The Imagine Cup wouldn’t be what it is without the people who make it happen. The head of the whole project – and its good spirit – is Joe Wilson, Director of Academic Partnerships at Microsoft. We had a chance to speak with him.
INTERIA.PL: Let’s start from the very beginning, that is from the birth of Imagine Cup. Where did the idea to organize such an event come from?
Joe Wilson: The initiative came from the students themselves. The idea actually started around 2001, when students from Indonesia suggested organizing something like the Olympics, using the then-emerging .NET platform. With time this initiative evolved into the Imagine Cup. The first competition was held in Barcelona.
Did you ever imagine that Imagine Cup would become so popular?
This year, 200,000 people entered the competition. students – it’s really amazing. In fact, for some time now Imagine Cup has ceased to be a strictly technological competition – it’s something bigger. The whole event shows what technologies can do for people.
And the popularity of the whole event is only growing. How do you imagine Imagine Cup in 5 years?
We certainly want to grow, but the top priority is to maintain a high level of the whole event. We definitely need to rethink a few things. It will be even better!
From time to time there is some criticism of the Imagine Cup. Yes, it’s a Microsoft competition, but haven’t you thought about using alternative software to yours more extensively?
If a photo company does a photo contest – people work on their cameras. However, we do not forget about the cooperation with other systems; the category Software Design – Interoperability Award (Poland competes in this category – editor’s note) assumes that the project made by students must cooperate with software other than ours.
Let’s go back to the most important element of Imagine Cup – the students. They are the soul of the whole event. You collaborate with them all the time. Why do they want to compete in Imagine Cup?
They’re not here for the money – they just want to show their ideas to the world. Imagine Cup is not a recruitment program, there are no headhunters here. They’re going to do big things anyway. All that matters is the prestige and the chance to win. For me they are the real heroes – they believe their projects, they create them with real passion. This is their moment. Here they can become rock stars of the IT world.
If you were a student, what category would you like to compete in?
Short film and Game development. Reasons? Film allows you to express your emotions, to show what you have inside you. And games? It’s one of the most powerful mediums in the world today. It cannot be underestimated. Lately, I’ve been playing “Rock Band” (a video game that lets you take on the role of a rock band musician). I just love playing drums.