After months of competition and a field that initially numbered 14,000 teams, one student team emerged victorious today in the championship round of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.
The company global student technology competition, now in its 12th year, has teams of college and high-school students from around the world competing to create technological solutions that address everything from health issues to gaming to innovation.
Eyenaemia, a team from Australia, took home the top prize this year. The prize includes the Imagine Cup trophy, a $50,000 prize, a mentoring session with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and attendance at a technology and entrepreneurship boot camp.
Team Eyenaemia — composed of Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang — won for its phone app that helps people identify their risk for anemia. The user takes a selfie of his or her eye, and the app analyzes the conjunctiva to make a risk assessment. The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white surface of the eye.
Seah and Tang are both 22-year-old medical students at Monash University in Melbourne.
“I’m very, very excited and still kind of shocked,” Tang said immediately after her team’s win was announced this morning at the Washington State Convention Center, where the Imagine Cup World Championship ceremony was held.
Tang said she and her teammate would use the prize money to expand the research that feeds into the Eyenaemia app. The team currently has research underway in two hospitals in Melbourne.
She hasn’t had time yet, she said, to think about what she’d like to ask Gates when she and her teammate meet with him.
This was the first year the Imagine Cup Finals — and the Imagine Cup World Championship ceremony — have been held on Microsoft’s home turf.
From the original field of 14,000 teams, 34 teams representing 34 countries entered the finals, which were held earlier this week. Sixteen judges narrowed those 34 teams down to nine for today’s championship round.
From those nine, a winner was chosen in each of three categories: world citizenship, innovation and games. (Eyenaemia took first in the world citizenship category. A team from New Zealand called Estimeet, which created an app that shows a user how far away her friends are from a designated meeting location, won in the innovation category. Brainy Studio, a team from Russia, won the games category for TurnOn, a side-scroller game about a small electrical spark trying to light up a city.)
Each of those three category winners then competed for the championship title.
They faced three judges in a lightning round to determine the final winner: Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO; Hadi Partovi, co-founder of Code.org; and Erik Martin, general manager of Reddit. The contestants had 90 seconds to the judges’ questions, which ranged from what inspired their ideas, to what their business plans are to market their apps.
“We are the original student development company and the original tools company,” Nadella told the competitor and audience of several thousand.
In the end, the judges were unanimous in their decision to award Eyenaemia the top prize, citing its elegant and simple solution to a widespread health issue, and the fact that the team members already had a plan for how to distribute their app.