Inspired by Crowdsourcing, Imagine Cup Solve This Enables Students to Help IGOs, NGOs and Nonprofits

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 22, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. today announced Imagine Cup Solve This, a new program to provide inspiration for students looking to help solve the world’s toughest problems. In the spirit of “crowdsourcing,” intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits now will be able to seek the help of the brilliant and passionate students competing in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, the world’s premier student technology competition, to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems. Global IGOs and NGOs including NetHope, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Programme on Youth, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and local New York City nonprofit the Robin Hood Foundation are among the first organizations to participate.

IGOs, NGOs and nonprofits often encounter difficult challenges while working to address tough global issues such as education and literacy, disaster relief, environmental sustainability, and global healthcare. These organizations recognize that technology solutions can expand the reach of their services and help them more effectively meet the needs of their audiences. Through Imagine Cup Solve This, Microsoft is providing a marketplace of ideas that students can select to create solutions for as part of the annual Imagine Cup competition. In their submissions, participating organizations have asked students to create these solutions:

  • Technology solutions to promote and assist organizations and educators that foster early reading and literacy among young children

  • An online knowledge management system, or “online campus,” with educational content and virtual classrooms for different areas of interest, allowing teachers to interact, collaborate and share information with students

  • Mobile or fixed devices to capture and send videos or transmit live broadcasts from remote areas and under harsh conditions

  • An integrated collaboration and communication platform that encourages youth participation in global development efforts

“The Imagine Cup competition features students who are very passionate about societal issues, problem-solving and technology,” said Pamela Passman, corporate vice president of Global Corporate Affairs, Microsoft. “To help students generate project ideas, we created Imagine Cup Solve This, which connects them with nonprofits and organizations in need of new approaches to the variety of problems they encounter. This pairing illustrates how we are evolving the competition to empower students to help make a real difference in the world.”

Students can register for Imagine Cup 2011 today and access a library of problems submitted by the organizations to find project ideas that address issues that matter most to them. Students can put their ideas into action as they create technology solutions in several different categories of competition. Additional details about the Imagine Cup 2011 competitions and challenges are available at Microsoft plans to expand Imagine Cup Solve This over time to include submissions from additional global IGOs, NGOs and nonprofits that are interested in participating.

“The Imagine Cup provided an outlet for me to bring my ideas to life,” said Vinny Jeet, a member of Team OneBeep from the University of Auckland, Imagine Cup 2010 third-place winner in software design. “But the Imagine Cup isn’t just a competition, it’s a global movement that is helping students become entrepreneurs with a purpose.”

Participating organizations also expressed their support for Imagine Cup Solve This; their comments are included below.

Microsoft also announced today the first round of Imagine Cup finalists from the United States. These finalists will compete at the U.S. national finals that will be held on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash., in April:

Software Design

BearPaw, Brigham Young University

  • Project: The team created a solution that converts ultrasound image files to an open standard format, and that relies on the cloud for further processing and storage, which enables ultrasounds to be more portable, affordable and easier to use.

LifeLens, University of California, Davis; Harvard Business School; University of Central Florida; UCLA Anderson School of Management; University of California, San Diego

  • Project: The team developed software that uses a mobile phone camera to deliver an accurate diagnosis of malaria in the field.

Transit Tracker, Arizona State University

  • Project: The project relies on crowdsourcing and GPS data to provide accurate estimations of bus arrivals and departures, benefiting public transit users in general and the visually impaired in particular.

Uca Ursus, University of Central Arkansas

  • Project: The team created an automated system to track the speed of a skin lesion’s progression to better diagnose and treat skin cancer.

Voltron, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

  • Project: The team created an application to support the global collection of medical data by parents and doctors, allowing global researchers to access and study the cloud-based information as a means to help eradicate cancer among children.

Game Design – Windows and Xbox

Plump Pixel, California State University, Chico

  • Project: The team created “Green World,” an educational game blended with real-time strategy and simulation where the player takes on the role of a city planner whose responsibility is to provide a sustainable level of energy to the city while keeping the environment clean and free of pollution.

