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A Challenge for Good
Imagine Cup: the Olympics of great ideas
More than 14,000 students registered for this year’s Imagine Cup competition across the United States. Over the weekend, 80 of those students participated in the U.S. finals, showing how technology can make a difference in solving some of the world’s most difficult challenges.
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When I was a student tinkering with the first personal computers, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how PCs could be used. But in the 35 years since, I’ve never ceased to be amazed at the power of computing to make a difference in so many parts of our lives.

What excites me about the Imagine Cup is the combination of the huge potential of technology and the passion and idealism of the hundreds of thousands of high school and college students who participate around the world. Last year, more than 300,000 students participated from 142 countries, which makes this contest that Microsoft sponsors one of the most important science competitions in the world.

I’m especially enthusiastic about the challenge of this year’s competition, which is to imagine how technology can help meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and solve some of the world’s toughest problems—including eliminating poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and providing universal primary education.

The U.S. Imagine Cup Finals happened over the weekend in Washington, D.C. and culminate today in the announcement of the winning teams—in software design and game development—that will advance to the worldwide finals in Poland in July. The projects the teams have developed over the course of the year are impressive. It might seem surprising, but no U.S. team has ever won the Imagine Cup. Perhaps that will change this year or sometime soon. In the meantime, it’s a reminder of the importance of exposing young people to technology in the classroom early on and encouraging them to develop the technology skills needed in so many different careers.

To continue to be competitive in the global economy, America needs to ignite a lifelong passion for math and science in more of our students, and encourage more of our young people to pursue careers in technology.

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