by Prof Barry Dwolatzky
Imagine Cup 2011 has come to an end. It was a truly incredible experience to be part of it. The award ceremony was held in the famous Koch Theatre at New York’s Lincoln Centre. Being in that theatre surrounded by the energy and enthusiasm flowing from 400 excited students was truly amazing.
I took the opportunity before the awards to view some of the projects and chat to several of the competitors. While the quality and sophistication of the entries varied widely, every single student I spoke to was filled with a deeply held belief that they could and would change the world. Maybe they will … or maybe they won’t – it’s not really important. What is important is that they all have vision and ambition! I guess that’s what Imagine Cup really achieved.
A bunch of young software developers from around the world learnt to see themselves as masters of their own future. Anyone who works as a teacher in a University – as I have for the past 22 years – will understand that this is why we do what we do.
I take my hat off to Microsoft for running this unique student competition. I’m sure that the benefits are hard to track in Dollars or Rands, but the effect that this event has on the hundreds of students who come to the finals – and the software industry they will soon be working in – are substantial.
So – back to the Awards. The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomburg, and a host of other dignitaries were there. The music was loud, the atmosphere was electric. There are, in fact, 7 competitions in Imagine Cup. These include Game Design, Embedded Systems and Interoperability. The “big one” however is Software Design.
From the 67 entries 6 finalists were selected – USA, China, New Zealand, Ireland, Jordan and Romania. Places 1,2 and 3 went to Ireland, USA and Jordan in that order. The winning team from Ireland developed a system that is installed in the car of a young driver. It aims to encourage him/her to drive safely – thus reducing accidents. It monitors how the driver behaves and if he/she is reckless or dangerous the system reports this to the owner of the car (presumably the parent) via sms.
So – the winner is …. Who? Is it the team from Ireland? Is it Microsoft? Or is it the software industry as a whole? I vote for the latter!
My challenge now to my colleagues in SA Universities is this: let’s encourage our students to compete and let’s send the WINNING team to Imagine Cup 2012. It will be held in Sydney, Australia. I hope I’m there.