Tackling the World’s Toughest Problems, One Innovation at a Time

REDMOND, Wash. — June 7, 2011 — Just under a decade ago, 189 nations around the world agreed to tackle eight unique issues related to extreme poverty, which later came to be known as the Millennium Development Goals. Sights were set to achieve various goals by 2015, and with less than four years to go, Microsoft has asked the global student population to see what they can do to help.

It’s called the Imagine Cup, and this year’s theme is: “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems” While seemingly aspirational, this competition has offered several distinct opportunities for students to come together and showcase their innovative solutions under this umbrella theme. One area that Microsoft and Windows Embedded have been following closely is the Embedded Development contest, which recently concluded its second round on May 5. Fourteen countries across the globe held local embedded development competitions, including the United States, U.K., China and others, and judges are currently meeting to identify which teams will become the lucky finalists, 20 in total, that will travel to New York for the worldwide finals taking place July 8–13.

Out of an initial 350 teams who submitted for the award, there were 150 teams who made it through to round two with a written report detailing their embedded solution and a five-minute video to highlight a working prototype of the device. Entries that were not a part of local competitions (worldwide submissions) were evaluated by a carefully selected group of judges recruited by Microsoft. These people included personnel from the Microsoft Partner ecosystem and the Microsoft Corporate business division, as well as distinguished university professors from schools around the globe.

A handful of local competition winners have already been decided and announced through official Imagine Cup pages on Facebook as well as through community forums and blogs. Some of the latest teams advancing to the worldwide embedded competition finals include:

  • Team Drushti from V.E.S. Institute of Technology in Mumbai, India, for their project providing visually impaired users a natural way of interacting with a computing device through a proposed tactile grid.

  • Team Calvus from Russia for a device that controls conditions to create a suitable environment for larval axolotl, a kind of animal used in stem cell research.

  • Team Cycling into Trees from the University of York for their “Child Sleep Safe” project, which aims to reduce crib deaths by monitoring a sleeping baby. The project uses a combination of embedded hardware, software and home automation systems.

Upon arriving in New York, contest finalists will be putting on a 20-minute presentation before two separate judging panels for their product. After additional deliberation and two more phases of presentations, the scores will be tallied and the first-, second- and third-place teams will be announced. The grand prize totals $25,000 (U.S.), to be equally divided among each registered member of the winning team, followed by a $10,000 (U.S.) prize for the runner-up team and a $5,000 (U.S.) prize for the third-place team.

2011 marks the ninth year of the Imagine Cup worldwide competition, which was last held in Warsaw, Poland. The competition has grown in numbers, from fewer than 1,000 submissions in 2003 to more than 325,000 registered student competitors in 2010. Past competitors have landed terrific opportunities following their academic careers, including some who have founded their own companies — all in the name of solving the world’s toughest problems through technology.

For more information, don’t forget to visit the Imagine Cup home page. Also, be sure to check out the Windows Embedded News Center and follow the @MSFTWEB Twitter handle for the latest Windows Embedded news and latest round of updates for the Embedded Development contest.