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Students Compete to Find Tech Solutions for World Problems

Imagine Cup 2011 Software Design First Place Winners: Team Hermes from Ireland
Imagine Cup 2011 Software Design First Place Winners: Team Hermes from Ireland

This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.

Hundreds of students from around the world gathered in New York City last week for the Microsoft Imagine Cup finals. They came to present their ideas for using technology to solve world problems.

Microsoft education director Suzi Levine says the nine-year-old program began mainly as a competition to create technology.

SUZI LEVINE: "When we realized that students really actually want to have a purpose for what they’re creating, we introduced the idea of inspiring them with the UN Millennium Development Goals and suggesting that they use those for their muse."

New sources for ideas this year included intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.

SUZI LEVINE: "This past year we also rolled out something called the Imagine Cup Solve This library, where IGOs, NGOs and nonprofits can submit some of the technical challenges that they would like students to consider for their solutions."

Microsoft says over three hundred fifty thousand high school and college students registered for this year's competition. Judges chose more than four hundred of them to attend the finals.

Ms. Levine says several teams were inspired by current events, including floods last year in Thailand.

SUZI LEVINE: “One from Thailand [was] called NewKrean, where they created a Windows Phone 7 application that allows you to broadcast your location to your social network of friends so that you can be more easily rescued."

The NewKrean team from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand named their app Terra.

Suzi Levine says there were also ideas from Egypt inspired by the revolution that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February.

SUZI LEVINE: “One was to use Bluetooth as sort of a Twitter equivalent so that if the government shuts down the Internet, you actually can still have a massive social distribution.”

Students competed in nine categories. For example, in software design the top prize of twenty-five thousand dollars went to Team Hermes from Ireland. The students developed a device for cars to collect information on road conditions, driving behavior and traffic incidents.

A team from Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University won first place in the embedded development category. They developed a network of wireless devices to help plot the safest escape routes during a fire.

Next year’s awards ceremony will take place in Australia. Registration for Imagine Cup twenty-twelve opened Friday. Also, Microsoft announced plans for a three million dollar program to help Imagine Cup winners further develop their projects.

And that's the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. You can learn English with our programs at I'm Steve Ember.