Auckland Uni students are worldwide Imagine Cup champs

A team of engineering students from Auckland University has made New Zealand history, taking third place at the worldwide finals of the 2010 Microsoft Imagine Cup competition for their project to improve education in poverty-stricken regions.

Vinny Kumar, Chanyeol Yoo, Kayo Lakadia and Steve Ward of Team One Beep achieved the highest placing for a New Zealand team in the history of the competition when they were announced as the third place winners of the software design category at the Warsaw Opera House early this morning.

The Imagine Cup, now in its fourth year in New Zealand, is the world’s premier student technology competition. More than 300,000 students from more than 100 countries entered this year – a record level of participation. The theme of the competition is to use technology to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

One laptop per child focus
Focusing on the One Laptop Per Child programme and its 1.4 million deployed laptops, Team One Beep came up with an inexpensive and robust method to solve 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, let alone 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 cheap AM/FM radio and is then passed on to the laptops. The file is then converted back to its original form ready to be viewed by the children and teachers.

“We can’t begin to describe how shocked and excited we are,” said Vinny Kumar, team leader for Team OneBeep.

“The whole team is on a high. When you put this much into a competition you always dream of getting this far but even when it actually happens it never feels real. The most exciting thing though is that the recognition our project will gain will help us make a bigger difference in people’s lives.”

Taking it to the market
“Team One Beep has been one to watch right from the beginning of the competition,” said Kevin Ackhurst, country manager, Microsoft New Zealand.

“Their solution is a result of passion, drive and talent and I congratulate the team on their amazing achievement. They were fantastic global representatives and have proven themselves to be role models for the next generation of IT minds.”

Back in New Zealand the team will continue to develop the software in hopes of bringing it to market. Vinny and the team are working with Oxfam, OLPC and governments around the world to make bring this software to countries around the globe, helping improve education in impoverished countries.

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