At Microsoft’s Eighth Annual Imagine Cup finals this week, 400 students from the around the world presented software that, among other things, improves health care delivery, aids rescue workers and tackles traffic jams
As society’s reliance on information technology surges, software has become an indispensable component of any disaster response effort. This includes programs for maneuvering robotic subs (as with the efforts to contain BP’s Deepwater oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico) or sophisticated mapping tools for emergency-response crews using mobile devices to assess earthquake damage (as in Haiti). With the understanding that emergency, health care and other services’ reliance on software will only grow over time, Microsoft has for the past eight years hosted a global competition that challenges high school and college students to develop applications that address some of the planet’s most urgent needs.
The company’s Eighth Annual Imagine Cup finals wrapped up Thursday in Warsaw, Poland, with 400 students vying for $240,000 in prize money. The Imagine Cup, of course, serves as a major promotional event for Microsoft, with the dual purpose of trying to ensure that the company’s products are the tools of choice for the next generation of computer programmers.
The event’s popularity has expanded rapidly—about 325,000 students from more than 100 countries registered to compete this year (with 400 students advancing to this week’s finals). That is a far cry from the 1,000 or so students that the company says it signed up in 2003 for the inaugural competition in Spain. Imagine Cup projects are aligned with the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, which include eliminating poverty, promoting education, improving health care, and providing clean drinking water by 2015.
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