Righteous Noodle, University of Houston

  • Project: The team created “Eva Frontier,” a real-time strategy game designed to develop problem-solving skills by managing a humanitarian mission that delivers food and medicine to villages.

STC, University of Houston

  • Project: The team developed “Deep Sea,” a game designed to protect the ocean environment and promote innovation in keeping oil rigs safe.

Game Design – Mobile

SDEG, University of Texas San Antonio; Texas A&M University, San Antonio; San Antonio College

  • Project: The team created a mobile video game, “Renuvia,” which allows players to travel the world and fight pollution by using green technology, recycling and renewable energy.

Team AAMP, University of Houston

  • Project: The team developed a mobile game, “Operation Clean Sweep,” where the player has the objective of cleaning up rivers polluted by their adjacent cities.

Team Inspiration, University of California, Riverside

  • Project: The team developed a mobile game, “Trash Boy,” where players prevent trash from entering the ocean to protect fish.

More information on the U.S. finalists and other student programs can be found at

Now in its ninth year, the Imagine Cup has grown to become a global competition with more than 325,000 students representing 100 countries and regions entering the competition last year. The theme for the 2011 competitions is “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” Typically, students define the problems they solve through research, personal passion for social causes and inspiration from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Problems featured within Imagine Cup Solve This complement the other problems students identify for themselves. The Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals will be held in New York City July 8–13 — the first time the United States will host the final stage of the competition.

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Supporting Quotes From Participating Organizations

“Imagine Cup Solve This is an important new program that connects students with real, NGO problems, and can provide an innovation engine for creative solutions. I am continually impressed by the resourcefulness and can-do, forward thinking that students bring to the table, as well as a burning passion to have impact on the big issues facing us around the world. This is an opportunity to harvest this passion and deliver results that can ultimately be taken to scale.”

Edward G. Happ

Chairman and Co-founder, NetHope

Global CIO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

“Education is known as the best poverty-prevention method, and yet nearly 60 percent of New York City public school students in grades 3 through 8 read below grade level, and 40 percent of New York City high school students will not graduate on time. We believe that technology is the great differentiator that can level the playing field for students in their journey beyond poverty. Robin Hood is excited for students to consider the Imagine Cup Solve This problem in which competitors are asked to create a 1-minute video of ideas for how to use education to empower those living in poverty and activate other students to help bring those plans to life.”

Peter Tripp

Chief Information Officer

Robin Hood Foundation

“The Research4Life initiative, jointly managed by the United Nations organizations FAO, WHO and UNEP, is excited to be part of Microsoft’s inaugural Imagine Cup Solve This initiative. We see Imagine Cup Solve This as a unique opportunity to put our software development challenge to thousands of students that are participating in Imagine Cup with the goal of assisting developing world scientists gain improved access to current scientific research made available by the world’s leading science publishers in the areas of health, agriculture and environment.”

Stephen Rudgard

AGORA Programme Manager

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

“UNIDO is about creating prosperity in societies around the world — through the imaginative power of entrepreneurs. For this, we need creators, innovators and business-minded people who want to shape their environment and societies for the greater good. The Imagine Cup is a fantastic way to empower young people to come up with creative ideas to solve some of our most pressing global problems. If not the young generation, who will create the world of tomorrow?”

Wilfried Luetkenhorst

Managing Director

United Nations Industrial Development Organization

“The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is excited and proud to be participating in the 2010 Imagine Cup Solve This initiative. For the first time, the number of hungry people around the world has increased to over 1 billion. We look forward to working with Microsoft and the great IT minds of this generation to develop practical and innovative tools to raise awareness of this cause and assist us in our fight against hunger.”

Gianluca Bruni

Chief, IT Emergency Preparedness and Response

United Nations World Food Programme

“We are thrilled to work with Microsoft and students from around the world on this unique endeavor to bring attention to specific real-world challenges that need solutions. The problem we posed to students through the Imagine Cup is to identify innovative technology-supported solutions for promoting and assisting early grade reading and literacy for young children in low-resource settings. We believe that the creative energy of students can offer fresh ideas and approaches to make a profound difference in the lives of others.” 

David Barth

Director, Global Education team

U.S. Agency for International Development

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