Just in case you missed it, the Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals are now under way in New York City.

Recently, the Official Microsoft Blog had the chance to catch up with Dr. John White, Executive Director and CEO of the New York City-based Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest educational and scientific society focused on computing and computer science.

During our talk, Dr. White touched upon some of the benefits student technology competitions like Imagine Cup provide to both participants and the tech sector at large.

Here are a few tidbits of our conversation with Dr. White:

On the challenge the technology sector faces in filling an expanding pool of jobs with qualified applications: The challenge is real. The technology sector is very concerned about the disparity between the number of jobs that require computer science degrees and training that are now and will be available in the future and the U.S.’ ability to fill those jobs. We’re concerned about the rate at which we’re graduating really qualified kids.

On what benefits student participants derive from Imagine Cup: The teams that participate and win are highly sought after. Computer science students on a winning team in the finals are seen as superstars. These are major accomplishments. The individuals, the teams and the field of computer science get visibility. Recruiters at companies pay attention to which teams are in the finals. The winners of these awards are getting internships at major computing companies. It opens up doors.

On why Imagine Cup and student technology competitions are important: They highlight what’s exciting about information technology and how you can solve real problems and do creative and productive things using IT.

On the disparity between the number of female and male computer science graduates and how Imagine Cup helps address that disparity: The disparity persists. There is a huge effort amongst corporations and nonprofits like ACM to address the myriad issues around what keeps young girls from getting interested in IT and computing. One of the image problems computer science has, especially among women, is that you’ll always work alone locked in a cubicle. Imagine Cup does a good job of fostering a sense of team work. Working with others is an element that draws more women into the field.

On how computer science has changed over the past few decades: In the old days, we studied computer science for computer science’s sake. It was all new and being done for the first time. The ultimate applications weren’t driving us so much as pushing the technology forward. Today, the ubiquity of computing technology means that the more kids we get familiar with the fundamentals of computing, the more we can get involved in using technology in creative ways to do things you can’t figure out how to do on your own. I think we see young people in the U.S. are really good at coming up with creative solutions to real problems.

For more on the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals, check out today’s feature story on the Microsoft News Center.

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog