The event is the U.S. finals of a student software competition called Imagine Cup. This is the first time the national competition has been held at Microsoft’s headquarters. The company puts on the competition each year to get students excited about creating software.
The finalists will advance to New York for the global finals later this year. The top prizes range from $6,000 to $8,000 cash, and Microsoft will pay for their trips to New York.
Twenty-two teams of mostly college students have spent the weekend at Microsoft. Teams competed in categories for software design, game design for Xbox and PCs and smartphone design for Windows Phone 7 and Zune.
Team LifeLens built a smartphone app to diagnose malaria in the field, using a Windows Phone 7 and a microscopic lens. The students were from University California at Los Angeles; University of California, Davis; Harvard University; and University of Central Florida.
A team called Team Righteous Noodle from University of Houston built a strategy game to get food and supplies to a village after a natural disaster.
There were no teams from Washington state that made it to the U.S. finals this year.
Microsoft said the competition is growing steadily. This year 1,500 teams of three to four students each submitted projects for the competition in the U.S., about double last year’s participation.
“The true benefit is if they inspire another million students to enter the field of technology because that’s what we need to have flowering technology and innovation over the next couple decades,” said Mark Hindsbo, vice president of developer platform evangelism at Microsoft. “Unfortunately, the number of students that are there now only fill about half the need that the country has for technology students.
Update 4:37 p.m.
Microsoft named the winners of the U.S. competition Monday afternoon.
Team Note-Taker from Arizona State University won the software design category for software that helps visually impaired students take notes.
In the PC/Xbox game design category, Team Bloom from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy won for a game called Spero ,where players find alternative energy solutions.
In the smartphone game design category, Team Big Impact Bear from University of Houston won for a mobile game that fights deforestation.
Team Bearpaw from Brigham Young University won a People’s Choice award for a portable ultrasound mobile application. Team Bloom also picked up a People’s Choice award.
Portable ultrasound seems to be catnip for awards. Redmond company Mobisante won a Global Mobile Award at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February for its mobile ultrasound software. Here is The Seattle Times story on Mobisante.
And what’s with the bear-themed team names? Have bears replaced birds as the new It mascot?
For more details on the U.S. winning teams at Imagine Cup, here is Microsoft’s list of all the winners.
(Photo of Team LifeLens courtesy of Microsoft)