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Today at the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals, teams of students presented their plans to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. All morning long, students shuffled through Microsoft’s offices in Washington, D.C., and made their cases before a panel of judges. They all found their own ways to get pumped before making their pitches.
“We woke up and listened to Led Zeppelin,” said Josh Light, a member of Extraplaid from Utah State University.
Calm and collected after his team’s presentation, Light talked with entrepreneur-like smoothness about Extraplaid’s project. Called Aidventure, their project is a Facebook application that connects entrepreneurs to investors in the micro-banking industry. The app went live five days ago, though the team needs regulatory approval before money can start flowing to people who might want to use it in South America.
John Johnson, Extraplaid’s mentor, said the Imagine Cup competition — and its call to tackle the world’s challenges — inspired the team to take its work to the next level.
“The Imagine Cup provides a great opportunity for students to be motivated to showcase their work,” Johnson said. “A lot of times in the classroom, student ideas aren’t fully formed. But the Imagine Cup gets them motivated to show off their work to the world.”
The competition also inspired Fortran and C, an all-freshmen team from UCLA. “None of us knew what we were getting into with the Imagine Cup,” Cameron Solomon said after presenting to the judges. It’s been a challenging experience, the team said, not least because they came without a mentor. But preparing for the competition lit a fire under them to dive into programming, which they might not have done otherwise. “Making a game for the Imagine Cup has been amazing,” Solomon said. Without the competition as motivation, “we wouldn’t have come up with something so polished.”
Like all teams at the Imagine Cup, Fortran and C had to build software and games that tackle one of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.
“There was no way for us to address them all; otherwise, there wouldn’t be any problems left in the world,” quipped Kristina Chang. They built a video game — Revenge of Mother Earth — that hopefully makes users more environmentally conscious.
The team plans on having more opportunities to tackle some of the other world problems highlighted by the Millennium Development Goals. “As freshmen, we have three more years to participate in the Imagine Cup,” Chang said. “Hopefully we’ll be back.”