Four teams from the UK have won places at Microsoft’s Imagine Cup final, where they will battle it out with developers from across the world for prizes worth more than $200,000.
The students will join 50 other teams at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, in the US, next month to present their ideas for solving real-world problems. Only the US has more teams than the UK attending the final.
The winning group will take home $100,000 in cash, a $120,000 Azure grant, a trip to next year’s Build developer conference and a private mentoring session with Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella.
“This year, we have more teams than ever representing some of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions, including the University of Oxford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Tokyo,” said Anthony Salcito, Vice-President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft.
“What’s more, the mix of student projects is equally impressive. We’ll see a wearable device designed to enhance surgeons’ ability to perform complex surgeries using image processing, VR applications and 3D models; a project focused on creating a virtual coach powered by artificial intelligence; and an IoT solution designed to help monitor infants’ vital signs, just to name a few.”
Representing the UK at the annual competition, which is aimed at developing the next generation of computer science experts, are SEAT, Donaco, KSF.LLC and Pocket Sized Hands.
SEAT, a three-man team, have created a system that improves the learning and teaching experience in programming courses. Comprised of an online dashboard and a Visual Studio Code extension, it will allow instructors to get statistics about their students’ performance on assignments, and provide automatic feedback to pupils about their code.
Donaco is a news website extension that makes it easier for people to donate to charity. The three students have used artificial intelligence to place buttons next to relevant news articles that allow readers to instantly give money to that cause. They hope it will lead to more online donations to charity as well as give news outlets new ways to engage with readers.
“The idea first came about when I was reading about the refugee crisis,” said Donaco team member Michael Moses. “I was frustrated as I didn’t know what I could do, and that wasn’t the first time.”
“Opportunities like the Imagine Cup are really important. There are loads of students with interesting ideas, but nobody really has a path to push them forwards or understands how. We understand the technology aspect, but getting advice on things like pitching and scaling is great.”
KSF.LLC is an agri-tech start-up that brings remote and interactive farming to people in cities, allowing them to join, learn and enjoy agriculture from anywhere, at any time via smart devices.
Finally, Pocket Sized Hands is a three-man team that has created an online, virtual reality (VR), multiplayer shooting game, focused on stealth combat.
“The player’s real-life movements translate into in-game movements, correlating with player invisibility,” the group said. “This invisibility mechanic takes full advantage of the latest generation of VR technology as it was only made possible with the use of hand-tracked motion controllers.”
The Imagine Cup is an annual competition that hopes to harness students’ passion for technology, with young developers encouraged to build applications that could change the way we live.
Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s Executive Vice-President of Cloud and Enterprise, will host the final of this year’s competition – now in its 15th year – on July 27. He will be joined by four judges: Salcito; Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code; Harvard University computer science professor David Malan; and Mark Russinovich, Chief Technology Officer for Azure.
Four coaches from across Microsoft will offer advice to the teams on technology, presentations and the pitches to judges. The four are Deen King-Smith, a Senior Product Marketing Manager on the Search, Edge and I team; Dona Sarkar, Engineering Lead for the Windows Insider Program; Jasmine Lawrence, a Program Manager on the HoloLens Experience team; and Jennifer Marsman, a Software Engineer in the Developer Experience group.