Every year Microsoft sponsors the Imagine Cup and throws a challenge to students around the world. The competition is intense, and each participating country will send one team to represent it in the finals - this year in France.
This year's theme is "The Environment" and Microsoft is calling on young programmers, artists and technologists around the world to "imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment."
The challenge is for students to bring their ideas to life in a competition that comprises nine categories, each catering to a different technological or artistic affinity. Students’ work will reflect valuable, real world solutions, while giving them the opportunity to compete for cash prizes.
We had a quick chat with Team Suistanable Systems, one of the four teams participating in the New Zealand finals and aiming at representing New Zealand in the world finals. Keep an eye open for other articles in this series.
Hi Michael, Nice to meet your Team. Can you introduce Team Sustainable Systems?
We are Team Sustainable Systems, a team of youth innovators from Auckland University of Technology (AUT), with the vision to establish a platform for smart technologies that enable a sustainable environment, while empowering users to efficiently manage our eco-resources.
Our team is comprised of four students, each majoring in both the Engineering and I.T. fields respectively.
Our team leader, Julio is very experienced in the engineering field, with some strong track-record in project management and innovation.
Aakash Polra is our profound programmer of the team, having to engineer most of the software interfaces and content for our project.
Balan is perhaps our ‘Funny’ member, with his side-role of cheering up the team with his jokes while aiding the team during times of need, especially when we need to get resources to build our project.
Lastly, my name is Michael Teoh, the somewhat ‘Wild-Card’ in the team, as I am a 3rd year Business Student. I am responsible for the Public Relations and Business Development division of the team. I have had many experiences in consulting businesses and implementing youth projects, and therefore, this Microsoft Imagine Cup Challenge would certainly add a new dimension in my understanding in New Product Development.
Our Mentor from AUT is Andrew Ensor, a Senior Lecturer for the I.T. and Engineering faculty with prowess knowledge in the fields of computing and programming.
Congrats on entering Imagine Cup 2008 New Zealand Finals. How did you find Round 1?
It was our first experience and attempt at the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2008; so certainly, we felt the pressure to fulfill the expectations of the judges towards our project.
Round 1 was a great experience in itself, as we were exposed to the thrill of presenting to the notable judges from Microsoft, and it really taught us how to prepare ourselves and our project better for the Final Round.
The feedbacks that the judges gave us were valuable coming from industry experts. We benefitted from their advice by going back to the ‘Drawing Board’ of our project and re-engineering it to comply to the expectations placed on projects contested in the competition.
However, ultimately our goal would be to design an applicable project, ready to be used at ease from our end consumers. And we are getting there!
Is this your first year with Imagine Cup?
Aakash Polra had been one of the Final Three teams last year to have progressed into the New Zealand Finals. His profound experience and knowledge about his prior experiences had certainly helped the team to grow and understand the expectations of the competition.
It is our First Times (Balan, Julio and Michael), and we are very thrilled about it! It was certainly a valuable experience by itself, working on a project from scratch, having to go through the hardship of getting and implementing our resources to make the project work, and of course, understanding the team dynamics so that everyone could function effectively and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
What motivated your team to participate in Imagine Cup competition?
Simply answer – Our goal to Change the World by Addressing the Problem of Climate Change! We needed a platform to showcase our talents as youth innovators and perhaps trend-setters for the current generation.
However, what’s more important, we realized that we could answer the ‘Call’ of Mother-nature, by channeling our knowledge and experience in innovating a working project, that would not only sustain the environment, but also give our users the ‘Comfort and Mobility’ to help support such cause (Through their actions) simply through a click of their mobile phones.
We are aiming for the long-term for this project, as we believe, the world is preparing itself to see the benefits and the mobility of our project – Office of the Future!
What is your Imagine Cup 2008 project about?
We are developing a Smart System in itself, a system comprising of software and hardware. Ultimately, we are addressing the daunting problem of energy wastage by offices anywhere around the globe.
Our innovation is a mobile application that allows its users to control and manage the energy usage of their electrical devices from anywhere and at anytime.
It empowers the users to control how they consume energy and consume it efficiently with the ease and mobility that our product provides.
Our project is simply called – Office of the Future, by Team Sustainable Systems.
Many are anxious to hear about the Office of the Future in technical terms. Can you explain them for them?
Our entire hardware and software system is code-named – Office of the Future and as the name of the project explains itself, we envision Offices of the Future to have intelligent devices that would empower its users to control its energy consumption, at ease, mobile, and at anywhere and at anytime.
Imagine having the ‘Power’ to turn off any electrical devices via a mobile text message anywhere you are. Imagine connecting all your non-intelligent devices (Coffee-maker, photocopier etc.) to a port that would allow you to control them at your ease and comfort!
Our project would definitely solve the looming Energy Crisis about to hit New Zealand by 2009, which would see prices soaring up to 20%! Let’s not forget that for every electrical device that is turned off, we are reducing our carbon emissions to our world as well.
You can Save Energy now, with a click of your Mobile. It saves you Money, and it saves you Time! Both ‘Luxuries’ of Money and Time are what businessmen of today are chasing to fulfill and we are definitely providing them with a complete solution!
What tools are you using to develop your dream Office?
We are using Microsoft.Net, Microsoft Access, Windows CE and Java to develop our project. For further information about this field, it would be good to shoot us an email, and our friendly and knowledgeable programmer and engineer would get back to you with details!
We believe, it is not merely how you develop one system, but rather, how effective can the system empower your users to control their consumption and responsibility towards sustaining the environment!
Are there any plans for after Imagine Cup?
We have certainly put some plans into action and would certainly opt for opportunities to commercialize the project and improve it from time to time.
Much of the details are still confidential at the moment, but we are working on it. Our main goal is to help Sustain our Environment through Smart and Efficient Energy Usage, therefore, we believe, our project can be applicable as a global product when it becomes successful!
How are the preparations going on for the New Zealand finals?
We are still developing our project at the moment, and we will be doing more preparations in terms of presenting and pitching our ideas. We are also preparing ourselves mentally to face the challenging questions that the judges are bound to ask, and of course, looking forward for the splendid Networking activity with all the teams from the other universities!
They are all superb teams with great potentials, and we have a lot of respect to them!
Where can people find more information about Sustainable System?
We do have a blog detailing our journey in the Microsoft Imagine Cup with our Team – Sustainable Systems and Project – Office of the Future. Do check it out and if you like our ranting, this is where you would like to be!
Playing my role as the Public Relations Manager of the team, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for any inquiries about our project or perhaps some networking opportunities between us and the industry experts or the other teams’ members.
We look forward to getting in touch with you all!
Any Final statements you would like to make?
At the end of the day, we would like to use this opportunity to thank Microsoft for organizing this competition as a platform for youth innovators like ourselves to express our concerns and take action against the sustainability problems encountered by our growing world!
Also, we would like to express our deepest reflections to the other teams competing at this year’s New Zealand Finals – No matter what, we are all Winners. Why? Because we are all innovating projects that ultimately meet the needs of humans, to better understand and manage our already depleted eco-resources.
The world is thanking us for our hard work and initiatives guys and girls, so carry on with the progress! We are all doing great!