What is the Imagine Cup?

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Microsoft wants its legacy to be about more than just PCs and software. In its ninth year, the Imagine Cup is Microsoft’s way of giving back and challenging today’s youth to design a better tomorrow. The Imagine Cup is a student competition held by Microsoft each year to promote creative and imaginative approaches to technology.

Each year the Imagine Cup has a theme and students from around the globe work on projects that relate to the published theme. The theme for 2011 is “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” Students then compete in five different categories: software design, game design, digital media, embedded development and Windows Phone 7. In addition to that, there are another four challenges that students could choose to participate in including IT, Orchard, Interoperability and Windows 7 Touch.

Building on the power, energy and creative spirit of the world’s teenagers, Microsoft is finding the answers to current problems. Over 1.4 million students have participated in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup since its start in 2003. This year over 358,000 students from over 180 countries are participating in the 2011 Imagine Cup.

Microsoft encourages students to participate in this annual competition by not only offering them cash and prizes, but also a chance to challenge themselves. The official guidelines tell students they can get the chance to solve tough global problems, learn new tech skills, compete with some of the brightest students in the world, and make new friends. Microsoft encourages these students to take their brilliant ideas and potentially turn them into profitable businesses as well. Plus, it never hurts to win a free trip to Sydney, Australia.

Many people wrongly assume that the Imagine Cup is a skill-based test. Encouraging competition by teaming students up against each other, with the goal being that the best programmer wins. That is not what the Imagine Cup is all about. The Imagine Cup is a competition focused on new ideas. The contest is meant to motivate and inspire young people to come up with ways to improve the future. The ideas often revolve around the Millennium Development Goals put together by the United Nations with categories like Poverty and Hunger, Environmental Sustainability, Universal Education, Maternal Health, Gender Equality and HIV/AIDS.

Students first have to come up with an idea that benefits one of the Millennium goals. Then they have to put together a demo that will be demonstrated to a panel of judges. The presentations are then ranked by the best ideas and how those ideas will be executed.