Imagine Cup Competitors Focus on Education
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
One hundred thousand college students and twenty-somethings have been competing in the fifth annual Imagine Cup. It's the world's foremost student technology competition. It's sponsored by Microsoft, and this year's theme is education.
NPR's Wendy Kaufman introduces us to one team of finalists.
WENDY KAUFMAN: Next month, they'll be on their way to Seoul for the last round of the competition. But a few days ago, teams from ten countries were at Microsoft presenting to Bill Gates and others in a kind of high-octane practice round.
Unidentified Man #1: Hello.
Unidentified Man #2: Hello, how are you?
Unidentified Man #3: (unintelligible).
Unidentified Man #4: Nice to meet you.
Unidentified Man #2: How are you?
Unidentified Man #1: We're from Egypt.
KAUFMAN: The Egyptian team, which includes a brother and sister, has been working together for a year. Their goal is ambitious - to create new educational opportunities for children with mental and physical disabilities.
Mr. MOHAMMAD RAPLAN(ph) (Member, Egyptian Team): I had a very close friend. He was a childhood friend.
KAUFMAN: Mohammad Raplan discovered quite by chance that his friend had a younger brother who had Down's syndrome.
Mr. RAPLAN: I know that God didn't create a human being to be neglected and then die and never mentioned. We must use our blessing of physical and mental wellness, and this supernatural power which was technology that was given to us.
KAUFMAN: As Gates looked on, the Egyptians explained that they were using artificial intelligence to create education plans, lessons and tests for individual kids. Then they'll monitor their progress.
Mr. BILL GATES (Chairman, Microsoft Company): When you're going to take a test and transform it, is there like a standard format, like an XML format or something, for a test?
Mr. RAPLAN: Yes, we do (unintelligible), as you can see.
KAUFMAN: They talked a bit longer, and before moving to the next presentation, the Microsoft chairman wished them well.
Mr. GATES: I completely agree with your vision.
Mr. RAPLAN: Thank you very much.
Mr. GATES: Thank you.
KAUFMAN: Team member Nohar Radwan(ph).
Ms. NOHAR RADWAN (Member, Egyptian Team): I still can't believe it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
KAUFMAN: The goal of the global competition is, of course, to spur innovation. Winning teams take home up to $25,000 dollars. A 2003 winner whose project involved language translation now has a Nebraska company which employs more than two dozen people.
Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.
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