OK, so I have really been thinking about the Imagine Cup lately.
My last post was about having a well defined problem, keeping the scope of your solution manageable, and then having a solution that is easy to use. The whole point of that rant was that it will be impossible to convince the judges that you have a great project if you can’t explain it to them. This post shifts focus to the technology behind the solution. Let’s face it, a database backed windows app might be good for a decent grade in a class, but it isn’t going to cut it for the Imagine Cup. If you want to compete with the rest of the world, you had better bring it…big time.
That being said, it is always a good idea to survey the landscape at Microsoft to see what technologies they are putting their marketing efforts behind. Last year, it was all about Windows Azure. My team last year had a problem that was pretty amenable to being a Windows Azure application, so we went for it. The team and I attended a Windows Azure Boot Camp that was happening in the area and, as a result, we had the only application that actually pulled and pushed data to the cloud. Sure, there were other applications that said that they would do it, but we actually did. I believe that was the deciding factor in our team being chosen for the Windows Azure special achievement award.
So if last year was Azure, what are this year’s big technologies? Well Azure is still on the radar to be sure. This year, in my opinion however, you better have something up on the cloud running. The technology has had a year to mature, so the stakes are raised when it comes to what is acceptable when it comes to Azure based projects. That being said, I believe that the technology to keep an eye on this year is Windows Phone 7. The RTM version of the developer tools just came out a few days ago. Again, the folks at Microsoft put on a book camp in the area, so we attended to check things out.
Are you noticing a theme here? There are a wealth of resources out there for Imagine Cup teams. Microsoft regularly puts on boot camps for their new technologies to allow people to become familiar with them. These boot camps are generally run by some really good trainers. Our trainer, Chris Koeing, was excellent and really knew his stuff. I would recommend that you check out the training that is happening in your area. It can only help your chances of going to the U.S. Finals and beyond.
Remember, the Imagine Cup is a competition that rewards innovation. This innovation isn’t just limited to the problems and the solutions, but also to the technology that your solution utilizes. Those that play it safe won’t go very far in this competition. If you want to play with the big boys, you had better bring it.