Just when you think the only things today’s youth care about are pop music and reality TV, you hear about the geniuses participating in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, and you get a newfound hope for the future.
Microsoft organizes the Imagine Cup competition to encourage students to come up with innovative, technology-based solutions for some of the biggest issues facing the world today (education, environment, healthcare, poverty, etc.). Each year the challenges are slightly different, although they all stick to the Imagine Cup theme, “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” There are various awards and grants for different types of winners, and, since the competition began, Microsoft has given out over $1.75 million in prizes.
This year, there are competitions in software design, game design, IT, Windows Azure, Windows Phone, Kinect Fun Labs, and Windows Metro Style App. Whichever challenge the students choose, they are expected to use the technology to solve “real-world” problems and are encouraged to get their inspiration from the United Nations Millenium Development Goals.
Currently, the competition has already been narrowed down to 106 teams from 75 countries. And on June 6th they will meet in Sydney, Australia for the last leg of the competition. Among the finalists are the four teams listed below. All have very different, yet potentially useful inventions.
Ironically, most industrialized nations face two problems: food waste and hunger. With their system, Team FlashFood, from Arizona State University, hopes to eliminate both issues. They have designed a mobile app and website that connects restaurant owners, food banks/shelters, delivery drivers, and the hungry.
According to Team Greenway, from Germany’s Bielefeld University and University of Hanover, typical vehicle navigation systems are incredibly inefficient as they send all drivers on the same basic routes (even when accounting for traffic jams). This results in bottle necks, increased time on the road, and unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions. In contrast, their Greenway system is able to account for all cars on the road and directs drivers in a way that disperses traffic among all available streets, gets people to their destinations faster, and creates less pollution.
Team Stethocloud, from Australia’s University of Melbourne, has created a solution for reducing the number one early childhood killer — pneumonia. By using the team’s Stethocloud app, concerned parents can record their children’s breaths and upload them to a cloud-based server capable of recognizing abnormal breathing patterns.
Team Technology Lanterns
Team Technology Lanterns, from Qatar University is using the science of Microsoft’s Kinect to help blind people navigate their world easier. Instead of relying on Braille to find their way, the visually impaired can wear a device on their heads that emits a sound when they approach an object.
If you were one of the judges, who would you choose as the winner?