We are the champions

We are the champions, We are the Champions….I know most of you have seen the huge coverage that we have received over the past few days with Ireland taking top honours by winning the Imagine Cup Software Design competition. In this email I just want to share some of the experiences of how it all played out over the final days.

Wednesday saw the team do their final presentation. This is where things really heat up, rather than six people in a room, they now have 1,000. That’s what I call taking it up a notch! Having spent most of the day with them, it was clear they had worked really hard to best implement the feedback that they received after their last presentation, there was nothing more left in the tank. The pressure at this stage is immense if you’re not used to this environment, it can throw you, but that’s what it takes when you are in the final 6 in the world.

They did an amazing job, nailing the business viability section and also giving really strong answers to the judging panel.

The following day, Thursday, was the worldwide student showcase. This is where we announce the winners and where students get to showcase their solutions to VCs, Government ministers and invited partners and guests. It is also a great opportunity to talk about your ideas to the public and other contestants. We had some great visitors at the Hermes stand; United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was there first and got a real insight into their solution. Hot on his heels was Eva Longoria, followed by a quick visit from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

At 4pm and the doors opened to the main theatre for the final ceremony, now all we had to do was wait for two hours for all the other winners to be announced until the winners for the Software Design category were announced. The ceremony’s opening resembled a Broadway show where an actor came off a subway which came on stage and then told a story where technology could solve some of the vexing challenges that world faces today.

For those of you who know me well, I can never stand still, especially when something big is going on. I couldn’t hang around, the tension was too much, and so I paced outside for the majority of it, catching the events on the big screens outside the theatre. When I saw the Software Design category appear I was back in my seat. For the whole week OneBuzz from New Zealand were being touted as winners and all the press were focused on them, their solution was focused to build a technological system to track malaria and use the data to battle against controlling and eliminating malaria outbreaks. It didn’t help our case that Bill Gates was also supporting their solution in funding. So when the 3rd and second place winners didn’t contain OneBuzz, my hopes for an Irish victory seemed all but lost. Then the announcement came, I couldn’t believe it, Ireland had won the Imagine Cup!

For those interested, 3rd place went to OaSys from Jordan it is a solution to help people with quadriplegia gain complete access over the computer using their head movements. 2nd place went to Team Note Taker from the United States their design helps low-vision and legally blind students take notes in class using a plugin for One Note.

That evening there wasn’t much time for celebrating as the world media wanted to talk to the team. The following day was allocated for a full day of media where we received a huge amount of local and global PR. The team worked incredibly hard since the Irish finals and all week in New York, with very little time for R&R, but that’s what it takes if you want to be in with a shout of winning. We have now flown the team off to Denver, Colorado, where Kevin Turner will present the team to 15,000 Microsoft staff at MGX, for his keynote address. What a whirlwind this has been for them.

Next year we move on to Australia for the worldwide finals, could we do a back to back win? I suppose that is the new challenge. When you’re touched with success you want to do it again. Let’s be just as ambitious for 2012!

 

 

 

The story so far

Well today is the big day, Team Hermes final presentation to the Judges. This is where things really heat up, rather than six people in a room, they now have 1,000. That’s what we call, taking it up a notch! Having spent most of the day with them, they have worked really hard to best implement the feedback that they received after their last presentation, and as I currently type they are up their room trying to figure out all the last minute tweaks. They are good at presenting, and have prepared really well, but this one is going to be different. There are more people in the room, people coming and going out of the room, more coughing, eating. If you’re not used to this, it can throw you, but that’s what it takes when you are in the final 6 in the world. I am downstairs watching all the other teams, and they are as Josh Holmes would say “Awesome”! Below is a little overview of the top 6 teams.


Team Note Taker from the United States is designed to help low-vision and legally blind students take notes in class using a plugin for One Note.

SIMPLEX from Romania built a system that allows patients with neurological, orthopaedic or rheumatologic pathologies to easily recover by practicing physical exercises controlled by Kinect. It has some really cool games to carry out physical exercise.

