The Imagine Cup world finals experience

Student competition, life experience

2014 was my first experience with Imagine Cup competition. What an incredible journey!!! It would take thousands of words to write about the whole week, it was really intense, a brand new experience, and full of emotion. I will try to keep it short, writing about what I liked the most.

The University of Washington

Staying at the University of Washington was very exciting, you get a feel about student life. The campus is enormous and quite beautiful, entire buildings are dedicated to each faculty and everything is surrounded by abundant gardens, stadiums, sport areas, bays, and more. Student come from all over the world, dorms are a few blocks away, and Seattle downtown is about 35 minute bus, what else can you ask for?

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Finalist presentations

They were 10 minutes long no exceptions. We found quite difficult to build our presentation with that constrain. In part because we felt that our project (related to education) required some sort of introduction and context. At last we came through.

Judges came from different backgrounds including business, technology, and journalism. That made the process more challenging, you have to address each of their concerns not just the tech or innovation part. The opportunity to talk to them, to receive feedback about the presentation, and about the project was a huge learning experience. I think we learnt a lot, and could make future presentations much better.

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Kane building where presentations took place

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Preparing the stage

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Microsoft headquarters

We were able to meet several Microsoft employees, really a great experience. They were truly interested about the projects and made quite a few questions, in fact some of the questions were so good that we collaborate to build the answer. In addition they share how is to work at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond.

Later I had the chance to wonder around and get to know the other incredible teams. There were quite remarkable projects, and so were the guys behind them. I was lucky enough to get to know several people from Portugal, Ireland, Serbia, Venezuela, Nigeria and more.

All the projects ideas have a strong motive and come from real life. I mean one of the guys from Portugal actually break his wrist and then came up with the idea of the bionic hand, the guys from Ireland build the application one of his members certainly will find valuable, the guys from Serbia were actually musicians inspired by an interesting idea.

Finally we got to walk around Microsoft campus, and saw by ourselves some of the things Microsoft employees had told us. The campus is very modern, great buildings, gardens, and cuisine.

Winner ceremony

The world finalist winner ceremony was outstanding, even considering the fact that we didn’t actually win, and I would be normally terrible annoyed. You got the CEO of Microsoft, Redit and sitting about 2 rows from you, then you know you have come to the right place.

The audience was really impressive, full of engineers, designers, students, and it was huge. If you were to gather all the people there to make a new company, I think you could build anything you wanted (seriously).

Even Bill Gates recorded a message for the event, reminding the importance of entrepreneurship, innovation, and dreams.

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Extra fun

After the winners were announced, we got to visit Seattle and have a blast. There were city walks including a visit to Space Needle, EMP museum, MOHAI, party time, fireworks and more.

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Final thoughts

I found out about the competition by chance while surfing the web, but that left us the idea that we need to encourage people in our country to participate in this kind of competitions. They are amazing, and with the right project and some experience you can probably win, and if you win…. Well imagine what you like.

If you were to ask me at the beginning of the year: Hey joe, what are your plans for this year? I could never had anticipated we were going to visit Microsoft headquarters and be one of the 35 world finalists. Now, I can say we were actually there, on first hand, and it was incredible. The overall idea I want to communicate is: engage on interesting projects, work hard, do what you like, and you will be on fast track to these amazing experiences.

Thanks to all the people that make this possible.

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