Gearing up again for Imagine Cup

I am about to meet with one of my Imagine Cup teams in a few minutes and decided to reflect on some of the things that we are doing related to Imagine Cup here at my university.  The big news as of late was that Microsoft has put forth a $25,000 prize for the winning academic department of this year’s U.S. Imagine Cup!  I think that this was an absolute brilliant move on the part of Microsoft to generate faculty interest in the competition and, as those that read my blog know, faculty involvement equates to stronger teams.

It is no real surprise why Microsoft is doing this.  It is pretty common knowledge that the U.S. has not fared well on the global Imagine Cup stage.  This year, however, the global finals are in New York, so there is a real interest in having a strong showing by the U.S. contingent.  Why is this the case?  Well, in my opinion, there are a lot of reasons.  The prize money isn’t enough to stimulate the interests of American students, for one.  $8,000 doesn’t move the needle on many student’s interest meters, especially in light of the work that is involved (in addition to their coursework) and the fact that the prize money could potentially be split four ways.  The lack of faculty incentives is another (although I have made the case that you can generate your own incentives in previous posts).

It seems, however, that Microsoft has addressed at least one of these issues with this prize.  I know that it has stimulated more interest on our campus, especially amongst the non-tenured faculty.  Someone once told me that in the battle to get tenured, your publications were your sword and your grants are your shield.  While $25,000 is not a huge grant (especially when compared to the grants obtained by faculty in the engineering disciplines), it is significant enough to make a difference in the quest for tenure.  Because of this, we have decided to hold a few Imagine Cup mixers ahead of a local Imagine Cup competition as a way to stimulate student interest and to discover any untapped innovative resources on our campus.

In these mixers, we will bring students from all majors across the university together so that they can form teams and submit a round 1 project submission to the local competition.  The round 1 submissions will then be judged and prizes will be awarded to the best ideas.  Hopefully, the students will then select a mentor and continue on to the actual Imagine Cup competition.

It seems like a good idea, but we will have to see if it works. I will let you know the results in the event that you might want to try it yourselves!

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