Microsoft looking for the next Mark Shuttleworth

Stand back, Mark Shuttleworth. Get in line, Bill Gates. It’s time for South Africa’s aspiring student computer programmers to strut their stuff in the world’s top student technology competition.

Microsoft has opened entries for the Imagine Cup, where the brightest young minds in the country use technology to tackle the world’s toughest problems. Now in its ninth year, the competition gives students the chance to gain international exposure and turn their ideas into businesses.

This competition is open to any student at a tertiary institution. Students can submit their existing or new projects into the various categories — game design, development and software design — by registering on www.imagine.co.za.  Entries close on 30 October.

The finals take place in early December – and the local winners will get to pit their wits against the world’s best student programmers in New York next year.

“Imagine Cup is a great way for students to apply their creativity, intellect and brainpower to start thinking like entrepreneurs and open up a world of opportunities,” said Nyaladzi Mpofu, the academic developer advisor at Microsoft South Africa.

Winners can not only make a name for themselves in the world of technology. Their projects could secure them an internship or that perfect job – while previous winners have gone straight on to turn their ideas into businesses.

2007 Imagine Cup winner Devin de Vries and his colleagues built a company around ‘Where is my transport’ – a solution that gives Cape commuters up-to-the-minute information on taxis and buses directly to their cellphones.

Last year’s winners, Johannesburg’s Kieron Ekron and Jacobus Bijker, designed a programme that can predict crowd behavior in stadiums, which has real safety and efficiency uses for event like the FIFA Soccer World Cup. These students are proof that South Africans can innovate with the best in the world, and that technology is key to the future of our country.

“Time and again, we’ve seen students lead technology shifts,” says Mpofu. “Sure, R&D often starts with commercial companies and educational institutions, but students are the ones who get to engage with technology and make it real for us.”

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Microsoft looking for the next Mark Shuttleworth