Microsoft has announced the winners of the ninth annual Microsoft Imagine Cup, honoring student innovations that address global challenges such as improving road and fire safety, eradicating poverty, and creating a more sustainable environment.
Students from 183 countries started out participating in the early stages of the Imagine Cup, the company's premier student technology competition. Narrowed from a field of more than 350,000 global registrants, more than 400 students from 70 countries traveled to New York to compete in the finals.
In addition to naming the winners of the competition, Microsoft unveiled plans to launch a three-year, $3 million competitive grant program to help recipients realize their vision of solving the world's toughest problems. Imagine Cup teams will be eligible to apply for grants that include a combination of cash, software, training, consulting and other support. Microsoft will announce details about the grant program and application process later this summer.
This year's competition winners were announced July 13 at the Imagine Cup World Festival and Awards Ceremony at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. The event culminated a six-day celebration of technology, hard work and ingenuity. The festivities included remarks from philanthropist, activist and actress Eva Longoria; Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership; and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"The innovators, entrepreneurs and humanitarians who compete in the Imagine Cup have developed an inspiring spectrum of projects, raising the bar higher and higher each year," said S. Somasegar, senior vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, in a statement. "We are in awe of the students' solutions for addressing social and real-world challenges, and want to help them take their projects to the next level with the financial, technical and business support they need to change the world."
A team from Ireland, known as Team Hermes, won the Software Design competition for a project aimed at helping change driving habits and reducing road deaths, which impact a significant number of young lives each year. Team Hermes designed a device that plugs into a car and monitors dangerous driving behavior and road conditions, providing instant feedback to both the driver and car owner. The team's solution uses embedded technology, Windows Phone 7, Bing Maps and the Windows Azure cloud computing platform. With its victory, the team won $25,000.
"We have a problem in Ireland; that problem is deaths on our roads," said Team Hermes member James McNamara in a statement. "Thanks to Microsoft and the Imagine Cup, we've been able to come together to solve this problem and save lives."
In the Embedded Development category, Team NTHUCS from Taiwan won first place and $25,000. The team's Right This Way project computes the safest fire escape routes, detected by a wireless sensor network in real time.
In the Game Design category, teams competed in three subcategories: Mobile, Web and Windows/Xbox. All winners focused on some element of environmental sustainability. In the Mobile subcategory, France's Team Geekologic focused on renewable energy. In the Web subcategory, Poland's Team Cellardoor created the "Book of Elm," which encourages players to take care of the environment. And in the Windows/Xbox subcategory, Brazil's Team Signum Games tackled urban problems involving health, education and the environment through a strategy game. Each first-place team earned $25,000.
A complete list of the 2011 Imagine Cup winners can be found here.