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Imagine Cup continues to spark innovation among Kuwaiti Youth

‘Teams Nocturne’ bags Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2017 in Kuwait

KUWAIT: ‘Team Nocturne’ from the American University of Kuwait, winners of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2017 in Kuwait. —Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: ‘Team Nocturne’ from the American University of Kuwait (AUK) bagged Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2017 in Kuwait; a global technology competition that aims to deliver educational, entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for students and youth by acquiring critical skills. The event was held at Al-Shaheed Park under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information. ‘Team Nocturne’ took first place for their project ‘Artopia,’ a location-based application where users can create 3D paintings in augmented reality and save them in the real world. After taking first place, ‘Team Nocturne’ will go on to meet the region’s top talent at the Imagine Cup MEA semi-finals in Lebanon in May, on a path to compete with the best young innovators in worldwide finals, in Seattle, Washington, for the coveted Imagine Cup trophy and a prize of $100,000.

Imagine Cup becomes a venue for Kuwaiti youth to showcase innovative applications using the latest Microsoft technologies, to solve some of the greatest societal challenges. The second prize was won by FEHOT from the American University of Middle East for their facial, emotional, human, object, tracking system project, designed to integrate facial recognition, emotion extraction and human irregular body contours identification algorithms. Team Beyond Sight of Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST) received the third prize for their project, which captures and converts instructor’s writing on the board to PDF format or raw text and then converts it to Microsoft Office Word so the user can use and read it through his preferred screen reader.

The competition took Kuwaiti students on a rewarding journey, providing them with a unique opportunity to think about their place in the world, their strengths and weaknesses and also to learn about the importance of creativity by leveraging technology. The winning teams attending the regional and worldwide finals will get a chance to network with many other young, passionate people from all around the world, and create valuable connections that inspire new skills for the future.
“Technology is a critical enabler for youth, and at Microsoft, we recognize its profound role in teaching and learning. Imagine Cup is an ideal way to discover talent, giving a chance to young people from around the world to aim big and become more innovative,” said Charles Nahas, General Manager, Microsoft Kuwait.  “We are honored to have the support of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mubarak-Al Sabah, for this year’s finals, endorsing our commitment to support Kuwaiti youth towards leveraging technology for acquiring critical skills that pave the way for driving innovation and growth in the country.’

Seven finalists; Team Trifocal, Team Electronic nose and Team FEHOT from AUM, Team TechnoFunGames and Team Beyond Sight from GUST, Team Nocturne from AUK and Team Nisa-n-Tech from AOU, were shortlisted to compete in Kuwait finals. The team of judges for the Kuwait finals to select the winners included Yacoub Al-Bash, IT Team Leader, Kuwait Oil Company; Srood Sherif, Group CIO, Kuwait Finance House; Dr Maytham Safar, Head of Computer Engineering Faculty, Kuwait University; and Ahmad Marafi, Co-Founder at Coded.

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup challenges entrants, who must be 16 years or older or enrolled as a permanent student, to collaborate in teams and submit imaginative ideas in the field of technology. Competitors need to develop the concepts from scratch and defend their usability and market draw to a panel of judges.

Many proposals were received by Microsoft from Kuwait entrants. This year, Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform was a mandatory tool for all the submitted projects. The Imagine Cup forms a pivotal part of Microsoft’s Youth Spark program, a global CSR initiative launched in 2003, aimed at delivering opportunities for more than 300 million young people all around the world.

In February, Microsoft conducted roadshows in five different universities across Kuwait; American University Middle East(AUM), Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), American University Kuwait (AUK), Arab Open University (AOU) and Kuwait University (KU). The presentations reached a wide range of students and created awareness amongst them to encourage participation in the competition, with ideas that will fuel the Kuwait government’s vision for an aspired modern state. Interested students were able to attend intensive training sessions to prepare for submission of ideas. The sessions covered contest rules and criteria, and informed competitors about the processes of conceptualization, design, development and testing, which help lead to the most viable solutions.

Good reputation
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Nahas said the event has a very good reputation in terms of ideas and innovation in the world of IT. “It is an event Microsoft created 15 years ago – it is taking place in Kuwait for six years now. It is about sparking innovations in students. Bill Gates was a student when he came up with this idea. This goes back to the roots of Microsoft – reaching out to students, helping them create new ideas and new innovations,” he said.

Nahas said Imagine Cup is shaping ideas of what technology could look like in the next couple of years and how it could impact the global market. “We had seven finalists from Kuwait. We have a panel of judges that selected the best, and the winner will go South Africa to compete regionally. Last year, the regional meet was in Egypt. Winners in the regional level will fly to Seattle to compete worldwide. Most of the students are now software-savvy and we are happy that every year, the number of interested students gets bigger and better,” he said.

Imagine Cup, according to Nahas, is one of the most exciting events of Microsoft annually. “This is the venue to come up with new ideas – young talents that can showcase their innovations to the world. Everyone is proud about it. It can create success stories. IT saw a lot of success stories in the past years with Talabat.com and Souq.com. There are many other companies and we can support them if they have some new ideas to launch in the market,” he added.

Asked about the major achievements of Microsoft in Kuwait, Nahas mentioned the spark of innovation and entrepreneurial skills among Kuwaiti youth and the technological rebirth here. With regards to its CSR broader approach, Nahas said is Microsoft continuously reaching out to every sector of the society, from funneling technology to boosting its SME (small and medium enterprises) initiatives. It is also helping the government to introduce new services to better serve the population smartly.

By Ben Garcia, Agencies

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