Student innovators, start your engines. Registration's now open for Microsoft's annual Imagine Cup, the world's biggest technology competition for students. Entering its 11th year, the competition invites high school and college students to use their tech skills to solve the world's biggest problems. Student teams from around the globe have created everything from a smartphone app that diagnoses malaria to an app that reduces food waste by connecting leftover meals from restaurants with homeless shelters.
Although the talent demonstrated by the 1.65 million students from more than 100 countries who've competed in the Imagine Cup over the past decade is pretty phenomenal, this year the competition will be even more attractive, with increased prize money and new categories.
True to the socially responsible roots of the competition, the "World Citizenship" category "honors the software application developed on Microsoft platforms with the greatest potential to make a positive impact on humanity." The "Innovation" category "honors apps that give consumers inspiration and innovation at their fingertips" and, putting a fun spin on things, the "Games" category "honors the most engaging and entertaining games targeting teens and youth, built on Microsoft platforms."
The prize amount for the first place winners in each category has been doubled to $50,000—a nice chunk of change that can be put toward college costs, or used to pay off student loans. Beyond the money, all finalists get skills development and mentorship, have a chance to network with tech industry executives, and get a shot at a $3 million pot of grant money that can help them turn their ideas into viable businesses.
To apply, simply register for the Imagine Cup competition in your home country. Next July the winners from each nation's competition will be flown to the worldwide finals in St. Petersburg, Russia.