A year ago we were in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the 2013 World Finals. It was summer and the famous White Nights were in full swing. When I emerged from the beautiful and historic Alexandrinsky Theatre after hours of preparation for our awards ceremony, I came out into beautiful daylight and people everywhere walking the broad promenades, and it wasn't until I tried to find a restaurant for dinner that I realized it was almost eleven o'clock at night.
The year since then has been incredible. In September we launched our new website, a project many months in the making, and which we've continually improved and expanded these last twelve months. We started our Software Development Lifecycle Challenges in September with the Pitch Video Challenge, asking student teams all over the world to record a short video pitching their Imagine Cup project. We followed it with the Project Blueprint Challenge, where we asked students to dig deep and really think through what they were building: who it was for, what was the competition like, what were the major features, how it would reach the market. And then we did the User Experience Challenge and our students dove into wireframes and information architecture diagrams.
Thousands of teams of students competed in these contests. Those who did learned a great deal, about their projects and about themselves, and they built strong teams in the process.
Meanwhile we kept finding more ways for students to get involved. We launched the Apps for Office Challenge and the Windows & Windows Phone Challenge, and three teams of students from those contests are arriving in Seattle next week to be a part of World Finals. And of course we had our monthly Brain Games Challenge which was hugely popular (and we've finally published a complete list of the monthly winners).
As our global online contests were winding down, the Imagine Cup National Finals were heating up. More than seventy countries around the world hosted National Finals this year attracting all kinds of amazing student teams.
From all of those, 171 top teams broke through to our World Semifinals round. And demonstrating the impact of our Software Development Lifecycle Challenges, half of those 171 teams also competed in one or more of those contests! Clearly that early work on the SDLC contests really paid off for dozens of great teams.
Our global team of volunteer judges spent weeks evaluating those 171 projects. They installed software, pored over documents, and watched video presentations. At the end, they chose 34 of the very best teams from around the world to make the trip to Seattle and compete in our Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship categories.
At the end of World Finals, the winning team in each category will receive $50,000 and an exclusive Boot Camp experience. And one team will be chosen at the climax of our World Championships to take home the Imagine Cup and get a private meeting with Bill Gates.
And best of all, you can watch the livestream of our World Championships event here on our homepage, at 0830 Pacific time, Friday, August 1st!
It's going to be an incredible week. Please join us right here Tuesday morning, July 29th, for the start of the excitement. I can't wait!
John Scott Tynes
Imagine Cup Program Lead
Microsoft Student Developers