Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011 Winners Tap Windows Phone, Cloud and Bing
title=Focus on Environmental Concerns} Student projects are frequently inspired by United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and participants seek to solve the world's toughest problems through technology, Microsoft said. As such, this year's Imagine Cup teams focused heavily on environmental concerns, with 24 percent of worldwide finalist projects and 60 percent of all Game Design projects shedding light on environmental issues. Taking a cue from recent world events, natural disaster relief was another common theme: 23 percent of projects addressed varying aspects of disaster relief. Inspired by improvements in mobile technology and accessibility features such as speech recognition, more teams than ever-22 percent-developed projects that would enhance the lives of people with disabilities, Microsoft said.2011 marks the ninth year Microsoft has sponsored the Imagine Cup. The company was founded around its focus on developers, and it remains close to those developer-oriented roots. As such, Microsoft tends to keep a finger on the pulse of developers and to try to reach them at early stages in their development. In essence, Microsoft views the Imagine Cup as a way to get a peak at top talent coming into the workforce. A description of the competition on Microsoft's Imagine Cup Website says: "The Imagine Cup is a way for you to use your creativity, imagination, and brainpower to open up a world of opportunities after graduation. And to make a name for yourself in the world of technology. Some past competitors have gone on to secure a great internship or the perfect job, while others have started their own companies based on their Imagine Cup project-and it's all in the name of helping to solve the toughest problems using technology." The 2011 Imagine Cup featured more women competitors than ever-twice as many as in 2010, including four all-women teams. According to the Next at Microsoft blog, Jane Prey, senior researcher at Microsoft Research, is looking at ways to improve the recruitment and hiring of women at Microsoft and says the challenge is partly one of supply. "It's not that we're turning women away; it's that there aren't enough qualified women available," she says. And in an interview with the Official Microsoft Blog, John White, executive director and CEO of the Association for Computing Machinery, the world's largest educational and scientific society focused on computing and computer science, spoke on the issue of women in technology. "The disparity persists," White said. "There is a huge effort amongst corporations and nonprofits like ACM to address the myriad issues around what keeps young girls from getting interested in IT and computing. One of the image problems computer science has, especially among women, is that you'll always work alone locked in a cubicle. Imagine Cup does a good job of fostering a sense of team work. Working with others is an element that draws more women into the field." As for participation in the Imagine Cup, White said: "The teams that participate and win are highly sought after. Computer science students on a winning team in the finals are seen as superstars. These are major accomplishments. The individuals, the teams and the field of computer science get visibility. Recruiters at companies pay attention to which teams are in the finals. The winners of these awards are getting internships at major computing companies. It opens up doors."
Windows Phone 7 was the most commonly used technology in the competition. Forty-eight percent of teams incorporated the mobile technology into their world-changing projects, which ranged from finding the nearest recycling center to helping those in a disaster broadcast their locations. Windows Azure was also popular: 32 percent of projects relied on the cloud-based platform to aggregate crowd-sourced data and to integrate satellite data, among other uses.