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Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011 Attracts the Highest Number of Local Student Entries in its History in Sri Lanka

It is that all-important time of the year again, when the entire IT student community in Sri Lanka sharpens their skills and waits to participate in a hugely anticipated event that comes around once a year…

Fervour to participate in the Microsoft Imagine Cup has reached fever pitch as IT undergraduates draw on their sill and talent to think up ‘big ideas’ based on the Imagine Cup 2011 theme - ‘Think Big. Think Global’.

This year’s Imagine Cup theme encourages participants to “imagine a world where technology solves some of the toughest problems”. From the look of the flurry of activity amongst the IT student populace, the competition is heating up as they prepare to emerge with a winning concept that will propel them onto the global Microsoft Imagine Cup competition stage and along with it open up new windows of opportunities that could benefit their future career progression.

The 1st Round of the local competition was concluded on 17th of March 2011 after a host of internal rounds out of which 14 teams were selected to compete in the Semi-finals. These included 4 teams from the University of Colombo, School of Computing, 4 teams from University of Moratuwa, 3 teams from SLIIT, 2 teams from IIT and one team from the University of Peradeniya.

The Semi-final round was concluded on 29th of March 2011 from which 6 teams have emerged as finalists, waiting to show their colours at the grand finale on 27thApril 2011 at the Civil Engineering Faculty Auditorium of the University of Moratuwa. The finalist teams are: Team Vishwa and Team Sentinels 2.0 from University of Moratuwa, Team Titan from University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC), Team MISL – Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), Team Perasoft – University of Peradeniya and Team CR-Coderz from Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT).

Over the past few years, Sri Lankan IT students have fared comparably well with counterparts from around the world, and after witnessing the benefits that emanate from winning the competition, students target participation in the Imagine Cup as a key stepping stone in their career.

Not surprisingly, the competition is attracting record number of entries from around the country. The winners of this year’s Imagine Cup competition will represent Sri Lanka at the Grand Finale of the Global Imagine Cup Competition to be held in New York this summer. This year, a breakthrough record of 52 finalist teams, the highest ever in the history of Imagine Cup in Sri Lanka after the previous record of 28 teams in 2009, has been achieved, which reflects the increasing levels of sophistication of students’ entries and the growing popularity of the challenge.

Mr. Wellington Perera, Director – Developer Platform Evangelism, Microsoft Sri Lanka, commented: “We are excited by the fact that students have responded from across the country and from newer institutions, which mirrors the nationwide popularity that Imagine Cup has achieved. We are hopeful that some of these big and bold ideas will win on the international stage in New York, and provide greater impetus for students to consider the challenging opportunity that participation in the Imagine Cup offers. The competition was conceptualized not merely to make students think out of the box, but also to bring home to the industry and teachers of IT the multi-layered benefits that such a vital challenge brings to the student community and perhaps even influence their future career choices, simultaneously building vital soft skills such as qualities of leadership, teamwork, tenacity and so on. All the proposals we received this year were equally competitive and challenging. It was great to see a vivid range of solutions coming from a diverse set of students.”

As one of the students to advance to the 2nd Round of the Imagine Cup IT Challenge 2011and a Semi-finalist in the Software Design Category, Malin De Silva, (a student of the Faculty of IT, University of Moratuwa), expressed his views: “Having been the first student from Sri Lanka to advance to the second round of Imagine Cup from the IT Challenge 2011 as well as a competitor for the Local Software Design competition, I believe this year competition would provide some excellent SRI LANKAN products that could well competitive in the real world. Also, I highly appreciate the theme of this year which makes us think of the humanity, compassion towards the people affected by several tough problems which is not done by most other competitions.”

Currently, all eyes are on the Sri Lanka Finals to be held later this month, as the winners on this stage will be heading off to New York to showcase their concepts and designs in front of a global audience. A place in the global finals assures participants of global recognition, rewards and unique opportunities to network with potential global employers and peers, to add value to their CVs

Through its various technological initiatives to interact directly with the IT populace, Microsoft Sri Lanka has become an inseparable part of educational institutes in the country – in its own way “thinking local” despite being a global IT giant. In keeping with its mission to empower the nation’s youth with necessary IT skills, this year Microsoft Sri Lanka has appointed a University as its hosting partner in a move to strengthen ties with its target audience: the students.

This year, University of Moratuwa has been chosen as its hosting partner after considering the 4 consecutive glorious years of victory that Moratuwa has had at Imagine Cup Sri Lanka since its commencement. In the years to come, Microsoft will look to other universities which have shown outstanding performance at the Imagine Cup to come onboard Imagine Cup Sri Lanka as their hosting partners.