Last night Sydney’s Convention Centre played host to hundreds of students from across the globe. These students were here to represent their countries in the Imagine Cup 2012 Grand Finals. After rising to the top of their prospective nations, it’s now down to a 5 day battle for the crown.
During the opening Ceremony we heard speeches from key Microsoft personnel (most of which we heard at the press briefing earlier in the day). There was a few surprises however, famous world sailor, Jess Watson gave an inspiring speech about her experience of following dreams and overcoming adversity. Although not in the technical field, it was a well suited speech that should inspire students to turn their ideas and projects into real businesses and to aim high.
Patriotism was high with many teams making very loud, colourful dancing entrances (tip of the hat to Brazil), it was clear the competitive spirit was high.
Another surprise was Gregory Elphinston, Director of Community Involvement at Nokia jumped on stage to announce that all students in the finals would receive a Nokia Lumia 800. I guess they had a few left over after the 900 shipped in Australia. Providing students with Windows Phone 7 devices actually makes a lot of sense for Microsoft and Nokia. Putting these devices in the hands of some of the leading youth worldwide will undoubtedly have them discussing it with their friends. As a number of entries into the Imagine Cup utilize Windows Phones, this will also arm them with the necessary devices for additional development in the future. While each team may have had access to a single Windows Phone, now every member of the team will have their own.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard pre-recorded a video message to the students, explaining that they will build tomorrow’s businesses and that innovation paired with increased connectivity through projects like our NBN will serve international economies well into the future.
Students who made it to the finals will also receive a congratulations / participation certificate signed by both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Given the students number in the hundreds, its unlikely this will be personally signed, although it’d mean a lot more if it was.
So now with the opening ceremony wrapped up, its down to the competition itself. The next few days will see students pitch their ideas to judges. The judges then have the very difficult job of deciphering how to score the entries. Some applications having wide ranging health benefits, which could have serious global benefits to the human race, others may have large commercial applications. Being a judge would be a tough gig, particularly with so many great entries from seriously talented, creative people.
To add to the list of celebrities at this year’s event, Mr Xbox himself, Larry Hryb better known as Major Nelson will be judging the Game Design Xbox/Windows Category. Best of luck to all the teams and keep an eye out on techAU for more posts on Imagine Cup as the competition progresses.