​Innovative Kiwi students cook up a storm at Microsoft Imagine Cup

“The issue for students is that they need experience to get jobs, but they can’t get jobs without experience, and this is most pertinent in IT."

Nigel Parker - Director of Developer Experience, Microsoft New Zealand

Nigel Parker - Director of Developer Experience, Microsoft New Zealand

An innovative online platform designed by three University of Auckland students that connects home-chefs with consumers to provide them healthy, home-cooked meals has won first place at the Imagine Cup competition, held in Auckland as part of the 2016 Microsoft Student Accelerator showcase.

Called ‘Clove’, the idea aims to revolutionise the way consumers interact with food by enabling thriving, diverse and healthy food ecosystems across all communities.

The project is the brainchild of University of Auckland students Hayley Yu, Edwin Tsang and Duoyi Xu.

Team Clove won $5,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Asia-Pacific regional round of the global Imagine Cup competition.

If successful there, the team will then have the opportunity to travel to the USA for the worldwide finals to be held in Seattle in July.

Seven teams were finalists in the competition, which required students to create apps or software that meet a genuine human need in categories of either ‘Innovation’ or ‘World Citizenship’.

The judging panel consisted of eminent leaders from New Zealand’s tech and innovation community, including Dr Michelle Dickinson (Co-Founder of OMGTech), Michael Brick (Legal Counsel and Corporate Affairs Director for Microsoft NZ), Mark Gilbert (US Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa) and Greg Davidson (CEO of Datacom.)

Brick says the judging panel was impressed by how well the team had developed and thought through the Clove concept, with real life trials and refinements along the way that had already led to interest from chefs and customers.

“Team Clove showed us a professionally orchestrated idea from start to finish,” he says.

“They have created a piece of technology that has real potential to be genuinely disruptive to the food industry, and make a positive impact on the community.”

Second place and a $4,000 prize went to team ‘That’s It’, whose app called ZeroQ provides stores with a platform where customers use their smartphones to avoid waiting in line using QR codes and barcode scanning.

Meanwhile, third place and $2,000 went to team Free Will, whose HoloDesign app lets shoppers see what furniture products would look like in their home or office by projecting 3D models onto real time images through augmented reality.

Finally, fourth place and $1,000 went to team Blaze for their project ‘Athena’, an interactive learning tool that helps students test their knowledge early and hassle free.

Also awarded was the first prize in the inaugural Imagine Cup Junior competition for high school students, which was won by 14-year old Long Bay College student Max Crawford for his game - The Adventures of Lumo.

Microsoft NZ’s Director of Developer Experience, Nigel Parker, says since the MSA programme began three years ago it has been successful in helping students to augment what they have been learning at University with what is needed to lead with the latest technology trends in the workplace.

“The issue for students is that they need experience to get jobs, but they can’t get jobs without experience, and this is most pertinent in IT,” Parker adds.

“With the Microsoft Student Accelerator programme students develop deeper technical skills but more importantly they learn how to work in a team to solve customer problems.

“MSA is giving students firm stepping stones to a career in IT whether it be working inside a fast moving startup, an innovative Kiwi company or on their own new business ideas.”

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