PH International

Student volunteers won a trip to Imagine Cup 2013

Russia | IT for Youth | 12 Aug 2013

June 2013 saw the official wrap up of the student volunteer program in high schools, jointly organized by Project Harmony and AIESEC as part of the Tvoy Kurs initiative. During the run of the program 115 Russian and 30 foreign student volunteers held 1,200 career orientation and training events for high school students from 100 schools in various regions of Russia.
Aleksandr Skudarnov, a 5th year IT major from Tomsk Polytechnic University , and Aleksandr Fedosov, a 3rd year student at Omsk State Railroad Engineering University majoring in automatics and control software, were awarded the title of Best Student Volunteers for their contributions to improving training methods and course content in career orientation training, and for achieving the best results in counseling and training high school students. Both received the top prize: a travel grant and a chance to participate in Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals where they got to see many innovative software projects developed by students from around the world.

This year, for the first time since it was launched 11 years ago, the Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals took place in St. Petersburg, Russia. Upon their return, Aleksandr Skudarnov and Aleksandr Fedosov shared their impressions of the trip saying they had never expected to find themselves at such a spectacular gathering.

Imagine Cup is the world’s largest annual student technology competition, run by Microsoft since 2003. All eligible students, both undergraduate and graduate, from all over the world, are invited, in teams or individually, to use their imagination and passion to create a technology solution in one of its competitions and challenges.

Imagine Cup 2013 received submissions from 309 students in 87 teams from 71 countries, with projects aimed at solving problems facing the world today in various areas, from healthcare and business to education and recreation. Aleksandr Skudarnov and Aleksandr Fedosov were very excited to find themselves at the Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals, to see the latest and the most innovative technologies, and to meet finalists from various countries.

Aleksandr Skudarnov: “It was quite something, to appreciate the scale of this amazing event, with more than 80 participating countries, with such incredible energy, spirit of unity and enthusiasm. It was awesome to meet students who, at my age, present projects at such an advanced level. It is difficult to imagine how hard they must have worked and what it must have meant for them to make it to the Worldwide Finals.”

Aleksandr Fedosov: “I was impressed with the sheer size of Imagine Cup 2013 and its excellent organization. Everything I saw and heard during those few days was very important and useful.”

The whole event took four days, two of which were given to the Finals proper: on the first day student teams gave 10-minute presentations of their projects and on the second day had several (4 to 6) 15-minute meetings with individual judges, showing them their innovative tools and applications, developed to make the world a better place. Every tool, gadget and application was put on display so that people could try them out, and judges often posed tough or tricky questions that teams had to answer while defending their projects.

Aleksandr Skudarnov and Aleksandr Fedosov attended most presentations and selected several projects that seemed the most interesting. For instance, they really appreciated Edible developed by Team Merado from Kazakhstan: a recognition system of foodstuffs with genetically modified organisms with a help of mobile application or web site.

“I really liked the SkyPACS Internet solution by Team MYRA from Thailand,” said Aleksandr Skudarnov. “It is a tool that can present diagnostic medical Images in 2D or 3D, and it won the 3rd place in the Innovations Category. In the Games Competition I was impressed by Zeppelin Studio from Austria who presented a puzzle-based game.”

Aleksandr Fedosov recalled the press conference where all the projects were presented for journalists. “For me it was the most memorable event,” he confessed with great admiration. “I have never seen so many cool ideas implemented in so many cool formats before! So many useful things!”

In the short breaks between various events the two Aleksandrs had a chance to meet and chat with their peers from Japan, Singapore, Ireland, China, India, and Sri-Lanka, to ask about their countries, and to tell them a little about Russia.

“As I was talking to all these people,” said Aleksandr Fedosov, “I saw that working on the Imagine Cup projects really challenges you personally and professionally, pushes you to grow and acquire new skills and knowledge.”

The students were  excited about the entertainment and culture events that the Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals offered. They attended the spectacular fountain show in Peterhof and visited the Shuvalovka amusement park, stylized to look like a Russian village, complete with national games, attractions and even live bears. It was a wonderful day that demonstrated the famous Russian hospitality and made them both proud of their country. They were sure that such immersion into everything Russian didn’t leave anyone cold or indifferent.

One of the main highlights of the trip was the Imagine Cup 2013 awards and closing ceremony, held in St. Petersburg’s legendary Alexandrinsky Drama Theater.

Aleksandr Fedosov: “It was unbelievably cool! Really and truly! The dancing show alone was amazing. The stage scenery was fantastic, too: it featured the dynamic and colorful design of Windows 8, which changed with each number. And then, of course, the overall atmosphere – such incredible energy!”

Aleksandr Skudarnov added that he was really happy for all the finalists and winners who took home their well-deserved awards. They had worked very hard and now finally achieved recognition and obtained new resources that would enable them to keep going.

When asked if students should aspire to participate in Imagine Cup, both Alexandrs were unanimous.

“Of course!” said Aleksandr Fedosov. “If you are smart and maybe have an idea for a project, it is an excellent chance to show what you’re capable of, to try and implement your idea, to find new friends, to make a real contribution, to make the world a better place. How cool is that?”

“I think events like this empower young people and inspire them to make a difference in the world by means of IT solutions,” said Aleksandr Skudarnov. “Now that I have witnessed Imagine Cup 2013, I will definitely encourage students from my class to participate. Many of them are very talented people with great ideas, and Imagine Cup could be a great platform for them. Besides, the 2014 Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals will take place in the USA, the home of Microsoft, and all the finalists will have a first-hand experience of this world giant of IT technologies and innovations.”

Both Aleksandr Fedosov and Aleksandr Skudarnov think they have been very fortunate: they had a fantastic time, saw many interesting projects, met some of the most proactive and talented students from all over the world, and received a great boost for their own self-development and growth.

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