People doubted them, said it couldn’t be done. But when Santiago Canyon College students Gary Kelley, Jr., Hayden Donze, Dale Laizure, and Bill Vetter decided to enter the Microsoft Imagine Cup student technology competition – they committed themselves to the project whole-heartedly.  Starting today, the Southern California community college team, Syntax Errors, will be representing the United States in the worldwide final round of the competition for the Embedded Development category against teams from 19 other countries, including China, Germany, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

The team is competing for more than international recognition and $25,000 in cash prizes – each team member has something to prove.  The team is the only community college in this year’s competition, with group member ages ranging from 20 to 50 plus, and whose collective average higher education is an associate’s degree, this is a chance to show the world technology has no limits.

Team Syntax Error’s proposal is a turnkey solution that enhances communication and logistics for first responders in disaster relief efforts. Their innovative idea was born out of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; the group collectively envisioned a self-contained workstation that could catalog, manage, and track resources in real time using wireless local area network (LAN) and radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies. From this idea, F.R.E.D. (first responders embedded device), was born.  The technology consists of a battery-powered asset manager with GPS capability providing the user’s exact location. Its database driven system will allow responders to track key resources – water, food, medical personnel, supplies and equipment – tagged with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag and within proximity of the reader.

The team has been receiving tremendous amounts of media attention due to their unique and inspiring story. Recently, the Orange County Register featured them in a story titled “O.C. underdogs take on global Microsoft content,” highlighting their struggle, drive and passion to have made it this far in the competition.

Opening ceremonies for the Imagine Cup Worldwide finals begin tonight in New York City and closing ceremonies will take place on Wednesday, July 13. During their time there, the finalists will attend special training sessions, meet peers from around the world, and participate in volunteer and cultural activities in the city.