Since 2002, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup has served as the springboard for innovative ideas in technology. The Imagine Cup has engaged thousands of U.S. college and high school students to generate and nurture their entrepreneurship and technology prowess. Recent competitions have focused on technology ideas that help solve the world’s toughest problems. Now in the event’s 11th year, U.S. Imagine Cup participants are again encouraged to participate in the most prestigious student technology competition.

This past year, Dinesh Agarwal, a Ph.D. student at Georgia State University, showed what the U.S. Imagine Cup is all about.  As a finalist, Dinesh created Crayons, a system that can quickly and accurately determine the safest rescue shelters during a natural disaster. Crayons would enable emergency response teams to use real-time feedback to make informed decisions for evacuation strategies, thus saving lives.

This year’s U.S. Imagine Cup will expand its traditional program offerings to inspire and engage student entrepreneurs. 

The 2013 U.S. Imagine Cup will be broken into a series of competitions and challenges to get students building business-ready apps, games, and technology services. For the first time ever, the U.S. program will feature a two-month mentorship opportunity, called the “Imagine Cup Student Accelerator,” where teams will spend time with mentors, participate in workshops and get the technical guidance they need to test their idea and business model.

New Competitions and Challenges in 2013

Students ages 16 and older will be able to compete in three major competition categories, which include:

  • Games – Using Microsoft’s gaming platforms such as Windows PC (PC or touchscreen), Windows Phone, Xbox, Indie Games, or Kinect SDK students are tasked with creating a new game, changing a current genre or developing a new visual style of game.
  • Innovation –Reinvent social networks, transform online shopping, experience music in a new way or do something amazing with GPS. In this category, students are tasked with using their skills and creativity to design a totally new app experience.
  • World Citizenship – Students have the opportunity to create an app that will help solve global challenges, such as reducing world hunger, providing better treatment for diseases, raising awareness of environmental issues or providing better access to education.

Additionally, students can participate in online challenges that focus on specific Microsoft platforms, including Windows 8 Apps, Windows Azure and Windows Phone.  Winners of the competition and online challenges will be sent to the worldwide finals in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 2013.

U.S. Imagine Cup Accelerator

The Student Accelerator Program will equip and enable top talent to build new apps on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Microsoft Azure. Entries into the program will be reviewed by a panel of judges and 25 teams will be admitted into the Accelerator Program where they will engage in a two month mentorship program with Microsoft. This mentorship program will include technical training and workshops to create a prototype and build a go-to-market
plan. The 25 teams will also have the opportunity to participate in a five-day, in-person “Start-Up School” in Silicon Valley paid for by Microsoft. At the end of the program, selected teams will be invited to pitch ideas to a community of investors and technology industry professionals at the U.S. Imagine Cup Business Accelerator Demo Day in the Silicon Valley area. Students can learn more about the U.S. Imagine Cup Accelerator program at www.imaginecup.com/us.

More Financial Rewards for U.S. Students

In addition to offering students an opportunity to impact today’s world with technology, Microsoft has upped the ante by offering more than $100,000 in prizes. This is the largest amount of cash prizes in U.S. Imagine Cup history. Specific prizes for the US Imagine Cup can be found here.  All submissions for online challenges are due on January 15, 2013, while submissions for the three major competitions are due on March 15, 2013.

On April 15, 2013, Microsoft will host local finals around with world, with the U.S. finals being held in Silicon Valley.  The 10 Imagine Cup finalists will be invited to participate in Demo Day, which takes place May 13, 2013. From there, the finalists attending the Worldwide Finals in St. Petersburg, Russia, will be announced on May 15, 2013. The Worldwide Finals in Russia take place July 8-12, 2013.

The future is now, which makes for the perfect time for students to start turning their dreams into realities. Please visit Microsoft’s Imagine Cup website for more information on the competition and details on registration.