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In the anxious moments before they made their final presentation that would determine whether they advance to the Imagine Cup World Finals in Poland, Team Blog, one of two all-women teams who made it to the final round of competition, had an emotional group hug.
“You know what, I’m proud of you guys,” said Antonette Logar, the team’s mentor, and herself a pioneer in getting women into computer science roles. “There’s been a lot of pressure and you’ve done great.”
The team from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology had spent much of the night prepping to show their multi-touch computing application designed to get young girls interested in computing to the team of U.S. Imagine Cup Finals judges who would decide which of four software design finalists would make it to Poland. The final round of the U.S. competition is being held today at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
“We’re a little anxious,” said team member Lori Rebenitsch. “We’re ready to get started.”
Her team is competing with the all-women team of Mango Bunnies from DePauw University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Extraplaid from Utah State University, and Mobilife from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Four game design finalists also were getting ready for their presentations, including Coffee Powered Altruism from Yale University, LeveL13 from the University of Houston, To Be Announced from Central Piedmont Community College and the University of North Carolina, and Ifrit Salsa, also from the University of Houston.
Meanwhile, the teams that didn’t make it to today’s final were gearing up to show their projects in a large room on the eighth floor of the Newseum. One of them included the only high school team in the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals, which was taking stock of a whirlwind weekend as they set up.
Red Team, from Springbrook High School just a few miles north of Washington, D.C., wasn’t at all disappointed that they hadn’t advanced. “We were just excited to get to the finals in the first place,” said team member David Walton.
His teammate Ryan Rehfuss said they had a blast getting to know the other teams at the Imagine Cup. Despite the age differences, everyone got along, he said. “Originally we thought the college teams would be hostile, something like a senior-freshman relationship,” Rehfuss said. “But we all got along really well. Being geeks, everyone gets along.”
A few tables down, Anit Das of Tufts University’s AwesomeSauce, was busy setting up his presentation table. “My goal today is to get one of these on James Cameron,” he said, holding one of the 500 Nanobots! pins the team had brought to promote their video game. “If there’s an Oscar winner wearing a pin that I designed, that would be incredible.”
Earlier that morning, over breakfast at the Embassy Suites, a media crew told team Extraplaid they would try to make it to their final presentation in the software design competition. A confident Cal Coopmans replied: “You’ll be there.”
Team mentor John Johnson reported that the team had worked into the wee hours of the morning practicing. Not that lead presenter Josh Light needed it. “He’s one guy who could wing it, and the people would love it,” Johnson said of Light. “Instead, he goes through it over and over and over. Last night I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog’s Day.”
Coopmans riffed on the film’s theme, saying that Light would have a classic Hollywood ending. “He’s going to save the old lady from falling through the ice, learn how to play the piano, and get the girl.”
Translation: Extraplaid had their game faces on.