I can't believe it's here already! This is the thirteenth season of Imagine Cup but it's only been a few weeks since the 2014 season ended spectacularly with Team Eyenaemia from Australia taking home the Imagine Cup and teams Brainy Studio and Estimeet placing first in Games and Innovation respectively.
Since the end of our 2014 World Finals, we've already flown Brainy Studio back to Seattle so they could attend the PAX Dev game developer's conference and showcase their game for all four days of the PAX Prime game festival.
And later this week, Eyenaemia is returning to Seattle for a private meeting with Bill Gates followed by a week at Microsoft hosted by the YouthSpark team so they can meet with engineers, businesspeople, and other experts to help them move their project forward.
Of course, Team Estimeet has their time coming, too: as the winner of our Innovation competition, they'll be spending four weeks at a Microsoft Ventures accelerator early next year. And I'm sure all three teams are working on how to best use the $50,000 prize each one took home.
Twelve months from now, that could be your team! But there's only one way that's going to happen: you've got to get started on your own amazing Imagine Cup project.
Choose Your Path
The first step is the most important: will you choose the Games Competition, the Innovation Competition, or the World Citizenship Competition? Each one is a very different path including multiple contests. Here's how you choose:
Games: If it's a game, it belongs on the Games Path. If you're hoping to entertain your users, give them a fun interactive experience, or even challenge their assumptions about what a game could be, the Games Path is your home.
Innovation: The Innovation Path is the place for the next big thing. Are you looking to change the way people use technology? Are you planning something that will disrupt the current paradigm? Do you see your app in everyone's hands, all over the world? If that sounds like you, you're in the right place.
World Citizenship: Do you want to make the world a better place? The World Citizenship Path is for projects that want to address an important social problem such as disease, natural disasters, civil rights, poverty, access to vital information, gender equality, and so on. It's about solving real problems for real people.
Take the Challenges
Within each path, we have four contests: the Pitch Video Challenge, the Project Blueprint Challenge, the User Experience Challenge, and finally the main competition itself. You don't have to compete in all the contests for a given path -- you can do one, skip one, whatever you like. But we can tell you from experience that students who compete in one or more of the Challenges do better when they reach the main competition. Last year, of the 171 teams who reached the World Semifinals round, almost half had previously competed in one of our Challenges.
For this year's Challenges, we have changed the rules and the submission requirements for each one so they are tightly integrated into their Path. For example, that means the User Experience Challenge for the Games Path has different materials and different judging criteria than the one for the World Citizenship path.
Introducing Code Hunt
We also have one entirely new contest to share with you, and it's a great one. In partnership with Microsoft Research, we are very excited to bring you the Code Hunt Challenge! Code Hunt is an online coding puzzle game created by Microsoft Research. It's fast, fun, and really cool. Anyone with basic programming skills can try Code Hunt right now on their website to learn what it's like, but every month from now through April we'll have a special 48-hour Code Hunt Challenge! Register right here at the Imagine Cup site and on the third weekend of each month, you'll have access to a special Code Hunt puzzle just for Imagine Cup students. The top scoring student each month will win $1,000 and every student who competes will be eligible for our $5,000 grand-prize sweepstakes!
Can You Imagine?
The 2014 season of Imagine Cup was incredible, and I know many of the teams who competed will go on to launch great projects this year, next year, and beyond. But I also know that there is a whole new wave of students who will do amazing work and surprise us all over again. Will you be one of them? Imagine that!
John Scott Tynes
Microsoft Student Developers Program Lead