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Kiwi students impress at Microsoft Imagine Cup
Fri, 12th Jul 2013
FYI, this story is more than a year old

University of Auckland students have impressed judges at the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013, so much so that the panelists have asked how the team planned to handle its success.

New Zealand’s harsh sun led Team InfinityTek to create the award-winning UVsense – an innovative system to prevent skin cancer by combining a custom ultraviolet-light detector that people wear with a Windows Phone app, to measure and monitor a person’s UV exposure.

Competing in the World Citizenship category at the world’s most prestigious student technology competition in St Petersburg, the Kiwi team was up against eighty five teams from 69 countries in St Petersburg, chasing a prize pool of over US$1 million.

The World Citizenship category in which the team competed was won by Portugal’s Team for a Better World, but during the process, judges were so impressed with InifintyTek’s sensor app and its potential for other uses that they asked how the team planned to handle its success.

The team represented New Zealand after winning the New Zealand finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition in March.

Since then, Daniel Xu, Ming Cheuk, Jacky Zhen, and Muthu Chidambaram have improved their application by miniaturising the custom hardware, redesigning the app’s user interface, and refining their presentation skills.

“We have learnt a lot during the last seven months, and the whole team is really proud to have represented New Zealand," Xu says.

"We are thrilled at how far we have come – but our fight to prevent skin cancer is only just beginning."

Accompanied by their mentor Richard McLean, who founded the IP and software exporting advisory firm ‘Concept to Market,’ Team InfinityTek travelled to St Petersburg last weekend for the four-day World Finals competition.

The team is working with experts from New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to calibrate the sensor on their custom hardware – and have worked closely with the Cancer Society, the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand, and a leading dermatologist from the Skin Institute.

The team’s award-winning system UVsense aims to reduce the risk of skin damage from ultraviolet radiation by actively recording the UV radiation that a person is exposed to, and wirelessly sending the information to a Windows Phone app.

The app processes this data and gives the user personalised information about their exposure during the day – as well as alerts when they are at risk of skin damage.

“While researching the problem in more detail, we realised how little we actually knew about the effects of UV radiation on the skin,” Cheuk says.

“Ever since, we have been more careful about how we protect ourselves from the sun while outside. It really shows that being informed can change behaviour – and we hope that everyone who uses our system will experience the same positive behavioural changes.”

Kiwi Pride

New Zealand students have consistently performed well at the Imagine Cup World Finals – with kiwi teams placing in the top six for the last three years.

· In 2010, Team OneBeep showed judges in Poland their engineering breakthrough that enables streams of data to be sent to impoverished communities across the readily-available FM/AM frequencies.

· In 2011 in New York City, Team OneBuzz demonstrated their system that combines cloud computing, satellite imaging, text messages, and data visualisation to prevent malaria outbreaks.

· Last year, Team MobileEye competed in Sydney with their app that combines a smartphone camera with artificial intelligence and crowd-sourcing technology, to provide vital information for vision-impaired users.

Managing director of Microsoft New Zealand, Paul Muckleston says the whole Microsoft New Zealand team is very proud of Team InfinityTek and the four inspiring students now join the ranks of other successful kiwi teams who have proven that they have what it takes to compete on the world stage.

“This team embodies the essence of the Imagine Cup - taking on big challenges, being innovative, and using cutting-edge technology to make a difference in the world," he says.

"Their UVsense system is another game-changing combination of software and hardware developed by kiwis, and we are delighted to have been on this journey with them from the very start."

For a full list of winners click here