Microsoft imagines a better world.

Fresh off the wires from Microsoft comes reassuring news that their international student software design and programming competition, the Imagine Cup, is heating up.

Fresh off the wires from everyone's favourite software giant, Microsoft, comes reassuring news that their international student software design and programming competition, the Imagine Cup, is heating up. Microsoft Australia's Ben English says that one hundred and fifty registrations for teams of Australian students have been added to the over one hundred thousand students competing worldwide.

The Imagine cup, now in its fifth year, has students battle off in against each other in categories of their choice from a variety of computing related disciplines, ranging from algorithm and system design to digital arts and photography. Most interesting is the open software design project, which allows a team of students to enter any project they wish: last years Australian national winners developed a communication system for doctors and paramedics.

The theme for this year's competition is to 'imagine a world where technology enables a better education for all', and given the requirements of the competition, that work be done using the Microsoft 'family' of applications, it's clear what kind of world they're imagining. Across the board, competitors are encouraged to submit abstracts in PowerPoint, the Video competition insists on a Media Player compatible format, and needless to say, all programming categories require that the code be written using .NET. Fair enough, you say, the judges have to go with what they know, and you can't expect Microsoft to spend money awarding prizes to projects for technologies they don't even own, who'd be crazy enough to do a thing like that?.

Top finalists in the software project category also receive business mentoring to help them take their ideas to the business market, as part of a deal between Microsoft and British Telecom Ltd. This year they will also be offering local entrants an opportunity be mentored by local businesses during their development. Cup organisers are certain this represents a good investment: "Students who compete in the Imagine Cup represent the next generation of technology and business leaders. Their creativity and innovation speaks volumes about the promise of technology to make a difference in peoples' lives and in the way we think, work and communicate," said Mr English.

A lecturer from Monash University, Dr Simon Cuce says that it's definitely a beneficial relationship for students as well: "The value for students by participating in such an event is two fold. Firstly, students have a chance to apply their knowledge in a competitive environment, being able to measure their skills with other students. Secondly, they are able to exercise their creative side, which is all too forgotten in the commercial world".

The national finalists in each category travel to Seoul, Korea in August to compete in the grand final for prizes totaling U.S. $170,000. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted by Nick Gibson.