Rob's Guide to Entering the Imagine Cup

I'm giving a presentation today at Hull on how to take part in the Imagine Cup. This page summarizes all the links I'm going to give out, and gives some advice. First thing you do is register here:

Imagine Cup Registration

This is free and doesn't commit you to anything. Take the quiz. This is fun, you and might win a prize. I'd have a go but unfortunately I'm too old. And not a student. And I'd win anyway.

Imagine Cup Quiz

There are a number of invitationals. Each of them is a separate competition in its own right. You can enter as many of them as you like. Each of them has its own particular entry process. Here is a summary of the ones I think you should enter, and how to do it.

Software Design

You'll need to form a team for this one. Once you have up to four people (all of them registered) you can work up your idea for an entry. The Idea is what will get you past the first round. The theme for this year is "Imagine a World where technology enables a sustainable environment".

All you have to do is fill in a form with an idea and then submit it. The idea has to have an environmental feel, but it doesn't have to be directly environmental:

  • Technology that lets people swap things rather than buy new ones
  • Technology that changes the way (or frequency) that something is used to reduce the impact on the environment
  • Technology that makes people aware of the impact of their behaviour on the environment and seeks to modify this
  • Technology that improves the efficiency with which a resource is used

Once you have a team, all sit around a table (possibly in a pub) and then work through the bullet points above and see if you can't come up with something. Map the points onto your life and see if there is anything that you could do to modify the way you do things. See if you know anyone in another department (Geography, History, etc) who might have an environmental problem you could have a go at. If you want an idea of what to do, take a look at this example by Ed Dunhill.

Fill in the form here and submit it. And be quick, the entries close on the 14th Dec.


Remember that quiz I mentioned above? Get through that and you are into the Algorithm Invitational round 2. You get to download some code and fiddle with it.

Well worth a look if you enjoy programming.


You'll need another team (or perhaps the same one from the Software Development invitational). This round is also idea driven, in that the first round is based on an idea that you pitch to the competition. It can be the same idea as for the Software Development round, or it can be a different one. It should be based on an embedded device and if you make it through to round 2 you will get some hardware to play with. Again, you have nothing to lose by taking part except a bit of time to fill in your entry and write up your idea. You can find the details here.

Game Development (XNA)

You'll need to form another team  (or use the same long suffering chums). You need to create a game demo with XNA and pitch it. You can find out more here. Remember that XNA 2.0 provides Xbox Live network gaming between PC and Xbox. So your game could be multi-player. You could also use a PC as a gateway between the real world and Xbox clients, so you could feed live data into the games by doing this. There might be some really nice simulation/visualisation stuff you could do with this.

Programming Battle

Project Hoshimi is great fun. Write code of your own to take on other programs and win. Get started here. I'm told that getting through round 1 is actually quite easy. Ed Dunhill has a nice post here which should get you a long way down the road.

Information Technology

This one looks to be a hoot. You have to take an on-line test to get through the first round. There are a bunch of these in the run up to the close of round 1. If you get into the final you have to set up and manage a server which must then withstand a good kicking and stay up whatever is thrown at it. Find out more here.

Interface Design

Nobody from Hull has ever had a go at this one, and yet it looks very interesting. Essentially you devise a scenario in which a system could be created to help solve an environmental issue and then build a user interface for that system. You don't actually have to write the application, but you must create enough behaviours to allow the user interface to be demonstrated. If you can find an artist to team up with you could have some real fun in this one. Find out more here.


How hard could this be? Cameras even focus for you and everything now. All you have to do is come up with a photo essay (tell a story with pictures) on the environmental theme. You can find out what a photo essay is here.

Short Film

If four of you fancy making a film then you can. It might be great fun. The standard of the film entries to the Imagine Cup is usually pretty high (and someone from Canada quite often wins for some reason as I recall). Having said that,  I'd really love someone from Hull to have a go at this, take a look here to find out how.

Is it worth Entering?

Oh yes. Not everyone who takes part wins (even if they are from Hull), but that is not the point. If I was interviewing for Microsoft people it would go like this:

Me: "So, are you keen to work at Microsoft?"
Applicant: "Oh yes, yes, yes. Keen-ness on legs, big barrel of keen, uber keen. More keen than a very keen person from Keenchester central who is keen"
Me: "And yet you didn't take part in the Imagine Cup."
Applicant:"No. Never quite got round to it."
Me: (pressing bell on desk) "Next.."

I'm not saying that the only way to get to work with Microsoft, either as an intern, employee or Student Partner is to sign up for the Imagine Cup. What I am really saying is that if you want a real inside track on the process you should.

And even if you don't want to work for Bill in the future, it is still worth taking part 'cos it is great fun.