Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Imagine Cup 2008 (Paris) Blog

Welcome to my Imagine Cup 2008 blog! This year's worldwide finals are being held in Paris, France! This is my 4th year as head judge of this global competition that identifies the best college students in the world in the field of technology. Between July 2nd and July 9th (2008), I will be blogging the events and activities of the competition...

*** Posted Monday, June 30, 2008 5:30pm Paris, France local time (8:30am Monday, California time) ***
Preparations have begun, co-Captain and co-Head Judge, Chris Amaris, has arrived, although the competition rooms are completely empty. Electricity still needs to be pulled into the rooms, and the computer equipment needs to arrive before setup can begin. T minus 72-hours before the students arrive, lots to do, but a lot of waiting for hotel and event logistics to take place...

*** Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2008 11:45am Paris, France local time (2:45am Tuesday, California time) ***
Monday morning here, while the events folks here get the basic room stuff in place, let me take a moment to catch everyone up to date on what this whole Imagine Cup thing is about...

The Road to the Finals in Paris: The Imagine Cup is a UNESCO endorsed / Microsoft and British Telecom sponsored competition that started off last Fall with over 100,000 competitors representing over 100 countries. Through a series of qualifying rounds over the past 9 months, the competitors have battled their way to the worldwide finals where the top 500 competitors are here in Paris to compete and hopefully be crowned the best of the best in the world. There are 9 disciplines in the competition that the students can participate in (software development, short film, information technology, digital photography, etc). I'm the head judge of the Information Technology (IT) competition. We started off with over 16,000 students representing 84-countries and we now have the top 6 in the world here to compete in a hands-on head to head competition to prove their knowledge and expertise in IT (effectively, can they design and build a full blown computer network (email, document management, remote access, firewall security, file sharing, etc).

Round 1 of the IT competition was a multiple choice online competition. During a series of 4 online quizzes, the 16,000 competitors demonstrated their basic knowledge in everything from email, databases, system management, file system development, and the like. For those in the Microsoft world of things, it's command of basic architecture, implementation, and support of technologies like Windows 2008, Exchange 2007, SharePoint 2007, Operations Mgr 2007, Configuration Mgr 2007, SQL 2005, Windows Vista, Office 2007, ISA 2006, etc. Six hundred and fifty (650) students advanced to Round 2.

Round 2 of the IT competition was a case study. The students were given a business scenario and were asked to write up a plan, proposal, and design of a complete networking environment. The competitors submitted essay responses in the form of formal design documents for a network system, most being 20-30 pages long with diagrams and design documents. Sixty five (65) competitors submitted their design proposals with the top 15 scores all being within a handful of points of one another. An amazing year with some of the best submissions to date!

The top 6 competitors that have advanced to the final competition include 2 students from China (Jiahui Wang and Yan Liu), 2 students from Romania (Andrei Alexandroni and Cosmin-Viorel Ilie), 1 student from France (Jean-Benoit Paux), and 1 student from Brazil (Cabral Valverde). More on the finalists in a future blog posting.

My Participation in the Imagine Cup: This is my 4th year as head judge of the IT Competition for the Imagine Cup, each year with the finals competition in a different country. In 2005 the finals were in Yokohama Japan, in 2006 the finals were in Agra / Delhi India, last year (2007) the finals were in Seoul Korea, and this year the finals are in Paris France. My blogs for 2006 and 2007 have been linked to the location names above...

I was asked to participate as the IT competition captain and head judge in 2005 because I had written several books on the technologies covered in the competition. Each year since I've continued to write books on the various technologies covered in the competition, I've been asked back to lead the IT competition. A fun intersection between the professional work I do in running an IT consulting firm, the work I do in writing technology and security books in my free time, and my interest in supporting academics and career development for future experts in the field of information technology...

*** Posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008 4:10pm Paris, France local time (7:10am Wednesday, California time) ***
Shaping Up!: T minus 24-hours before the students arrive and the IT Competition room is shaping up! There's electrical power in the room, partitions are setup for the competitor workspaces, and the computer equipment has arrived! All of the IT Competition judges are now on the ground here in Paris that include my co-Head judge Chris Amaris, and judges Jeff Guillet and Valy Greavu. Chris has participated in all of the Imagine Cup competitions with me since 2005, Valy was a finalist / competitor in 2005 and 2006 (and joined us as a judge in 2007 in Korea), and this is Jeff's first year as an assistant Captain and judge for the IT competition...

*** Posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008 8:01pm Paris, France local time (10:01am Wednesday, California time) ***
Our First Competition Challenge: The competitors start arriving in less than 18-hours and we've already run into our first challenge. After getting all the servers setup for the competition, the room got so hot that the hotel air conditioning system plus a portable air conditioner couldn't keep the room less than 90-degrees (plus the noise of 6 blade chassis each running 6 blade servers made one heck of a lot of noise). So, a decision was made to move the servers out of the competition room and into a different room. The picture on the right side here is Chris cleaning up the area where the servers "used to be". I'll snap off a picture of the other room shortly once they get the power pulled to that new area and the proper Parisian authorities sign off on the new wiring...

*** Posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008 9:18pm Paris, France local time (11:18am Wednesday, California time) ***
Cooler Competition Room!: With the 6 blade chassis boxes removed from the room, the temperature is now down in the room to a much more comfortable 75-degrees, we switched off the portable air conditioner, and we can now hear ourselves think again... Competitors arrive in just over 16-hours and we need to test out the blade servers, setup Internet connectivity for each of the systems, and confirm that the competitors can actually achieve the goals and objectives of the competition on the equipment they will be provided in the timeframe they will be tested...

*** Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2008 12:05am Paris, France local time (3:05pm Wednesday, California time) ***
Cooler Room / Lots of Work Ahead of Us...: It's past midnight here and the 4 of us (pictured to the right: Rand, Jeff, Chris, and Valy) are just scratching the surface of the work that needs to be done to prep for the competition... According to our countdown clock, the competition begins in 1-day, 13-hours, and 55-minutes. At least the competition room has cooled off without the servers in here, however I just stepped into the server room, and that room is cooking now (easily a good 15-20 degrees hotter now with our servers in there). Came to realize that we're housing our competition servers in the Novotel Paris hotel's server room, hopefully our systems don't overheat the hotel server room and bring the entire hotel offline...

*** Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 1:34am Paris, France local time (4:34pm Wednesday, California time) ***
What's our Carbon Credit Bill???: Okay, well we moved the servers out of the competition room into the hotel's data center earlier today because the heat generated by the servers was overheating the competition room. We've now increased the ambient temperature in the hotel server room from 68-degrees to 94-degrees (and rising) and at 1:30am here, the hotel IT folks are home asleep, so we now have the door to the computer room open, a hotel security guard posted at the door (to prevent anyone from going in/out of the data center) and a fan blowing the hot air from the back of the servers out into the hotel atrium... We were imagining our servers overheating the hotel application servers and bringing down the hotel registration system, restaurant point of sale system, and the electronic door locks system. Well, we've managed to move the problem from one place to another, what next???

*** Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 11:14am Paris, France local time (2:14am Thursday, California time) ***
Students are Arriving: It's mid-day here in Paris and the first wave of students are beginning to arrive, many have been on planes for 20 or more hours, or even 30+ hours in transit from the time they left their village, traveled by car or train to the nearest city, regional flights and then international flights in to Paris, so a lot of weary students wandering around, but a huge edge of excitement as the Welcoming Ceremony this evening will get the competition officially rolling!

We got our start just past 7am this morning getting the competition server equipment ready. The hotel IT people came in this morning and freaked out that the door to their data center was open all evening (despite our having a security guard posted there preventing ANYONE from entering), so the door to the Data Center will remain closed, and we are using the HP Insight Mgr to monitor the temperature of the room and servers and have been instructed to go to the room when the temperature heats up, temporarily open the door, and turn on a fan to blow out the hot air. This will be a lot of fun to do...

I popped out of the hotel for 30 seconds to snap off a picture of the Novotel hotel with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I'll use a real camera at some point and get a better picture, right now using the "fancy" camera on my mobile phone, doesn't do much good, but decent enough for this Weblog...

*** Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 4:47pm Paris, France local time (7:47am Thursday, California time) ***
Hey, it's Thursday!: I just realized today is THURSDAY, July 3rd, I've been posting that it is Wednesday, so I changed all the days of the week in my blog below to get the right date...

So we finally blew the circuit breakers for the hotel, at about 10am this morning with all of our servers (36 blades) going full blast, we pulled enough power to bring down power for the entire 2nd and 3rd floor of the building. Unfortunately the servers all went down when we were about 87% complete with the installation so we had to start the 6-hour rebuild process all over from scratch (for you Windows techies, think about 36 servers with Windows 2008 installing and showing 80-90% "complete" and then the power goes down, ouch...)

