An app designed by three University of Auckland students that connects people to work opportunities through social networks has won first place at the 2015 Microsoft New Zealand Imagine Cup competition.
Called Tether (http://thetetherapp.com) the app is the brainchild of University of Auckland students Alyssa Ong, Vivien Lei and Opender Singh, and uses Facebook integration to allow users to actively search their extended social network for people with skills required for casual jobs they need done.
For their efforts, the Tether team won $5,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Asia-Pacific regional round of the global Imagine Cup competition. If successful there, the team will then have the opportunity to travel to the USA for the worldwide finals to be held in Seattle in June.
Nine teams were finalists in the competition, which required students to create apps or software that meet a genuine human need in categories of either ‘Innovation’ or ‘World Citizenship’.
The judging panel consisted of notable leaders from New Zealand’s innovation community, including Dr Michelle Dickinson (Co-Founder of OMGTech), Andy Hamilton (Chief Operating Officer for The Icehouse), Jim Donegan (US Consul General), Sacha Judd (a partner at Buddle Finlay) and Helen Robinson (Director of ATEED and the Chairperson of Network for Learning).
In congratulating all teams and participants, the judges noted that they were especially impressed with the number of young women who competed in the Imagine Cup this year.
Second place and a $4,000 prize went to University of Auckland team ‘Lucky13’, for their app called ‘aFOODable’, which acts as a hub that connects people with charities, allowing them to donate food to the charities instantly through their smart phone. As runner up, the team will also get to attend and compete at the Imagine Cup regional finals.
Third place and $2,000 went to another University of Auckland team HEART, for their app which monitors patients’ heart activity through their smart phone, and employs real-time trend recognition for detecting and responding to potential issues.
Fourth place and $1,000 went to University of Auckland team Magikarp, for their app called ‘Lassie’ that provides an intelligent, private check-in service that alerts a chosen friend in situations where you are unable to call for help yourself.
The finals event, held earlier this week at the Auckland Town Hall and attended by more than 1200 people including 800 local high school and tertiary students, was launched with a welcome from Hon. Steven Joyce, Minister for Science & Innovation, and Microsoft New Zealand Managing Director, Paul Muckleston.
Muckleston says the Imagine Cup competition, as part of the locally developed Microsoft Student Accelerator (MSA) programme, is vital for supporting the next wave of New Zealand students into a career in IT and innovation.
“The MSA programme was initiated by Microsoft New Zealand last year to focus on helping students at secondary and tertiary levels get ready for work in the IT industry. As such, it is a bold and much needed way of connecting students at all levels of study with the industry to help them ramp up their careers,” says Muckleston.
“I have been impressed with the approach the students have taken in committing to this programme and delivering some great outcomes both through the Imagine Cup and their work placements – which in turn are bringing rewards for the students with many receiving job offers,” says Muckleston.
Muckleston says 600 students trained in the MSA programme in 2014 with 130 placed in teams building apps for customers and tech companies over the summer holidays, with about 30 of those finding full-time employment in those customers at the conclusion of the programme. Most of those went on to enter their inventions in the Imagine Cup competition.
“Around 2,000 tertiary students participated in the NZ Imagine Cup competition this year, which is just 1% of the 200,000 participants globally. New Zealand has traditionally punched well above our weight in the world Imagine Cup competitions, with Kiwi teams featuring in the top six teams globally for four out of the past five years.”
Most notably, in last year’s event, New Zealand team Estimeet won the Innovation category at the global finals in Seattle, taking home a prize of US$50,000. Following that, team Estimeet spent a month in the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London and are this month joining New Zealand’s premier digital accelerator Lightning Lab - of which Microsoft Ventures is a national sponsor - for their three month programme.
The next event on the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme schedule is the upcoming Week of Code, to be run across the region from 23 -29 March.