Three Auckland University students have won first place at the 2015 Microsoft New Zealand Imagine Cup competition for Tether, an app that helps people find work opportunities.
The competition required students to create apps or software that meet a genuine human need in categories of either ‘Innovation’ or ‘World Citizenship’.
Tether, created by students Alyssa Ong, Vivien Lei and Opender Singh, uses Facebook integration to allow users to actively search their extended social network for people with skills required for casual jobs they need done.
As winners of the Imagine Cup, 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 in the Asia-Pacific region, the team will then have the opportunity to travel to the USA for the worldwide finals, which will be held in June in Seattle.
The judging panel consisted of 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).
Nine teams were finalists in the competition. Second place and a $4,000 prize went to University of Auckland team ‘Lucky13’, for their app called ‘aFOODable’.
This app acts as a hub to connect people with charities, allowing them to donate food instantly through their smartphone. 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 ‘Lassie’, the app that works as a check-in service to alert a chosen person in situations where users are unable to call for help themself.
The finals event was held earlier this week at the Auckland Town Hall and was attended by more than 1,200 people.
The event was launched with a welcome from Steven Joyce, Minister for Science and Innovation, and Paul Muckleston, Microsoft New Zealand managing director.
The Imagine Cup competition is part of the locally developed Microsoft Student Accelerator (MSA) programme, which Muckleston says 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.
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.
Of those, about 30 were offered full-time employment with those customers at the conclusion of the programme, and 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,” says Muckleston.
Last year, New Zealand team Estimeet won the Innovation category at the global finals in Seattle and took 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.