Just had the head of the hotel operations explain to us that they will be putting our servers on an isolated circuit so that we won't be impacted by power problems in other parts of the hotel... (hmm, we were told when we plugged the servers in 24-hours ago that the servers were on a dedicated circuit, must have been a different "kind" of dedicated circuit then than what they plan to do now (or maybe they are finally doing what they were supposed to do yesterday...))

The competitors are all going to a dinner reception in a little while with the Mayor of Paris and the head of UNESCO, we'll be in the competition room and hotel data center moving over circuits and hopefully creating a stable power environment for our servers...

Oh, and the picture above of the Eiffel Tower is the "better picture" I snapped off this afternoon from outside the hotel, slightly cloudy out, but overall pretty nice out. According to our countdown clock, the hands-on head to head competition starts in 21-hours, 17-mins, and 29-secs, stay tuned...

*** Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 6:20pm Paris, France local time (9:20am Thursday, California time) ***
Made Joe's Video Blog: So the isolation of power is happening in the Data Center of the hotel, so we are waiting for "15-minutes" while they do the cutover (we're anticipating it'll take a bit longer than 15-minutes...). Anyway, to see a video posted by Microsoft Channel 8 of what we have going on here, Joe Wilson, Microsoft's Senior Director of Academic Initiatives (the head honcho of the Imagine Cup) swang by yesterday with his film crew and filmed us as we were moving the servers out of the competition room and into the data center. Here's a link to Joe Wilson's Video

*** Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008 10:30pm Paris, France local time (1:30pm Thursday, California time) ***
Hardware is Ready: So we think we're ready... The power has been redone and isolated in the data center so that we should eliminate problems with power failures caused by a power overload. We have also gotten all of the servers configured and tested. Each of the competitors will get an HP Blade Chassis with a blade full of application images (Exchange 2007, SharePoint 2007, ISA 2006, Hyper-V, etc) and 5 additional blades that the competitors will turn the blades into fully working application servers. Because the OS install takes 1-2 hours for each blade, rather than having a 10th of the competition time spent installing basic Windows 2008 on a blade, we went ahead and installed the server operating system on each of the blades, tested IP connectivity between each blade and the DMZ network, ran sysprep to clean up the configuration and made each blade "out of the box" basic configured so that the competitors have to get the servers configured to work tomorrow, and in a manner we know the hardware is working properly.

About the Competitors: Take a little downtime on the technical side to introduce to you our finalists:
  • Andrei Alexandrouni (Romania): From Hunedoara Romania, a graduating senior at the University of Timisoara Politechnica who competed as a finalist in 2007 in Korea
  • Cabral Valverde (Brazil): From Sao Paulo, our first finalist from South America in over 4-years, a student from Colegio Abaco with an interest in Windows 2008 and server virutalization
  • Cosmin-Viorel Ilie (Romania): From the city of Tecuci in the Galati county of Romania, returning this year as a finalist who competed in 2007 in Seoul Korea
  • Jean-Benoit Paux (France): From Villeurbanne in France, a student at INSA Lyon, a graduating senior with an interest in Unified Communications and also a finalist from 2007
  • Jiahui Wang (China): From Beijing China, a student at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, looking forward to both the final competition at the Imagine Cup, and to go home and watch the Olympics in his home town
  • Yan Liu (China): A finalist from Wuhan with an interest in Unified Communications and a life long learner of new ideas and experiences


*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 10:50am Paris, France local time (2:50am Friday, California time) ***
The Competition is about to Begin!!!: The atmosphere is tense as the competition will begin in just over 3 hours. We did a briefing with the competitors this morning at 9:30am going over the rules of the IT Competition and the "general" timeline and expectations of the competition (more details will be provided to the competitors at 2pm when we are ready to start). The competitors have smiles on their faces and a bit of nervousness, but some of the sharpest IT folks around are ready to roll...

In the picture from left to right: Kneeling (judges Jeff Guillet and Chris Amaris). Standing (Jean-Benoit Paux, Jiahui Wang, Yan Liu, Cosmin-Viorel Ilie, Judge Valy Greavu, Andrei Alexandroni, Judge Rand Morimoto, Cabral Valverde)

I'll post more once we kick this baby off!

