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Imagine Cup '08 Heads to Los Angeles

American college and university students will have a chance next week to show off their technology skills as the U.S. finals for Microsoft's 2008 Imagine Cup head for Los Angeles. More than 16,000 students from 125 campuses in the United States registered for this year's event, in which they compete in  categories ranging from software development to interface design. Winners will have a chance to go on to Paris this summer for the global finals, facing the best from 100 countries.

This year, according to Microsoft, some 185,000 students from around the world signed up to compete in the event, which includes cash prizes and other rewards for participation. Enrollment by U.S. students in the 2008 event quadrupled last year's participation of 4,000. The U.S. finals will take place April 20 to 22 at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles.

The theme for this year's competition is using technology to help sustain the environment. There are nine categories in the global event in which students are asked to demonstrate their technology skills:

  • Software design, in which students create real-world applications built on the .NET framework and on the Microsoft Windows platform;
  • Embedded development, for building hardware and software solutions using Windows CE, along with supplied hardware;
  • Game development, focusing on Xbox 360 using XNA Game Studio Express;
  • Algorithm, a challenge in which participants solve algorithmic puzzles and brain teasers;
  • Project Hoshimi, in which participants use "coding skills and algorithmic ability to devise and implement strategy for a multi-player head-to-head game";
  • IT Challenge, in which students "develop, deploy, and maintain IT systems" and demonstrate networking, database, and other IT-related skills;
  • Photography, a photo essay contest;
  • Short film; and
  • Interface design, focusing either on Web or desktop applications.

In addition to the competitions in those categories, there are also individual awards, including accessibility and interoperability, as well as a special award in software design for making the best use of Windows Live.

"I think the Imagine Cup gives students an amazing ability to think beyond the usual boundaries to develop solutions to solve real global issues," said 2007 finalist and 2008 participant Brian Thomas, in a statement released this week. "The focus on innovation has given me the confidence to expand my ideas about technology and apply that to my future career."

Winners of the 2008 U.S. finals will be announced April 22. In addition to cash prizes up to $15,000, winners can also receive their own booth at the PAX gaming convention, a spread in American Photo magazine, participation in workshops with expert coaches who will help with various aspects of creating a commercially viable product, and, of course, a chance to compete in the Paris finals July 3 to 8.

Further information about Imagine Cup, including current standings, can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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