Team Think from Lincoln University, Christchurch, beat a field of six teams last night to win the 2009 Microsoft Imagine Cup. Led by Michael Trengrove, Team Think comprises Chun Ling Wong and Graham Smart. The three had devised a solution to improve literacy rates in both developed and developing countries. The winning solution presented by Team Think utilises Microsoft TabletPC technology. It does away with the requirement of basic literacy to understand instructions and lessons, thanks to the TabletPC program using handwriting recognition with audio feedback when students write letters and sentences on the screen.
Team Think believes its “LearnIT” solution can be deployed with educational organisations that have traditionally under-utilised IT as a learning tool, due to the chicken and egg problem of basic literacy being required, and from a financial point of view. Team Think is in talks with UNESCO about grants for LearnIT, and estimates it needs to sell 1,320 licenses at $89 in developed countries to break even; the total cost for the not-for-profit project is said by Trengrove to be around $120,000 over six months. Having won the NZ Cup, Team Think now goes on to compete in Cairo, Egypt, in July, in the worldwide event, for a US$25,000 cash prize. The panel of judges from the IT industry, AUT and the University of Auckland were also impressed by Team Ahurei, which won second prize. This AUT team had devised “F E W S”, or a fire early warning system using remote sensors made of cheap, off-the-shelf components, a single base-station and alerts sent via SMS to mobile phones. Team Ahurei sees FEWS as being deployed in bush fire hit regions around the world, such as Australia, easily and at a low cost. Third place was taken by Team Biometritec from the University of Auckland, which created an embedded mobile phone solution, to be used when catastrophe strikes. Team Biometritec’s solution tracks, connects and reunites families and communities separated in such events, collecting personal data via mobile phones and storing it on a central server where it’s processed and matched for resemblances to other individuals; they are then notified via mobile phones. Microsoft Imagine Cup is in its third year, and was held at the University of Auckland Business School. This year’s field saw 88 teams take part in the competition, to devise solutions to global issues, utilising Microsoft products.