*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 12:45pm Paris, France local time (3:45am Friday, California time) ***
Pictures from Last Nights Opening Ceremony: While we were still working to get the whole IT competition setup last night, the competitors all attended an Opening Ceremony at the Paris City Hall. A few pictures (Joe Wilson addressing the competitors / All of the competitors in the City Hall venue / Jean-Louis Missika - Deputy Mayor of Paris) from last nights venue...







*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 2:50pm Paris, France local time (5:50am Friday, California time) ***
The Competition Has Begun!!!: The 2pm mark has passed and we have officially kicked off the Imagine Cup 2008 IT Competition!!! The competitors were briefed on the details of the competition and have begun building computer network systems. As a brief background, the competitors have been given a scenario, in line with the "Sustainable Environment" theme of the entire competition, to build a secure, high performance network with email communications, secured document sharing, data collection and information analysis capabilities, and remote access capabilities all based on a blade and virtualized Hyper-V environment.

All of the competitors are chugging along, moving VERY quickly through the first series of tasks, the media (170 of them here today) are coming in and filming the competitors and broadcasting the events of the Imagine Cup around the world!

*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 4:41pm Paris, France local time (7:41am Friday, California time) ***
What's in a Date, and Parlez vous Francais???: So for all you techies, so if you build 36 blade servers and install Windows Server on all of the blades, chose to NOT activate Windows (because you have a good 90-days to run Windows without activating, so just "bypass" the license key area when installing the operating system because this competition will be over before you'll be required to activate the Windows license), BUT you didn't realize that the date on the blade servers were set in European format, so when we built the servers yesterday (7/3/2008), in European format that is actually March 7, 2008 (not July 3, 2008), so when the competitors setup timesync and/or changed the time to the proper date, all of their temporary server licenses immediately expired and activation was required... And, images that do not have internet connectivity in place yet, the systems cannot be activated over the Internet, so we've had to dial in by telephone to get activation codes... But, if you are in France and you call the toll free license activation line, guess what language the activation system uses??? I can count up to about 4 in French, and definitely not fast enough or clear enough to do it through an automated phone system. Teach me to not pay better attention in French class, or maybe we should have checked whether the date entry format was in mm/dd/yyyy or dd/mm/yyyy format... We did manage to work through getting all the network connections setup before changing the date so we could easily activate over the Internet instead of one by one over the phone...

*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 5:55pm Paris, France local time (8:55am Friday, California time) ***
Flashback to India: Okay, moments after I pushed up the last blog entry, we lost power in the entire hotel (actually a 4 city block area here). Everything came down, servers, workstations, internet connections as well as lights, elevators, etc... When I noted "flashback to India," in the Imagine Cup 2006 competition in India, we lost power every 60-90 minutes throughout the 24-hours competition, that was a lot of fun trying to install software and build out a computer network without electricity... Hey, maybe we'll refocus the Imagine Cup theme from "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment" to "Imagine a world without electricity..." and see what our IT competitors come up with for their end project solution...

Anyway, electrical power came back up so we're back up and running... One of the notes I made to the competitors before we started the competition was that since we've lost power a couple times yesterday during our prep, to expect the power to go off during our competition, so to save their work frequently, and keep track of what they were doing and where they were in their configurations. At 18-24 years old coming from countries or locations where local power goes on and off on a regular basis, this little outage hasn't phased any of the competitors one bit. They're all back and plugging away...

*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 7:30pm Paris, France local time (10:30am Friday, California time) ***
Crawling the World Wide Web: And when I use the word "crawling," I'm not using the tech term of indexing the WWW for content, but rather the Internet connection here is going REALLY slowly... Between 400 competitors all on the Web downloading software, uploading projects, and searching content plus 170 people from the media also pulling down and pushing up stories, hi-res pictures, and videos, to even get the Google splash page is taking a count of 4 (seconds) and I tried to get to the Amazon page and that took a count of 54 (seconds) to get the page up... But, the www is equally slow for all of the competitors, so no one has an advantage or disadvantage, everyone just "waits" while their Webpages are displayed...

The competitors are getting "care packages" from country-mates delivering M&Ms, Red Bull, and dried cuttlefish... Dinner will be served in the next few minutes and available for the next couple hours, so we're expecting the competitors to get out of their seats soon to grab a bite to eat, but likely will bring their food back to their work areas and continue to work while they eat... See, this competition will get these students acclimated to the real world of IT where they snack on junk food and eat in their cubicles all through the night...

Power has remained on, no major emergencies, so far, things are rolling along! Haven't fielded a question from a competitor in the past hour+, they all seem to be making great progress!

