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I'm off to New York tomorrow to catch the last few days ot the Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals. The Imagine Cup is an annual competition run by Microsoft that asks students to design and build technology to help solve some of the world's most pressing problems (as taken from the UN's Millennium Goals).

Teams from all over the world have been participating in the event, which started on Saturday and runs through Thursday. By the time I get to New York, they'll be whittled down to the finalists in several categories: software design, game design, and embedded development.

Hack College has had some good coverage this weekend of the U.S. teams competing at the event, including a story about this year's U.S. Imagine Cup winner Note-Taker, a portable assistive technology to help visually impaired students take notes.

I am really looking forward to the event, and even though the participants will be mostly college-age students, I'm always eager to think and talk about ways in which we can get more students involved in these sorts of engineering and entrepreneurial efforts. As I noted in a story I wrote last week for RWW about Lego Education and robotics, I think this idea of encouraging students to build technology that affects social and environmental change is a key piece to getting more girls involved in what's often seen as a "boy's world."

We'll see what the composition of the teams at the Imagine Cup looks like though.

I'm also curious to talk to the students about the requirements that they use Microsoft's .NET framework. It is a Microsoft event, so I'm not surprised that students are expected to build Windows 7 apps, for example, not iPhone or Android ones. And Microsoft is hardly the only company that sponsors student competitions with these sorts of tech requirements (Google will announce its Science Fair winners this week -- there, students were expected to use Google Docs, for example). I guess it's just another one of those areas where corporate support for STEM is both awesome and ooky.

If you're interested in seeing what the teams have built, have a look at the People's Choice Award. But vote soon! And tune in for more stories from me in NYC this week.

Disclosure: Microsoft is paying for my travel to the event. To balance it out, I'm weighing wearing the Google I/O t-shirt Google gave me when I attended its developer conference earlier this year.

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Audrey Watters


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