The Road to Imagine Cup 2013
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Across the globe, and across a range of Microsoft technologies, MVPs offer their expertise and passion to the next generation of technologists—student competitors in the world-class Imagine Cup. This year the finalists meet in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the week of July 8th.
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Over the past ten years, more than 1.65 million students from more than 190 countries have participated in the Imagine Cup. And no matter where they’re from, or what their technology interest, many have one thing in common -they have been helped along the way by a   Microsoft MVP.
The roles MVPs play in fostering the Imagine Cup’s next generation of world-class technologists run the gamut of one-on-one mentorship to serving as creator of the Imagine Cup’s popular IT Challenge.
Exchange MVP, Rand Morimoto (you can read his MVP Spotlight on this site), was asked to spearhead the IT Challenge when the Imagine Cup was just a couple of year’s old, expanding the scope of the competition from its initial focus on developers. Since then, he has overseen the IT Challenge and served as its head judge every year, and every year he has been joined by a host of other MVPs.
Their commitment is enormous. The first year of the IT Challenge, Rand and his fellow judges oversaw a multi-phased competition, including a multiple-choice quiz, essays and, the construction of an entire network from scratch.
Every year since they have made the competition more challenging.
Last year, in one phase of the competition, Rand and his fellow judges read 250 5,000-word essays, and made good on their commitment to write constructive comments and point students to additional resources on every one.
That level of commitment is echoed by MVPs around the globe, where as mentors they help teach, shape and encourage exceptional student competitors, working with them for long hours, often over weekends, for many months.
In Korea, Expression Blend MVP YoungCheol Kwon has worked with Imagine Cup students for more than a year—as he did with the previous year’s notable Korean teams—supporting their passion and creativity by answering their tough questions and providing lots of encouragement, sometimes late into the night. It was hard work, he admits, because no one had experience developing in the new Windows 8 environment. But he’s proud that one of his students will be flying to Russia to compete in the finals with his Windows 8 app.
Austrian Microsoft Azure MVP Rainer Stropek ended up mentoring two teams for this year’s Imagine Cup: a team of students from India and one from Austria, and he will be accompanying the finalists to Russia.
German OneNote MVP Mark Kreuzer mentored one of Germany’s winning teams, helping them develop the “MySchool” App. While the team did not make it to the finals in St Petersburg, they won 50,000 € (over US$66,000) funding from Appcampus and was invited to four-weeks coaching in Helsinki, Finland.
And this year the French Imagine Cup teams again have seen an outpouring of MVP support, with six MVPs mentoring 80 students.
Over the years, MVPs from around the world have cited common experiences as they support this next generation of technology leaders: they note their passion, creativity, and tenacity in the face of challenges. MVPs consistently say that they have been at least as inspired by the students as the students have been by them.
Rand points to his experience with the student who took second place in the first IT Challenge in 2005. He was from a small town in India and had won US$8,000—more than his family made in a year— and had moved his family from their one-room home to a bigger city, where he got a job at Microsoft. The next year, when the Imagine Cup finals were held in India, he traveled cross country for three days to meet Rand and shake his hand.