The Imagine Cup 2006 Kicks off

I spent most of today trying to avoid going to sleep. The plan is that if I can stay awake until my normal bedtime I can get my body into the new time zone by brute force and ignorance.

It didn’t go too well. Every time I sat down my eyes closed automatically and I drifted somewhere with all of the characteristics of sleep except the ones which make you feel better when you wake up.

Joe Wilson opening the presentation

Fortunately I managed to get myself over to the Imagine Cup Final launch event. Joe Wilson of Microsoft showed us some video of students doing great things and then talked a bit about the passion that you need to have to be a developer. Actually, I’m not going to claim to be particularly passionate (at least not in a blog that other people might read) but I do agree that when you are writing a program you are doing a bit more than just stringing statements together to get something to work. You are making something with the aim of making people happy.

From coding for your own amusement to making multi-tiered applications of frightening complexity (like some of the contest entries) the net result of your work should be a bit more happiness in the world (or – at a pinch I guess you could settle for less unhappiness). Whatever, as far as I am concerned this means that you should really engage with your task, respond positively to problems (or challenges as they are sometimes renamed) and work to get others enthused about what you are doing. And of course strive to do the very best you can. Kind of the Imagine Cup in a nutshell I guess.

The next speaker was Sheila Gulati of Microsoft India. She welcomed us all to her country, noted that the ride from Delhi to Agra would make a great XBOX game (it would) and told us of the pride she takes in the progress that her country has made in the software field. Then she said something which I found interesting. She said that people visiting should “let India happen to them” rather trying to view it from the perspective that they brought with them. I’m beginning to see what she means.

These are all around the hotel.

We are presently in the rarefied, air-conditioned environment of one of the poshest hotels I’ve ever been in. Yet there are things around that constantly remind you that you are not in Kansas any more. The beautiful little shrines around the hotel to the various gods, the pleasure that people take in helping you out, the fact that everyone you pass will say “Good Day”, the amount of smiling and eye contact that is involved in even the simplest transaction. For a reserved Englishman like me this is all quite alien, and really rather nice. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the real India later in the week, when the pace slackens a bit and we can go out and take a look around.

But back to the competition and the opening presentation. At the end of the speeches they introduced a drumming double act whose name, to my great shame, I’ve presently forgotten. I’ve not forgotten what they did though. Both of them were amazing, one was surrounded by drums of all kind, and a large smattering of 21st century technology. The other simply sat down and played what appeared to be a very simple hand drum. Put them together and the range of sounds and the rhythms that they produced were incredible. Their hands were moving so fast that the cameras which were relaying their performance onto the big screen quite literally could not keep up.

They finished off by handing out some instruments so that we could all join in. I got to play a big silver tambourine, which the family will be pleased to hear I will not be taking home. Then they called down all the people from around the world who set up the competition and made it the roaring success it is.

The makers of the Imagine Cup

After that we had our evening meal out in the gardens, inside a giant gazebo, with fans blowing a mist of cool water over us and ever attentive waiters handing us beers. Then, with my body clock finally asserting itself, I staggered back to the room and settled down to a deep sleep.