Project aimed at improving OLPC project wins Imagine Cup

Entry from Auckland University seeks to aid One Laptop per Child

An entry that seeks to boost the efficiency of the One Laptop per Child programme has taken out this year's Imagine Cup competition.

Microsoft New Zealand today announced the national winners of the 2010 Imagine Cup, following presentations from four finalist teams on Friday evening at the University of Auckland Business School.

Team OneBeep from the University of Auckland emerged as the victors following a series presentations before a seven-judge panel. Focusing on the One Laptop Per Child programme and its 1.4 million deployed laptops, Team OneBeep have come up with method of addressing the problem of sending educational content to these laptops, which are sent out to impoverished schools and communities in areas of the world where there are no phone lines or internet services.

The solution involves using Team OneBeep's software to package a file of educational data as audio to be sent via radio waves. This can be received on any AM/FM radio which passes it on to the laptop. The file is then converted back to its original form once it has been received on the children's laptops, ready to be viewed.

“Throughout the competition we’ve seen many great ideas, but Team OneBeep’s stood out as the best of the best,” said Scott Wylie, director of the Developer and Platform Group for Microsoft New Zealand, sponsor of the Imagine Cup. “Their project was the most well-developed, reasoned and emblematic of our theme, based on the UN millennium development goals: to solve the world’s toughest problems with technology.”

The winners will now prepare for the final leg of the Imagine Cup competition — the worldwide finals, scheduled for July 3-8, in Warsaw, Poland. This final phase takes place some eight months after the start of the competition, which began in December 2009 with more than 100 local teams entered. Those teams were whittled to the top 20, which received mentoring assistance from Microsoft New Zealand employees and industry experts. After working feverishly over the summer break, the preliminary finalists were reduced to the final four in February, with Team OneBeep now emerging as the overall winner.

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is the world’s largest technology competition, challenging students from around the globe to develop technologies that help solve the world’s toughest problems. Now in its eighth year, the Imagine Cup has more than 300,000 students from 142 countries participating.

The other top three finishing teams (in order) were:

Team Enpeda – Also from the University of Auckland, Team Enpeda has devised a working prototype of mobile phone-controlled Driver Assistance System, using a mobile phone camera to watch the road environment ahead and warn drivers if they stray off course and into danger. Cars of all ages can be cheaply retrofitted with the system.

Team eUtopia – From the University of Waikato, Team eUtopia came up with a live video distribution service that links conservation organisations to the public and allows for remote monitoring, private research and even surveillance of animals.

Team Vital Link – From the University of Auckland, Team Vital Link’s entry focused on fair trade for artisans in impoverished countries. The team aims to provide a global marketplace by capitalising on the viral marketing capabilities of Facebook to help these people make enough money to improve their daily lives.