Microsoft Imagine Cup Asia Finals 2019
2019 started with me getting the most exciting news ever. My team and I were selected as a 2019 Asia Regional Finalist at the Microsoft Imagine Cup!
Out of hundreds of teams from 17 countries that submitted projects for the chance to compete in the Asia Regional Finals, our team was one of 12 that were selected to advance. Microsoft was going to fly our team to Sydney, Australia from February 10–14 to compete for over USD20,000 in prizes, plus a shot at a spot in the 2019 Imagine Cup World Championship in May!
This was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to join a global community of student developers making an impact with technology and we were thrilled to see what other teams were about to bring to the Regional Finals.
I have a lot to share about this journey. I will try to keep it short and concise covering the most important takeaways you can get from my experience so that you too can work towards an idea and compete for a spot at the Imagine Cup. I am going to share everything I did before the event and during the event so that everyone can benefit from my experience.
so how did I get to know about the Imagine Cup?
It all started back in October 2018 when I was competing at HackHarvard 2018. We had developed an app that could help students understand which food item was eggless or not by just tapping on it.
We had built on Azure’s Cloud services and pitched it to Susan Ibach from Microsoft. She was an absolute gem of a person and told us that if this idea doesn’t win here, we should improve it further and submit a proposal for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.
We gave our best shot at pitching this idea to all the judges but soon realised that our app was too basic to induce real impact. We had just made an app that could check if a food product contained a certain ingredient or not.
We came back and started working on our app. We brainstormed and tried to find a niche where we could use our existing tech stack to solve a genuine problem.
The last few years have seen an outburst of retail shopping products, which has led to unaware customers being overwhelmed by a vast variety of snacks, supplements juices etc. These customers know what they expect from a product (low calorie count, low artificial colouring, allergic constraints) but are unsure of what products offer and whether they are picking the right one. Therefore, we decided to introduce Spot - Real Time Product Analysis in Augmented Reality for Promoting Healthy Choices.
The initialisation of the app asks the customers for their personal details, including allergies, health conditions and preferences; following which the user is asked to choose the category of products they would buy according to which they would be displayed a set of filters that enable them to make a more informed choice. This is tremendously beneficial to the usual uninformed consumer, as we allow them to compare an unlimited number of products in real time to find the one that suits them best. Another feature, warns the user of a filter that may be harmful for his personal consumption. For instance, a diabetic consumer picking the ‘High Sugar’ filter.
I made a basic UI for our Imagine Cup proposal and spent a lot of time getting opinions and suggestions from our teachers, friends and mentors.
We also had to make a video explaining our product. It had to be without any trimming or editing. This was a difficult challenge as we had to record a pitch in one single shot without any errors or interruptions.
Things went well and we finally got selected for the Imagine Cup Finals.
Getting selected was one of the biggest achievements I have ever had. We couldn’t contain our excitement. This was one of the biggest tech events on planet and we were about to be a part of it. It was time to make sure that we do our absolute best to making a full publishable product along with all the things we would need for our pitch at the Imagine Cup.
It is obvious that you will need strong implementation of your app idea and a pitch for the event but there are a few more things to add that can help you induce a stronger impact. We realised this after Googling previous year teams and their presentations. This might sound very complex but in reality if you give in enough effort, you’ll thank yourself later on. These tiny little add-ons really help you to build a stronger impact.
#1 Team Merchandise
I realised that almost every good team had a logo, a colour scheme and banners and posters to go along with them. These merchandises help you build a strong brand identity. Wherever you go, you carry your brand and idea with you. I am into design and therefore I was supremely excited about these things. It first started with getting a flex banner printed with our Team Name and Team Members details on it. I had to travel for 2 hours in different parts of Vellore to find a guy who could print a flex for me. Finally, I found a printer who could print my design clearly.
This flex helped us everywhere we went. We had something to hold in our hands whenever our team wanted to click a photograph together. It gave our memories a strong value.
along with a banner, I got badges, stickers, flyers, posters and even T Shirts printed for our team. I knew they would help me during the competition as well as the Ignite Tour.
I did not have any provision where I stay to get flyers and badges printed so designed them online and gave orders 20 days prior to our event.
These flyers contained our idea, our team and an email ID just in case someone needs to get in touch with us. These help you a lot if you want people to remember your name and idea.
I even designed stickers for people because who doesn’t love stickers right? The most fascinating part about stickers is that once someone sticks your brand on his laptop, you stay with him forever. Even after he leaves the event, your concept stays with him and that is a very powerful blessing.
Before leaving the event, I made a thin bundle of our selection poster, a flyer, a badge and some stickers and gave these bundles to all the teachers and mentors that had helped us throughout our journey. These became like a token of appreciation for all our inspirations. Wherever we went, we were able to showcase our idea and preparation through this bundle of goodies.
We also designed T shirts so that when we pitch, there is a uniformity to our presentation. We got this idea from all the previous teams who’ve been to Imagine Cup. All of these were made on Photoshop and ordered online through various different vendors. Thank God for the internet.
I revamped the UI, made a new pitch and even made a video that showed students using the video. I personally feel that a video helps you convey messages that last. Pitches and posters are static but videos have the power to stay. Here is the video I made with my college friends.