That’s the challenge facing hundreds of thousands of students from all over the globe who are entering the Imagine Cup competition. Open to students worldwide, the Microsoft’s Imagine Cup challenges them to solve real problems that face the world today. Now in its 9th year, the Imagine Cup is a bit like the Olympics, with many different competitions, including Software Design, Game Design, Digital Media, Embedded Development Windows Phone 7 and more. There are also national/regional finals that lead to a worldwide event. Some countries such as Malaysia and Japan have incorporated the Imagine Cup into national technology curricula with participation recognized as contributory toward the award of a college degree.

This year the worldwide finals take place in New York City in July. But in order to get there, American students must either triumph at the Imagine Cup 2011 U.S. Finals for Software Design, which take place in Redmond, Wash. April 8-11, or they can enter at the worldwide level in the other competitions – including Game Design, Embedded Development, Digital Media, Windows Phone 7, Windows Touch, Interoperability, Orchard and IT Challenge.  Contestants win cash prizes, but more importantly they win prestige, recognition and a very real step forward in their future career directions.

It is not too late to take part, particularly in the Digital Media competition, where student teams are asked to create a video about a big idea that helps address the theme of tackling the world’s biggest challenges, and inspires other people to help tackle that issue. But there isn’t a lot of time left: entries are due March 10 at 11:59pm GMT (March 9 at 3:59pm PT). 

The theme for the digital media competition this year is to use technology to solve the world’s toughest problems and is inspired by the UN Millennium Development goals. If you or a student you know (above the age of 16, enrolled in high school or college full time) is interested in entering, the rules can be found here. Even if you don’t want to or can’t enter, you can participate in the voting for the current round of Digital Media entries here.

Here are the Digital Media first, second and third place winners worldwide from Imagine Cup 2010.

First Place

Second Place

Third Place

Additionally, there is still time to enter the Interoperability Challenge – this is a more in-depth challenge that has a deadline of April 27. Students are encouraged to use their skills to build technical bridges, blend technologies, and connect people, data and diverse systems in new ways while adhering to the theme of using technology to solve the world’s toughest problems. The goal is to create a ground-breaking application using out-of-the-box Microsoft technologies and technology from different vendors, including free and open source software. You can find out more about the Interoperability Challenge here.

Posted by Owen Linderholm
Director, Microsoft News Center