Today I am on my way out to Redmond WA for the US Final of the Imagine Cup. Here I will see 22 teams who have advanced over hundreds of other teams to win the invitation to come to Microsoft HQ and compete in this final round of Software Design Invitation with hope towards advancing to the Worldwide Finals this summer. The game teams are competing for the US title but some of them are also in the running for the Worldwide finals in game creation. These are great teams and they have some great stories. You may have been reading about them in the People’s Choice voting. (Not much time for you to vote left! ) But what about the teams that don’t make it this far? What do they gain? As it turns out, often, quite a bit.
I liked this blog post by a student named Andy. The post is titled What really matters. While Andy is understandably disappointed in not making it to the second round he concluded that there was a lot more to the Imagine Cup than winning prizes and getting some added attention. He writes:
Really, what I like about Imagine Cup has nothing to do with Microsoft or .NET. It’s being surrounded by people who really care passionately about something. It’s hacking code and working hard under a do or die schedule to do something nobody else has done before. Imagine Cup is cool not because Microsoft or anyone else confirms that you made something great. It’s cool because you know you made something great.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb predicting good things in his future. He has an attitude that will serve him well.
There is also this article about Pat Yongpradit and his high school students. Last year Pat has a group of his students make the US Finals in Game Development. This year they didn’t make it that far. Does that define failure? Not a chance. They are learning and they are learning far more than just about computer programming.
Yongpradit has created a digital learning environment where students don't simply use computers to look up facts and figures. They confront or create problems to solve, and then use not just their software knowledge but their ability to craft interesting environments and find solutions within them. He designs his curriculum and projects to show students how they can translate their electronic lives on cell phones, computers and video games into knowledge, skills, and a career.
Picture credit: Andrew Ujifusa/The Gazette
They are taking a step to become creators of tools, of information, and resources. "They're not just end users," explains Yongpradit in the article. The Imagine Cup is an incentive for many but it is not the end all and be all of what is involved. It is much more than a contest and that is the real benefit.