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Home > News > April 2004 > 12-Apr-2004

Imagine Cup winners emerge from 3-day-and-night-codeathon

A team of 3 UK university students who have developed an application to help students adapt to University life by bringing together social and academic resources in a location aware mobile application, have been judged winners of the UK leg of Microsoft's annual student programming competition, The Imagine Cup.

The winning futuristic prototype was announced at the event in Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire at 9.30pm last night after a marathon three-day-and-night codeathon. The competition saw 7 teams comprising student finalists drawn from universities across the UK. The 29 finalists had all successfully reached the knock-out round of the Imagine Cup challenge which began in October last year when 4,500 students entered the first round, an online quiz.

The application, University Leisure & Lifestyle Manager (ULL), was presented to a panel of judges comprising industry experts by team-members Ali Gardezi, Andrew Grieve and Mat Steeples from the Universities of Sheffield, Aberdeen and Hull respectively. Led by their mentor Paul Rhodes from the University of Bradford, their success has won them the opportunity to represent the UK at the global Imagine Cup final in Brazil - they will now battle for the top prize of US $25,000 in the worldwide showdown in early July.

Winner Mat Steeples, said, "To make it through the knock out phases and be standing here as a winner among the 4,500 original entrants, is really amazing. The last few days have been tough, but working under pressure has taught us all some lessons and been a great experience."

Team-mate Ali Gardezi, added, "To be able to design something that could exist in reality to make people's lives better means a lot to me, and I feel a real buzz. I've never done anything like this before, but would definitely do it again."

The third winning team member, Andrew Grieve commented, "We really didn't expect to win after such an intense 72 hours of coding, and now we're looking forward to some sleep! The final in Brazil will be amazing, and we are looking forward to taking on the rest of the world."

Second prize went to a mobile application for the ambulance and paramedic services that negated the need to return to base after hoax calls and also allowed information on a patient's health to be quickly and accurately relayed to the hospital ahead of the ambulance.

Third prize went to an application designed to allow a Utility company's field engineers to manage their workload through a Pocket PC or Smartphone, automatically taking into account their current physical location and last minute cancellations.

Commenting on the competition, Dr Stuart Nielsen Marsh, Head of Microsoft Academia, Microsoft UK said, "The Imagine Cup always brings out the highest levels of creativity in the competitors. However, this year the contestants have excelled and re-defined the boundaries of the art of the possible. This generation of technologists will be designing the systems that affect and improve our lives for the next fifty years. Having seen the calibre, creativity and innovation of their work during the Imagine Cup, I am enormously optimistic for all our futures. This level of success also validates the reason for holding The Imagine Cup - to bring the best students our universities can provide together with cutting-edge real world technologies and needs. The global final in Brazil will be an interesting challenge but we look forward to a UK victory!"

Richard Hanscott, VP Business Development and Partnerships at Orange and one of the competition judges, said, "Mobile voice services have already revolutionised the way we communicate and Orange has been at the forefront of that revolution. However, the way in which we use data when we are on the move will be just as revolutionary. The Imagine Cup competitors were all focused on building prototypes for using data on the move and they were extremely impressive. It was not just the technology innovations, but also the team-working skills and the ability to work to a deadline that impressed the judges. Great technical skills on their own are not enough in industry and it was very rewarding to see how well the students were able to work with each other on a high-pressure project with tight deadlines."

Another judge at the UK final, Dr Philip Graham, Executive Director of the Association of University Research and Industry Links, said, "The success of the UK final of the Imagine Cup 2004 is proof that great results can come from creative collaboration between the private sector and universities. The successful two-way transfer of knowledge between industry and academia is essential for a strong knowledge-based economy in the UK. I applaud the students for the extremely high calibre of the applications they created as part of the competition, particularly in the way they combined commercial acumen with social responsibility. Their efforts show that UK universities are producing some of the brightest and most able computer science students in the world."

Fellow judge, Duncan Ledwith, Head of Windows Mobile UK, added, "The quality of presentations the judges saw was very high indeed. I was particularly impressed with how commercially-aware the students and their prototypes were. It goes without saying that industry needs graduates of the highest technical ability but the real value for us is when that deep level of skill is accompanied by an appreciation of customer need and other commercial factors. Microsoft continues to invest heavily in bringing the richest and most relevant mobile applications and services to market. These finalists used Microsoft technologies to build extremely creative and innovative mobile solutions. This gives me great optimism for the future of the sector."

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