Care Everyone from China – The software combines image and speech recognition to help disabled people “use computers to surf on-line, communicate with others and play games

OneBuzz from New Zealand helps identify and control the spread of malaria

My own Team Hermes from Ireland that has built a Road safety system which Targets “most at risk” drivers to increase road safety and thereby tackle what World Health Organisation say is a leading cause of death among young people (between 10 and 24)

OaSys from Jordan it is a solution to help people with quadriplegia gain complete access over the computer using their head movements.

 

 

Everyone is giving a great presentation; they are so inspiring & dedicated to using technology to solve some of the great social issues that people face on a daily basis around the world.

Tomorrow we find out the winners, fingers crossed everyone for Ireland to be in the top three.

Imagine Cup 2011 New York

At the Marriott Marquis in Time Square where the opening ceremony was held on Friday night, Steve Ballmer, at his first ever Imagine cup gave the student finalists three key pieces of advice that they should all try to aspire to;

 

 

  1. Ideas Matter – Microsoft is a company that lives off building out great ideas.
  2. Find Passion – you find this and you can do anything.
  3. Be Tenacious – persistence will pay off, keep moving forward.

     

It is clear that all these students have these qualities as they try to solve the world’s toughest problems using technology.

Team Hermes from IT Sligo arrived in on Thursday afternoon and that evening Enterprise Ireland hosted an event to celebrate their winning of the Irish finals at the Irish consulate on Park Ave. The event had 100 Irish American businesses present to wish them luck and also hear about their idea which addresses reducing roads deaths with their safe driving system.

On Saturday the competition kicked off into full swing where all the teams presented in closed sessions, this is a 20 minute presentation and a 15 minute Q&A session. I am glad to report that Ireland did a fantastic job and really nailed a super presentation. That night is probably the most exciting part of the entire competition, at 10pm all the students gather in the main hall with their flags, chanting and signing songs from their country. The Irish team led the charge with Olé Olé Olé…. followed by the Brazilian team, with their drums and whistles and not to be left out, Korea, USA, France, UK all joined in until then the whole room started to vibrate. The tension is unreal as they call out the teams that have made it to the last 18, Ireland were drawn out as the 12th team. We were into round 2, which we haven’t been in a few years. What an incredible achievement.

Sunday saw the team up bright and early to review their feedback from round 1, it was all good. I thought that their presentation couldn’t get any better than the previous day, but this team takes feedback well and is really agile, they nailed it. Now we were left in the hands of the Gods and the Judges on if we would make the top 6 teams in the world and proceed to the final round.

Again the tension was unreal, could we get to the last 6 teams in the world and get to present on the big stage in front of 1,000 of people. As they went through the teams all the early favourites were called out, until we heard “going through to the final 6 is team Hermes”

Tomorrow is rehearsal day and then they have the big presentation on Tuesday and then the winners will be announced on Wednesday night at the world showcase. Let’s keeps our fingers crossed, they cup is in grasping distance J

OK, so here is the first one….

Aside

So the time has come to realy embrace wordpress. Having used Twitter & Facebook in the past. a blog really the only real way to get into the really deep stuff. I am writing this in New York City @ the Imagine Cup world finals. I am here supporting the Irish team in their pursuit to become the world wide champions. Having Imagine cup as a backdrop to my first few blog posts will allow me to hopefully keep you interested in all that goes on in my amazing job.

This is my second time in New York city and to be honest I hated the first expeirence, I think Imet every “nutter” there was to met and I couldn’t get out of the place fast enough. This time it is different, the people are amazing, the buzz in the streets is electric & and the pace of life and the pursuit of dreams is on every street corner. I am loving NYC. I’ll be definately coming back and ready for all the oppertunities that New York has to offer. I have the NYC bug.

So please read on and find out more what will be happening around New York this week @ the Imagine Cup competition and also keep tuned in more posts which will keep you all informed on what is happening with students and faculty in Ireland as I expeirence them.