Students today – Leaders Tomorrow

I am writing this entry as I sit in my hotel room in Sao Paulo following the end of the Imagine Cup 2004 Tournament.  


I was here to do a keynote to kickoff the TechEd and PDC events in Brazil as well as to award the winners of the Imagine Cup 2004 tournament.  All of this got done earlier today.  Imagine Cup, in my mind, symbolizes 3 things – innovation, competition and connection.  Often times people forget this, but it is the connections that you make and the experiences that you gain which makes life that much more interesting.


I wanted to share a couple of stories with you that I encountered as I was talking to the finalists and winners here in Sao Paulo.


The team which won the Software Design category this year is a team from France.  Congratulations to them!  This team also participated in the Imagine Cup last year.  They came in second in the French Nationals last year and missed by just ONE spot from advancing to the worldwide finals.  The team was heartbroken, depressed and went through the five phases of grief.  However, at the end they made one decision – were going to enter the competition again the next year (which is this year).  They stayed together as a team, stayed super focused, worked hard and ended up being the worldwide champions in the Software Design category.  What a privilege it was for me to spend time with these students!


There were students from China and Romania who won in the rendering and short film category respectively that had never traveled outside of their country thus far.  For the first time in their lives, they traveled outside of their country to a far away place (relative to their home countries) to participate in the finals and boy, did they deliver magic!


The finals for the algorithms category included a 30-hour marathon session for the finalists to solve complex problems in 7 different categories.  Some of the students worked straight through for 30 hours.  A student from Bulgaria took the top honors here.  Wow!


One thing that I realized clearly today – it is the participation that matters.  Winning is great and something that we all strive for.  However, the experience that these students have gained by participating in this event, working hand in hand with other like minded students who are passionate about using technology to solve real-world problems is just a memorable and like one student put – life changing experience.


Below is a picture from the event with Raj (a Group Program Manager in the C# team and me) standing in front of an interesting car at the venue of the event earlier today. 



Sometimes, when I am faced with some hard problem or at the end of a hard week, I do wonder about what I am doing.  But then I participate in events like today and I realize why I do what I am doing day in and day out.  It is all about putting technology in the hands of the people and letting them use technology in a highly productive way to help them solve whatever they want to go solve. 


Congratulations not only to the worldwide champions and the winners – but to each and over one of the tens of thousands of students who participated in the Imagine Cup 2004 event.


Next year, the Imagine Cup event is going to be held in Yokohama, Japan in August 2005 and I expect this to be an even bigger and more impactful experience for students.  One of the highlights for next year’s event is the inclusion of high school students.



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