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CIS Majors Cory Van Bibber and Suresh Sah Compete in National Finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup

CIS majors Cory Van Bibber and Suresh Sah competed April 7 in the national finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup

By Victor Morales

Computer information systems majors Cory Van Bibber and Suresh Sah competed April 9 at the national finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup, known as the nation’s premier student technology competition.

Teaming up with two friends from high school —  theatre major Jared Deer of San Antonio College and computer science major Donald Wilcox of the University of Texas at San Antonio —  the team advanced to Redmond, Washington, the home of Microsoft Corp., to compete with other college students in the U.S. national competition, honing in on a chance to win $8,000.

The Imagine Cup was created by Microsoft in 2003 as an annual competition to grant college students the opportunity to develop innovative technological methods to improve and change the world. Every year the Imagine Cup selects a theme, encouraging participants to put their innovative knowledge to work towards an attempt to better the world.

“It may sound lofty. And perhaps a little ambitious. When it comes down to it, the 2011 Theme could not be more relevant.”  This pitch, published on the Imagine Cup website attracted applicants from around the country.

This year’s theme is “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.”

Van Bibber, Sah, and their teammates focused on that concept, brainstormed, planned and then invented a mobile phone game application for Windows Phone 7 that would help the player come up with ways to solve environmental problems. For example, in this game, in one scenario, a character sets out to assist others to speculate why a river has stopped flowing.The team advanced through the first two rounds of the national competition involving over 3,000 teams and were one of six teams selected to compete in Redmond in the third round of national finals, but did not place in the top four of the national finals.

“Making it to the national competition was completely out of left field,” Van Bibber said. “Within a month I had to learn how to create a demo and how to create a game.”

“The whole process on how to create a game is very interesting to me and the experience was very cool,” he added.

Prof. Barbara Hewitt, the instructor for CISA 3356 System Analysis and Design, challenges her students to come up with innovative ideas so they are prepared to compete in competitions.

“Being in the finals meant that the team and I were flown to Seattle, put up at the Westin in Bellevue, competed in Round 3, were able to meet many Microsoft employees and other gaming professionals…While we did not win or place in the top 4, this was a great experience. The team did a great job of creating a game that promotes recycling as well as other earth conscientious endeavors,” Hewitt said, in an e-mail.

“The whole process on how to create a game is very interesting to me and the experience was very cool,” Van Bibber said. “It was a team effort.”

Microsoft holds two separate Imagine Cup competitions. One is a national competition and the second is a world competition. The team is currently in the top 50 world competition and will learn in two weeks whether they will be chosen as one of the top 5 teams in the world wide finals. The Imagine Cup 2011 worldwide finals will take place July 8-13 in New York City. The team didn’t advance as far in the national competition as they would have liked this year, but is already preparing to compete again and hopefully place for a chance to compete in the national and worldwide competitions again in 2012.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the Imagine Cup competitions for next year, Hewitt invites them to contact her at bhewitt@tamusa.tamus.edu.

“I already have an idea for next year,” Van Bibber said. “I want to win.”

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