Imagine Cup celebrates ‘15 years of awesome’ with first-ever South East Asia regional finals

The following post is from Dave Miller, Developer Experience Lead, Microsoft Asia Pacific

Thohidul Islam, Syed Nakib Hossain, and Fazle Rabbi Rahat were elated when they won the Imagine Cup National Finals in their home country of Bangladesh.

With this victory under their belt, the three students from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology would have a shot at pitting their innovation and presentation skills against other national finalists at the inaugural Imagine Cup Southeast Asia Regional Finals event held in Manila, the Philippines.

However, their excitement soon gave way to a moment of mild alarm – the trio had never travelled out of Bangladesh before, and don’t even own passports! What’s more, they had to overcome their visa hurdle in the span of just a week, or risk missing the regional finals entirely.

But fortune, as they say, favors the bold.

Not only did Team Parasitica manage to sort out their travel documents in time for the regional finals, they even emerged as one of the top seven teams from Southeast Asia, earning the opportunity to fly up to Seattle for the Imagine Cup World Finals in July 2017.

Team Parasitica from Bangladesh receiving their “Most Popular Team” award at the Imagine Cup 2017 Southeast Asia Regional Finals

(Read more: Indonesia students win inaugural Microsoft Imagine Cup Southeast Asia Regional Finals with invention to combat ‘fake news’)

There, they will face national champions from more than 50 countries around the world, all vying for the top prize of US$100,000, as well as mentorship opportunities with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Microsoft Azure grants and credits to bring their ideas from concept to reality.

The story of Bangladesh’s Team Parasitica is the perfect example of why I love what I do at Microsoft.

We believe in empowering students across Asia and the world with the right tools and skills to achieve more, and Imagine Cup is one of the best platforms where we can witness the fruits of this labor.

At the Imagine Cup Southeast Asia Regional Finals, we saw a variety of inventions that leverage Microsoft technologies – from the cloud to machine learning and facial recognition – to tackle real-world challenges.

One team sought to streamline the detection of heartbeat abnormalities while another tried to improve the detection of fake news on the Internet. Some students felt chicken farming could do with a little help from machine learning, and yet another team made a collar cattle could wear so farmers can better manage their livestock.

The sheer creativity and ingenuity behind these innovations are simply mind-boggling, especially when you consider the fact that most of these teens are not even old enough to celebrate their victory with a pint!

(Read more: Meet the Imagine Cup 2017 regional finalists from South East Asia)

The judges – including H.E. Dr. AKP Mochtan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate Affairs, and other technology veterans – were equally impressed with the breadth and depth of student projects on display.

Over the course of three days, all teams also had the opportunity to meet and interact with fellow peers, industry leaders, and VCs and accelerators who graced the event. We were heartened to see students trading ideas and solutions with maturity and sophistication far beyond their age.

As we congratulate the freshest batch of winners of the Southeast Asia Regional Finals and wish them the best in the final leg of their Imagine Cup journey, let’s take a look at how far the world’s premier student technology competition has come.

Southeast Asia’s young technologists out in force at the Imagine Cup 2017 Southeast Asia Regional Finals.

Over the past 15 years, Imagine Cup has reached out to over 1.65 million students across 190 countries, giving them a platform to validate their ideas, flesh out solutions, and bring new inventions to market.

In Asia Pacific, nearly 380,000 students’ lives have been touched by Imagine Cup. Year after year, the competition brings together young technologists to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.

Globally, our Microsoft YouthSpark initiative – of which Imagine Cup is a part – has created educational, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for millions of youth around the world. This includes close to 80 million youth in Asia Pacific alone.

As Imagine Cup heads into the next 15 years, we are genuinely committed to inspiring Asia’s youth to be the driving force of tomorrow’s innovation – through providing world-class platforms and programs that help them develop computational thinking abilities and practical skillsets such as software coding and hardware design.

Fresh off their Southeast Asia Regional finals victory and with their spanking-new passports in hand, Thohidul, Syed, and Fazle are ready to apply for the US visa and compete on the world stage in Seattle, Washington. From winning the national championships in Bangladesh, to competing on the regional stage and traveling to lands unknown for the very first time, this journey of firsts is far from over.

Stay tuned to imaginecup.com to follow the competition, track the progress of your favorite teams, and find out who the ultimate grand prize winner will be.

See you at the Imagine Cup World Finals!