Read the full blog post by John Scott Tynes, Competition Manager, Microsoft Imagine Cup, which was originally posted on 4 December 2013, on the Imagine Cup website.

Imagine Cup 2014 is already off to a thrilling start. Since we launched this season in mid-September, thousands of students from countries all over the world have formed teams and begun creating brilliant projects. All of these students have one thing in common: they believe in themselves and in the skills they are developing. And in turn, here at Microsoft, we believe in the power of you. That’s why we created Imagine Cup, to provide students with a unique opportunity to grow their confidence and experience competition on a global stage.

 

The job market today is changing rapidly. Worldwide we see a generation of young people having a hard time finding employment. In the technology field there is a skills gap between what students are learning and what the best jobs require. Imagine Cup helps students prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, gaining direct experience in problem solving, project management, communication, teamwork and more.

We also know that students come from all kinds of backgrounds, countries and cultures. To ensure equal access to the latest tools and technology, we have once again partnered with Microsoft DreamSpark, which provides students with professional-level developer tools at no cost, helping students get a head start on their technology careers while building their incredible projects.

New in 2014: SDL Challenges
When we began planning this season many months ago, we knew we wanted to make some changes to better address the world that students are already living in. We added new contests so students could find ways to compete all year long. We introduced our Software Development Lifecycle Challenges (SDLC) to provide participants real-world skills while working in a cross-disciplinary team. This provides the opportunity to learn best practices for starting a business and how to make the right decisions with the right information to bring ideas to market.

The first of these new contests, the Pitch Video Challenge, ended recently with student teams from dozens of countries submitting their five-minute video pitches for their Imagine Cup projects. For the complete list of winning teams, please visit our Pitch Video Challenge Winners page.

We are now in the final weeks of the Project Blueprint Challenge, where teams take a deep dive into their thinking and prepare a ten-page document exploring their concept and creating user personas, top user stories, business models, demonstrating how they have already sought and incorporated feedback from potential users. In January, we’ll launch the User Experience Challenge because great design is more important than ever to developing great software.

New in 2014: World Semifinals
Every year we have enormous numbers of students who compete in our three core Imagine Cup competitions of Games, Innovation and World Citizenship. They do so either in our dozens of National Finals held by our subsidiaries around the world or in our Online Finals, which provides students without a National Final in their country a path to victory.

But in the end, only a few of the very best teams made it all the way to World Finals and received global recognition for their hard work. This year, we decided to change that.

Every first-place winner in every National Finals and in our Online Finals will compete in a whole new round: the World Semifinals. Launching 1 May 2014, all of these first-place teams will be celebrated on our website as World Semifinalists so everyone can hear their stories, see their projects and be inspired by their imagination and passion. Every single World Semifinalist team will be eligible for prizes, including our Visual Studio Online Boost, in which nine teams will receive $1,000 each for using the cloud-based power of Visual Studio Online to collaborate, plan and implement their projects.

2014 World Finals
All World Semifinalists will compete against each other in a global judging round to select the few teams invited to the World Finals in Seattle in July, 2014. Microsoft will bring the very best student teams in the world to Seattle to present their Games, Innovation and World Citizenship projects to our judges, and we will celebrate the winners in each category.

Get Started!
Imagine Cup and DreamSpark are both part of the YouthSpark initiative, Microsoft’s commitment to empowering 300 million young people with opportunities in education, employment and entrepreneurship by 2015.

If you’re a student aged 16 and up, you can get involved in Imagine Cup today. Just register a free account at our website and you’ll be ready to form a team and compete in our contests.

We’ve published a list of Imagine Cup National Finals in the 2014 season as well as which countries are eligible to compete in our Online Finals. Check it out and get started!

The future is waiting for only one thing: The Power of You.

Read the full blog post by John Scott Tynes, Competition Manager, Microsoft Imagine Cup, which was originally posted on 4 December 2013, on the Imagine Cup website.