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Andrew Flick's Blog The Ramblings of a Infragistics Product Manager

Everyone is a critic...  I've posted quite a few gripes myself, but seldom posted any ideas for fixing anything.  Those of you who know me will realize that I believe in plans, outlines, frameworks, or whatever else you want to call it.  So, with that, I'm going to post a very rough draft of an ICF or Imagine Cup Framework.  A lot of this will be fairly abstract ideas that will allow for the program to mold to a fit as necessary.  Also, this will focus solely on the Software Design Competition, no use to have a scatter-shot framework when we all know what the main thing with IC is.

Purpose -- The Problem to be solved.

This year's Imagine Cup theme was “Smart Makes Every Day Life Easier...”  To incorporate this vision the IC planners placed restrictions such as: the app must include a web-service, perform progressively better over time, and run on a mobile device.  These are way too many restrictions and sort of the wrong way to do things.  End result: the competitions had many mobile device programs that were 'token' apps or applications that would have been better suited for a desktop platform or many had web-services in a place where a web-service didn't make sense.  So, if I were an IC planner what does this tell me?  This tells me that I defined a problem and the solution.  The implementation was defined ahead of time and was entirely too strict.  To emphasize this, here is a call-out to IC judges, how many of you physically checked teams' code to determine if they were really using a web-service?  That’s what I thought.

So, if I were to start looking at a theme for the next Imagine Cup what would I, Andrew Flick (a simple, highly in debt, college student) propose?  How about a problem category (built of course using the .Net platform)?

  • Technology Improves the Medical Industry
  • Technology Improves the Transportation Industry
  • Technology Improves the Tech Industry
  • Technology Improves Education
  • Technology Improves Security

You're looking at the potential of students solving critical problems while still leaving room for imagination to create unique solutions.  Doing things that even if they don't take the World Prize may still have a huge impact on society.  Now that's not trivial, but eventually you may run out of ideas for categories, so you could do 1 of 2 things.  Narrow each general category down, so fixing Air Transportation or focus on the problems of the time, such as technology helping under-privileged kids get a better educational experience. 

So, that's my thoughts on defining a purpose of the competition.

Timeframe -- The ever shifting deadline

Ok, we know that this year’s time frame for Imagine Cup out-right stunk.  So, I'm not going to elaborate on that.  I will briefly sum up my thoughts on making a successful time frame.


Incremental Deadlines and by Deadlines, I mean final solid deadlines.

First and foremost, the academic calendar or an average of one (in case you aren’t in college or forgot about this thing).



                        Fall                              Spring

Begin               September                    February

Mid-Terms        End of October             End of March

Finals               December                     May



So, we have a two part competition; however, allow enough flexibility for students to jump in at the last minute.  Fall Semester teams compete online in a design tournament (This gives them feedback for the next round).  Spring the whole thing Proof of Concept and all (After all at this stage POC is the most important thing, how many judges looked at the 5 page OneNote spec-sheet at the regional competition??).  Students don't have to compete in the design tournament, they can just jump in with the whole thing at the last minute if they want, but at least we are able to establish a first time deadline to get a rough estimate of teams competing.  (In other words, they have to put some thought into it.)  A disclaimer must be that implementation can take a last place design (idea) team to a first place team.  With that in mind November would be a good time for a design competition and April seems to work well for an implementation competition.  (Those months are comparable with the in-between mid-terms and finals time.)  An added bonus of doing it this way is that the really motivated students now have all Christmas break to do some implementation work.  Finally, the idea behind letting teams jump in at the last minute allows for second-semester starting students or the stereotypical “wait till the night before to pull it all together teams” (I disavow any knowledge of having done something like that..err hearing about that happening) to compete.


Prizes  -- $25K not enough?

No, $25K is not enough...not if you have to go through four rounds to get it.  The whole idea of incremental prizes needs to be emphasized, especially the concept of nobody going home empty handed (especially after the initial stage).  So, what I'm trying to get at is students need to feel that a prize is attainable and worth competing for(that is if that’s why the student is competing).  Other prizes: more involvement with industry (never know an idea may turn into a job or a sale) and increased visibility (would it be too much to ask to place a link on MS's homepage?).



Judges -- How about some consistency?

So, I've heard and seen judging issues.  My solution, make sure that every judge is on the same page as to requirements and standards.  Easy to  INETA, each event should have at least one INETA judge.  This person should be well-versed in the competition and be able to work with the other judges to achieve a consistent judging standard.  Ok, enough job descriptions...INETA is equipped to do this and should take the dominant role.  They are industry and they are .Net-knowledgeable.


Competition Format

My best solution to cut out all the excess time is to go straight to the major presentation.  Every team has say 25 min. on the big screen to make their sales pitch (at a given time slot).  After making the pitch they go to the science fair setup, the judges/customers can then go around and get clarification from the teams on any concerns they may still have.  The judges go to deliberate and the students are treated with a number of options (especially at regional+ levels), they can attend a couple different technical presentations or maybe even partake in a x-box game party or lan party (holy cow, the number of people with computers and with games at the regional competition was pretty intense.  We had the games, we had the network, all we needed was a little coordination....ok, I'm done geekin').


Okay, that's enough.  This post is long enough.  That and I want to keep this pretty abstract without saying 100% how everything should be done, I’ll leave that up to the IC planners…good luck!

Posted on Saturday, April 24, 2004 4:44 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Imagine Cup Bug Fix 1.0

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Good Ideas!
Left by Jeff Julian on Apr 24, 2004 6:45 PM

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You have some great ideas that should be considered for next year. I was excited to see Microsoft get more involved with academia and I look forward to next year.
Left by Peter Fattore on Apr 25, 2004 9:32 PM

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Mr. Flick,

I just wanted to post on your blog especially after reading all of that.

Left by Marky Mark and the SA Bunch on Apr 26, 2004 8:06 PM

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Allow enough flexibility for college students to leap in at the second. Fall Semester groups contend on-line in a very style tournament. this offers them feedback for future spherical. Spring the full issue Proof of construct and every one (After all at this stage POC is that the most significant issue uk dissertation writing,
Left by Emma Roberts on Mar 16, 2016 3:39 AM

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Left by Albert Smith on Sep 23, 2016 10:09 AM

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Left by jane on May 30, 2017 12:52 AM

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Imagine Cup, Microsoft's premier international competition for young developers, is your chance to show off your biggest, boldest software solution
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