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Local Youth Use Technology to Combat the Challenges of the Modern world


Microsoft SL‘s Imagine Cup helps power youth potential in the national Year of English and IT


In today’s challenging and competitive world, it is no surprise that the onus will be on the youth of today to find solutions and better ways to resolve these issues. It is with this in mind that the Government of Sri Lanka, lead by the vision of his Excellency President Mahinda Rajapakse, has launched the national Year of English and IT in Sri Lanka. In direct support of this national vision, Microsoft Sri Lanka will, for the seventh consecutive year, open its’ globally renowned Imagine Cup competition to university students across the island nation – in a search for the most imaginative and practical solutions to the toughest challenges of the modern world.


This year’s competition will be conducted under the broad theme of "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today" Microsoft Sri Lanka will take every effort needed in organizing this year’s local competition, to encourage and inspire young, creative minds to look towards the future with new hope. Microsoft Sri Lanka, in yet another supportive effort towards the community, encourages the youth of the island to apply their imagination, passion and innovative skills in the field of technology so as to make a change in the world at large, via ‘Imagine Cup 2009’.


Be it software programmers, hardware developers, artists or dreamers, the ‘Imagine Cup’ is a call to any youth who can imagine a better world for themselves and then make a sincere effort to make it happen! This year’s theme "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today," could very well see the discovery of some history making and life changing innovations from talented local students, thereby fitting in perfectly with the state’s vision to provide the knowledge and access that will allow for creative and innovative input in terms of solutions and enterprises from people from anywhere in the island.


“Its competitions like Imagine Cup that truly help us identify the exceptional talents of young minds in Sri Lanka as they commit themselves over the span of a year to develop creative applications for everyday processes and it has always been an invigorating experience as they spend endless hours on brainstorming, implementing and fine tuning to become the best at the local competition. Also the opportunity that they get by participating in the global competition with versatile students of the same age has helped immensely in developing themselves to suit the employment market of today’s day and age. We have great confidence that the winning team will do Sri Lanka proud at the international level and I wish all of them the best of luck in this endeavor.“ expressed Dr. Chathura desilva, Senior Lecturer, University of Moratuwa.


Open to students from across the globe, the Imagine Cup has gradually grown year on year, with over 300,000 students from over 100 countries registering this year. Further more teams from many countries in different competition categories will attend the worldwide finals in Egypt in July 2009.


The contest spans over a year, starting with local, regional and online contests, the winners of which go on to attend the global finals held at a different location each year. The extent of work involved, brings students together, and motivates them to go all out and give it their best shot! In an attempt to bring an equal and optimum lifestyle and opportunity for all Sri Lankans, the exchange of ideas between local representatives and students from around the globe will provide just such an opportunity for the growth and development of the students themselves as well as giving Sri Lanka an international platform from which to present and project the country’s potential for creative and innovative technology, and its commitment to becoming a knowledge based economy.


“Having been part of the team that won the local round of the ‘Imagine Cup’ in 2005, I can’t begin to explain how it’s changed my entire life. It was not just the truly novel experience and extensive international exposure we obtained from participating, but also, the wealth of knowledge we were able to gain as a result of the competition, that made it so unique. It not only widened my horizons, but also paved the path to my current career, which I’m so very passionate about,” said Anupama Weerabahu – a member of the local ‘Imagine Cup’ winning team in 2005.


Since students are free to participate in multiple Imagine Cups those who were not winners in previous years are free to compete again and overall are enthusiastic and ready to do so “I’m very excited to have yet another chance to compete in ‘Imagine Cup,’ said second time competitor, Akila Jayasooriya, from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology. And went on to say ‘Especially as I would definitely like to win the local competition and move on to the international arena this time around. Having participated before, I have an idea on what is expected from participants and how best to maximize on group input and resources.”


With a view to extend ICT programmes throughout the country and especially at the grass root level, Microsoft SL has changed the entry level criteria for the competition so that any student who meets the applicable age requirement of a minimum of 16 years and is enrolled at a university or accredited educational institute that offer university degrees, any time between January 1, 2008, and May 31, 2009 can participate in the 2009 Imagine Cup. Students can enter under any one of the following nine categories; Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Development, Robotics and Algorithm, IT Challenge, MashUp, Photography, Short Film and Design. More details and online registration can be done at www.imaginecup.lk and www.imaginecup.com Graduates and PhD students are also able to compete; however, they cannot use unpublished research for their projects.


“The whole campus is abuzz once more, at the call for applications for this year’s ‘Imagine Cup.’ Both the students and faculty of our university are quite eager to participate and support this initiative respectively. Students seem keen to rise to the particular challenge of attempting to find resolves for some of the most pressing issues we’re faced with today. I’m sure this competition will act as a catalyst for students to start thinking ‘out-of-the-box’ and push themselves beyond their personal comfort zones in a unified effort to help better the world,” said Madhuka Udantha, Internal Campus Organizer Student Champ - University of Moratuwa.


“The ‘Imagine Cup’ is Microsoft’s way of encouraging youth to take on an active role in shaping their respective futures. The Imagine Cup competition encourages students from across the country, to be creative and innovative and go in depth into grave issues that face us today, which in turn will pave the way to novel, tailor made solutions to specific problems. The competition also promotes dynamic team work and strategy, so as to generate the best possible results. The ‘Imagine Cup’ is constantly expanding and evolving and Microsoft hopes to make it as comprehensive and productive as possible,” explained Microsoft Developer Evangelist – Wellington Perera.


Having first competed only in 2005, Sri Lanka has had quite a noteworthy track record since then. The most recent achievement being Team ‘Genes|Pictures’ from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology who made it to the top six in the Short Film Category at the Grand Finals held in Paris last year. Adding to our local achievements, in 2007 Team ‘Tear’ from the University of Colombo - School of Computing represented Sri Lanka in the Short Film Category and made it to the top six at the world wide finals. This year was especially significant as three local teams made it to a highly competitive second round in the Short Film category, with Team ‘Tear’ making it to the top six outrunning over 300 other teams from around the world!


Although all submissions are requested to be submitted in English, they are judged solely on creativity and technical merit, not the student’s language ability. If one were to glance through a list of most past winners of the competition, it’s quite apparent that students from essentially English speaking countries are not at any unfair advantage. Furthermore, the panel of judges for the competition is invited from a mix of industry partners, sponsors, and academic institutions from around the world.


As for the location of the ‘Imagine Cup’, it rotates from year to year, with this year’s Grand Final being held in Cairo, Egypt. Some of the past venues of the World Finals include Paris, France (2008); Seoul, South Korea (2007); Delhi, India (2006); Yokohama, Japan (2005); Sao Paulo, Brazil (2004); and Barcelona, Spain (2003). A selection committee representing Microsoft and the competition captains evaluate applications from countries interested in hosting. Many factors are considered in this process, including resources available at the hosting country.