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Expectations High for Sri Lanka to bring home Imagine Cup 2012

Microsoft Imagine Cup 2012

‘Imagine a world where technology helps to solve the toughest of problems?’ This is the challenge thrown out to the youthful participants of Microsoft Imagine Cup 2012. As in every year, built into the competition is the objective to find a technology-based solution to a simple yet significant problem that affects society today. What is more exciting for the contenders is that the exercise, is not purely academic since Microsoft’s judging criteria encourages the projects submitted to be commercially viable.

Since its international debut in 2003, over 1.4 million students have participated in the Imagine Cup competition, with 358,000 students representing 183 countries and regions registering for it year on year. Microsoft Sri Lanka, opened the competition to local universities for the first time in 2005, and since, local participants of Imagine Cup have grown, with submitted projects to find solutions to real-world problems becoming more and more globally competitive every year.

This year, approximately 700 students from 15 higher education institutes from Sri Lanka’s local and private sector participated in the competition. Through a careful elimination process the teams have now reached the final round with six finalists.

CR Corderz, Team Dot and Casper Creations from Informatics Institute of Technology, Team Sharks and V360 from the University of Moratuwa and Invictus from the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka are the finalist teams who will pit their skills against each another at the national Imagine Cup 2012 competition to be held on the 27th of April. Each team consists of a maximum of 4 members who come together to develop a real world technology solution that would solve a serious problem. The winning team will vie for the Imagine Cup World Championship at the World Finals in Sidney, Australia later this year.

Globally, Imagine Cup continues to encourage students around the globe to imagine a better world in which people are empowered by technology. The United Nations has identified some of the hardest challenges in the world today in its Millennium Development Goals — ranging from reducing poverty and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS to providing universal primary education. The Imagine Cup is calling on programmers, designers, and technologists to rise to this challenge and use these Development Goals as their inspiration.

The participating teams were expected to work towards a mission to create and submit a project addressing the theme – Imagine a World where technology helps solve the toughest problems; under one of seven categories using the most up to date Microsoft technologies. Software Design using real world software, Game Design using the power of gaming, IT Challenge which can help develop a rock solid IT system, Windows Azure Challenge featuring a web application in the Cloud, Windows Phone Challenge using the Windows Phone, Kinect Fun Labs Challenge which encourages students to think about entertainment with a social consciousness, or the Windows Metro Style App Challenge which encourages building apps for the new Windows 8, are some of the platforms students can use to submit their programmes this year.

Some members of Sri Lanka’s finalist teams who are hard at work putting final touches to their projects expressed their views on participating in Imagine Cup 2012.

Kalinga Gunawardhana, who belongs to the Invictus team from the University of Sabaragamuwa, Applied Science Faculty says, “I have been trying to win this competition for several years. With some addition of new blood into the team we have been able to reach the final round. After much research and deliberation we have found that it is the smallest of things that may mean a big breakthrough in today’s problems. We are encouraged at the thought that one day our inventions will pave the way for the betterment of mankind. In this aspect Microsoft is rendering a great service. And if I may say so it is a great honour for Sri Lanka to be part of this global competition”

“This has been such a great learning experience for us. Through this competition were able to look at various areas, which could be developed through the use of IT. What our team chose was a software through which we can take a clear look at our environment. We hope to bring a solution that would help ease the world’s wide spread environment pollution. Nearly 50% of our project is already complete and we are confident of presenting very useful software. We are of the opinion that if this competition could reach more students it would greatly benefit them as it has benefited us,” says Malinda De Silva of Team V360, University of Moratuwa University, IT Faculty.

Akila Jayasuriya, one of the judges at the national competition preliminary round says there are high hopes for the Sri Lankan competitors to win at international level. He says “the standards have been very high this year and some of the ideas are really out of the box with the potential to win international awards.” Akila, a graduate of Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT), was a part of the winning SLIIT team ‘Mahee’ who won the national Imagine Cup in 2009 and later made it to the top 12 in the Software Design category at the Imagine Cup World Finals.

Last year’s winners ‘Perasoft’ from the University of Peradeniya who won in the Software design category, were skilful enough to be amongst the first 25 finalists at the 2011 world finals held in New York. The project ‘Hear through Eyes, was built on a Microsoft platform, to help the hearing impaired, read sign language to communicate with people who do not understand sign language.

This year too the judges of the national semi finals have said that selecting the six finalists was a hard task considering the high standards of the projects submitted.

Wellington Perera, Director – Developer Platform Evangelism, Microsoft Sri Lanka, who carefully nurtures and guides the participants every year says, "we have been overwhelmed by the force of talent and enthusiasm displayed by all the participants at this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup competition. We are hopeful that some of these big and bold ideas will win on the international stage in Australia, and provide greater impetus to 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. This can positively contribute to the student community and perhaps even influence future career choices, simultaneously building vital soft skills such as qualities of leadership, teamwork and tenacity."

Each of the teams who are all set to make their presentations this month are confident of being the winner who will compete at the world finals in Australia and taking a cue from the judges, it is on the cards that Sri Lanka may even bring the World Imagine Cup 2012 to our home turf this year.