FutureFive NZ - Waikato teams win at Microsoft Imagine Cup

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Waikato teams win at Microsoft Imagine Cup

Two University of Waikato teams entered in the Microsoft Imagine Cup have come away with category wins.

The Microsoft Imagine Cup, the world’s largest technology competition, invites tertiary students from around the globe to create software using Microsoft applications to find real solutions to real-world problems.

This year students were asked to choose from one of three categories; Innovation, World Citizenship, or Gaming, with the final taking place in Auckland earlier this week.

Consisting of Brian Cole, Ersin Buckley, Marcel Beetz and Shawnee Kitson, the My Storyteller team came out victorious, winning first place in the Innovation category and taking away $6,000 in prize money.

The My Storyteller app for Windows 8 lets parents pre-record stories as videos, so they can ‘read to’ their children even while at work or travelling.

Customisable stories are provided by the application, and parents are given ‘karaoke style’ prompts to read while recording. Children can read along on-screen as the video is played back to them.

Team leader Brian Cole says the win wouldn’t have been possible without the support from their business mentor Lyndyl Stewart from Business Mechanix, Louise Hutt from Louise Hutt Photography, and from support from the Faculty of Computer and Mathematical Science and Management School.

“The Imagine Cup was intense,” Cole says.

“We spent the first two days of the final working on our pitch and with our business mentor on last minute changes. It was three days of continuous talking.”

On the final day of competition teams had to go through a day’s worth of exercises including a one-minute elevator pitch, being interviewed by Sam from TVNZ’s Breakfast show, a 10 minute presentation in front of a panel of judges, followed by question and answer session.

“When we got to this stage we noticed the judges kept asking us questions about the app and started going over time – we suspected it went well from there,” Cole says.

From here the team are going to launch a social media campaign to pitch their idea to the world, and hopefully secure a spot at the Imagine Cup final in Russia this July.


Fellow University of Waikato team APPortunists came second in the World Citizenship category, taking $2,000 in prize money.

Team APPortunists developed a medical system accessible via web browsers and smartphones that allows the capture and maintenance of medical records in the developing world. Records are available to both patients and health professionals. The system also tracks vaccinations, and can notify patients when they’re due.

Despite coming in as runner up the team of Haley Littlewood, Jess Howse, Kieran Thomson and Michael Watson are waiting to hear from UNICEF about a potential business partnership.

Team leader Jess Howse says entering the competition was a huge learning experience, aided by their business mentor Debbie Ireland.

“I would absolutely recommend this competition to anyway willing to give it a go," she says.

"If you’re a student pull together a team and submit a concept. It’s an excellent way to network with business people and apply what you’re learning at university already.”

A total of 549 students submitted proposals to the Microsoft's Imagine Cup this year, 100 were selected for interviews, and 24 made the semi-final round of judging that was undertaken by a panel of Microsoft and industry volunteer judges, at the University of Auckland.

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