CAIRO – July 7, 2009 – With the pyramids brightly lighted behind him, Adrian Buzgar from Romania was at a loss for words. His team, SYTECH, had just won the Imagine Cup’s coveted software design competition, and it was up to him to put it in perspective.
“There are absolutely no words to describe what we’re feeling right now,” Buzgar told the crowd moments after hearing his team won the award. “Thank you everyone.”
The ceremony announcing the winners of the Imagine Cup 2009 Worldwide Finals was held near Egypt’s famous pyramids.
The Imagine Cup 2009 world finals closed Tuesday night in Cairo after 444 college students from across the world competed in nine categories July 3-7. The backdrop during the sessions was Cairo and surrounding landmarks such as the pyramids, the Nile River, the historic Citadel, and thousands of picturesque mosques.
“It’s befitting that we do this here in Cairo,” said Walid Abu-Hadba, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Group. “Egypt is the cradle of civilization.”
Imagine Cup is an annual student technology competition sponsored by Microsoft. Young thinkers from across the world use technology to try to address the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which include fighting poverty and hunger. More than 300,000 students from 100 countries and regions competed this year.
“The creativity and imagination that students poured into their projects this year was incredible,” said Joe Wilson, senior director of Academic Initiatives, Developer and Platform Evangelism Division at Microsoft. “Many of these projects have the potential to have a serious impact on how we address society’s most pressing issues. We hope that all of the students who participated this year will continue their pursuit of creating technology in the service of making the world a better place.”
The team from Romania built UpCity, a software program that connects citizens and government agencies by getting people involved at the grassroots level. The software platform is about to be used in Iasi, Romania, the team’s home city, and they hope to deploy it in other cities soon after that.
“The project will be developed for the city hall of our city at the end of this month,” Buzgar said. “Then we’re going to try to build a company.”
Among the enthusiastic winners was team LEVV It from Brazil, here waving to the crowd after being given their award by S. Somasegar, senior vice president of the Developer Division for Microsoft (left).
Other big winners were a team from Korea, which won the embedded development category, and Brazil, which took first place the Game Development competition. Read the full results here.
“I just can’t believe it,” said Yoonji Shin, whose Korean team built a project that aims to help end world hunger through the surprising approach of raising food-quality insects. “It’s just fantastic. I’m so grateful.”
Martin Štokic was equally happy to take home the world title in the competition’s photography competition for Croatia. “Winning feels so great,” he said. “We are speechless. I do not care about the check. All I wanted was to carry my flag in front of the pyramids.” Winning teams share prizes of up to US$25,000.
Edgard Noto, whose team took home the Game Development title for Brazil, got the crowd excited with a rousing speech about the importance of getting young people involved in technology. “Let’s change the world, people,” he enthused.
At the closing ceremony, with a full moon shining down at the stage and the pyramids behind it, Wilson reminded the students that the end of their time in Cairo is not the end of their Imagine Cup experience. He urged them to network, to talk, to email, and even to call each other, as old-fashioned as that might be.
“This actually is only the beginning,” he said. “This is an opportunity that has been put in your hands. What matters now is what you do with it. You are the greatness of our future.”