Kuwaiti women win Gulf's Microsoft Imagine Cup
Student technology competition saw about 2,000 entries this year
An all-women team from the American University of Kuwait has won the regional leg of the Microsoft Imagine Cup, an annual student technology competition that saw nearly 2,000 entries come in from the Middle East.
The competition asks participants across the world to come up with ideas on how technology can be best used in relation to set themes. The 2010 theme asked students to ‘imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems' and Mariam Al Al-Najdi, Abrari Amin and Aisha Al-Ruwaished from Kuwait did just that.
The young girls, all in their twenties, won the Gulf Microsoft Imagine Cup with their ‘TWTD' entry - a multi-touch tutoring system for the disabled that was developed using Visual Studio 2008 Professional and MS SQL.
A prototype of TWTD was tested in Kuwaiti schools where students without hands were unable to use the computer, becoming completely dependent on their teachers to do tasks on the computer. The team demonstrated how, using special markers that could be tracked using the educational software and a webcam, the same students were able to use a computer independently for the first time and take part in interactive English, mathematics and science lessons based on the Ministry of Education's curricula.
During their presentation, the team also reassured the judging panel that TWTD could be used to browse the Internet and complete regular computer-related activities using the software and a virtual keyboard. One of the other key factors that made TWTD stand out was its relatively low cost and ease of use in comparison to expensive software and hardware that currently exists for the physically challenged.
The women will now go on to represent Kuwait in the worldwide finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup that will take place in Warsaw, Poland from July 3 - 8, where a grand prize of $25,000 could be theirs if they beat the competition. Their university mentor Dr. Amir Zeid is already immensely proud of their efforts.
"It's a victory for them personally as women winning for the first time. Last year, I coached a team of men that won the mobile development category, but I'm more proud of this team because it's the first time our university won the competition and it's because of these girls," Zeid told itp.net.
Other teams from the Middle East that will also be competing at the finals in Poland include runners-up Sultan Qaboos University/Middle East College of Information Technology with their ‘Show Me The Traffic' web application that uses Microsoft Bing maps to advise commuters on which roads are congested with traffic, the University of Bahrain with their ‘Cash Trash' multi-functional smart recycling bin and the University of Wollongong (UAE) for their ‘Ear-It' application that is capable of testing a user's hearing using just their mobile phone and its accompanying headset.
The man leading the Imagine Cup team internally is Michael Mansour, group director of Microsoft's Developer and Platform Technologies, who revealed that there was only a modest increase in entries from Gulf students this year but that the competition was special in other ways.
"The increase that matters for us this year is the participation of more Gulf teams in the finals - one team from every country; so the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. From that perspective, there's much more representation for the region on a global stage," explained Mansour.