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Microsoft’s Imagine Cup excitement heats up -Young techies gear up for another chance at World Finals

The world’s premier student technology competition: IMAGINE CUP comes back with a bang in 2011, putting forward a theme of global proportions: “imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems”. This year, winners of the local competition will represent the country at the worldwide finals held in the bustling and vibrant heart of USA: New York.

Microsoft launched this student technology competition, Imagine Cup, in 2003, with a vision of igniting a new wave of technological innovation, bringing together the brightest young minds from around the world and encouraging them to use their creativity to harness technology to solve the world’s toughest problems. The core objective behind this initiative was to offer young people a recognized platform to broaden their technological horizons, unleash their innovation, cultivate their ingenuity, activate their ideas and present their creativity to the world.

“This is the seventh year of the Sri Lanka competition and the response is more overwhelming than in the years before. The competitiveness has also been progressively intensifying over the past few years”, says Mr. Wellington Perera, Director - Developer Platform Evangelism, Microsoft Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan participation at the Imagine Cup has been continual since the inception of Microsoft in Sri Lanka.

The main concept in this competition is imagining a world where technology helps solve the world’s toughest problems where prospective competitors are encouraged to think along the lines of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) proposed by the United Nations by the year 2015. “Now, with just a few more years to go it is time to get creative and make a difference,” says Mr. Perera encouraging the next lot of participants to hone in on their creativity.

In adhering with this year’s theme, Imagine Cup invites students to make a real-world impact by undertaking the challenge to take on real-world problems submitted by various IGOs, NGOs and Non-Profit Organizations under the ‘Imagine Cup Solve This’ Program. With the initiation of this program, competitors now have access to a database of real-world problems submitted by worldwide IGOs and NGOs such as NetHope, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), USAID, United Nations Programme on Youth (UNPY), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WPF).

Today, the Imagine Cup has become a common call for young techies around the world, a hallmark competition which inspires them to get creative. With 325,000 participants from over 100 countries in 2010, in comparison to a mere 1000 participants from 25 countries at the commencement of this competition in 2003, the Imagine Cup has spread its wings further and further to inspire innovation in youth from all corners of the globe.

“What ignites a simple burst of imagination, coupled up with hard work can lead to the birth of the next big technological breakthrough, a jump-start for a new career or even the stepping stone for a flourishing new industry. Imagine cup invites students to learn, collaborate and change the world by applying their imagination to solve real-world problems to make an actual difference,” added Mr. Perera.

In Sri Lanka, Microsoft is currently reaching out to many Universities across the island in an effort to encourage a wider participation of talented youngsters in the country to step up to the challenge with Imagine Cup. Over the years, the Universities, most frequently participating, have been the University of Moratuwa, the University of Colombo, the University of Peradeniya and the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT). During the 2009 Imagine Cup, four teams from Sri Lanka competed in the worldwide finals, equaling the number of teams from large countries in the region. Both the Software Design Team (Mahee) and Embedded Development Team (SAS_EN) made it to the world top 12 at the worldwide finals held in Egypt.

Team Speak-Up from the University of Colombo, School of Computing (UCSC) were able to bag the championship award at the Imagine Cup Sri Lanka finals in 2010 whilst Team HELY from SLIIT and Team SAGGEZZA from the University of Moratuwa followed close behind as the 1st and 2nd Runners Up.

GayanGarusinghe, a member of the Imagine Cup Sri Lanka winning team which represented the country at the worldwide finals in Warsaw, Poland in 2010 said, “The Imagine Cup is not just a competition, it is an experience. From the time of registering to being selected and hopefully reaching the finals, it is all about the vivid learning experience, teamwork and the invigoration of facing a global challenge. Having participated and progressed to the worldwide finals, I feel that every bit of the journey has definitely been worth it.”

The challenge is ‘ON’, and the quest to seek out the world’s most brilliant young minds is ‘on the go’. What remains now is for those who have the courage to bring about the next revolution or even evolution in technology to step up and show that together, we can change the world!