectively whilst the short film category was won by Korea, with Mexico taking second place and Canada coming in third. Winners of other categories included Singapore for Embedded Development, Brazil for Game Development, Russia for “Project Hoshimi” Programming Battle, France for IT Challenge, Ukraine for Algorithm and finally USA for both Photography and Interface Design.
In addition to the category awards, five Achievement Awards were also presented. The Rural Innovation Achievement Award, sponsored by Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group, is designed to recognise the software solution that contributes toward a more sustainable environment and best help promote the social and economic growth of underserved populations in developing countries and regions whilst enabling their citizens better meet their basic needs. It was won by Indonesia. The Accessible Technology Achievement Award, designed to recognise the interface design solution that makes it easier for anyone to see, hear and use a computer, and to customize their computing environment according to their own preferences, needs and abilities, was won by Jeffrey Bigham, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science from the University of Washington, United States, for “Project WebAnywhere” whilst an additional onsite challenge was won by France’s “Team JivAd”. The Interoperability Achievement Award, designed to recognise the software solution that best leverages Microsoft technologies to connect people, data or diverse systems to help address real-world customer needs, was won by India’s “Team SKAN” and the Windows Live Achievement Award, designed to recognise the software solution that makes the best use of the Windows Live platform and adds new social dimensions to both new and old Web sites and Web projects, was won by Spain’s “Windows Drive”. And finally the Engineering Excellence Achievement Award, sponsored by Microsoft’s Enterprise Engineering Centre, which is designed to recognise the outstanding team from the Software Development category that have created solutions which demonstrate the potential to be developed to scale with focused guidance from a Microsoft engineer, was won by “Team Atlas” of Bulgaria.
Sriyan de Silva Wijeyratne, the Country Manager for Microsoft Sri Lanka, commenting on the top global recognition achieved by the Sri Lankan students, said; “Imagine Cup has changed the perspective of Sri Lankans, who can now only reach higher. In our 4th year of participating in The Imagine Cup, Sri Lanka has reached a new standard of innovative dynamism, setting an admirable benchmark for future teams to follow. May The Imagine Cup continue to further our vistas, and together, let us scale even greater heights in the years to come, for after all, when we benefit, the whole world benefits with us.”
Imagine Cup’s fame as the Olympics of Technology is now a foregone conclusion, as it is placed as the foremost symposium for technology fuelled by the creative genius of youth globally. This is a fact amply understood by Microsoft, whose initiative gave birth to the notion in the first place. And that is exactly why Microsoft seeks to break new ground with The Imagine Cup, ultimately realising that no matter who wins, it is the world that has ultimately won. Thus, as Microsoft strives to enable individuals to achieve their full potential, and thereby fulfil a much required service to the global community, The Imagine Cup has provided yeoman service in this regard. Moreover, by allowing individuals from various backgrounds and abilities, from different countries to interact with one another, The Imagine Cup has served to provide a common forum for brilliant ideas to thrive and foster, thus ensuring that a good idea is honed to perfection, thereby, once again, benefiting the global community at large. Especially, the ramifications such a global event can have on a country such as ours, is indeed, both extensive and widely positive, starting from but not limited to a large number of discerning students getting exposed to the latest in technology and innovative thinking.
Imagine Cup 2009 will be held in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. The theme will be “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today.” Students will be asked to create software solutions that are aligned to one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs range from halving extreme poverty and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS to providing universal primary education. Registrations for Imagine Cup 2009 opened on the 08th of July 2008, while more information about Imagine Cup can be found at http://www.imaginecup.com.
Microsoft Sri Lanka’s involvement in building capacity within the ICT industry is extensive. In 2005, Microsoft signed an MOU with the Government of Sri Lanka, under which MS contributes positively towards the development and facilitation of a vibrant local software economy. Microsoft activities on capacity building, reaches Schools, Universities Under-Served Communities and IT professionals with training and educational programmes to uplift the ICT literacy of the country. The projects undertaken aims to prepare the workforce to face the challenges of the new knowledge economy thereby increase employability. Through this, Microsoft has not only been able to uplift the standards of IT in Sri Lanka to a great extent, but it has also enabled Microsoft Sri Lanka to already reach its goal of touching over 1 million lives through their wide sphere of empowerment activities, a goal which was initially set out to be reached by the year 2009.