*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 8:35pm Paris, France local time (11:35am Friday, California time) ***
A Visit from an Imagine Cup IT Competition Legend...: During the 6th hour of the 24-hour competition we were visited by Stefan Plizga, the very first Imagine Cup IT Competition 1st Place winner! After finishing as the "best of the best in the world" in Yokohama in 2005, Stefan took on a full time job working for Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) here in France. Stefan is still an MCS consultant specializing in the field of Unified Communications (email, voicemail, telephony). Pictured here is Stefan and Valy Greavu, who in 2005, Valy placed 4th as a competitor, then 2nd in 2006 in India, now an Imagine Cup IT Competition judge and Professor in Romania.

A wonderful opportunity to have legacies of the Imagine Cup continue to visit and participate in the continued success of the competition!

*** Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 11:17pm Paris, France local time (2:17pm Friday, California time) ***
First Milestone Challenge!!!: We just had our FIRST milestone challenge... There are several points within the 24-hour competition where we'll be stopping the competition and checking in with the competitors to pass a specific milestone. Some of the milestones will be in direct response to ensuring their systems are protected from viruses, their networks are resilient to power outages, or they have proper backup systems in place in case of a disaster. In this first challenge, it was simple... Simply demonstrate that you (the competitor) can successfully send an email message to a centralized common host. This milestone was to just make sure that everyone was on track to have a basic working network, that they are still alive and awake, and a "simple" task that hopefully could boost their morale as we edge into the wee hours of the evening... (oh, and by the way, 3 out of the 6 successfully completed the milestone, and a couple are close but not quite there, and one of the competitors is still working on the milestone...)

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 1:03am Paris, France local time (4:03pm Friday, California time) ***
Quiet... Short Films Anyone???: Okay, so this is the quietest group of IT competitors to date, they're all just chugging along, look like they're doing pretty well, but no one is getting up, smoking a pack of cigarettes every hour, and I only see at most 2 Red Bulls on a couple of the desks. So quiet here, I've been aimlessly surfing woot.com, Amazon's deals, and YouTube... So on YouTube, I found a couple videos I thought worth sharing...

So while I'm running the IT Competition for the Imagine Cup testing folks on their ability to build computer network systems, there are 8 other categories. One of my favorites is the Short Film category which is a 36-hour challenge where the competitors are given a video camera and digital editing equipment, and they are given a theme/topic. They then have 36-hours to storyboard their thoughts, recruit "actors", roam the streets of Paris, stage and film their content, edit the content, and come up with a 12-minute video. It's amazing what these students produce.

While on YouTube, I found the #1 short film videos of previous years:

They're fun to watch, and something a bit different than watching 6 competitors tap away at keyboards as we roll into the 1am hour here... Although Chris just announced the next Milestone Challenge will occur in 1-hour, so stay tuned...

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 2:14am Paris, France local time (5:14pm Friday, California time) ***
50% of the way through, and Milestone 2!!!: So we've crossed the 50% barrier now into the 2am hour here in Paris, the competitors have been at it now for 12 solid hours, although no sign of anyone "breaking" under stress or pressure yet, they all seem focused and working hard!

We also just had our 2nd milestone, which in a networking environment is to prove high availability and communications sustainability beyond just providing environmental sustainability. So this milestone challenge was to prove that the competitors email systems were redundant, so we performed a forced shutdown of their primary email system and asked each of the competitors to demonstrate they were still able to send email messages despite their primary mail system was disabled...

Only 1 of the competitors was able to get partial credit on this milestone, the rest were not successful demonstrating the functionality, although this was a very tough task and they know what needs to be done, they just need time to make it all work... The competitors have just over 11-hours and 45-minutes to go...

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 5:52am Paris, France local time (8:52pm Friday, California time) ***
Sunrise in Paris...: For those joining the blog from the Pacific Timezone and about to see 4th of July fireworks, the sun is rising here in Paris and the "day" is about to begin. The competitors are now crossing the 16-hour mark on the competition, 8-hours left to go... One of the competitors who was struggling to get email working throughout the entire competition had a MAJOR breakthru in the past hour where he finally has successfully sent and received an email message out and in to his network!!!

All of the competitors are still clicking away at their mice and tapping their way across their keyboards. A couple of the competitors are zipping back and forth between window session screens so quickly that I'm amazed they can even keep up with what they are doing, but they seem to know what they are trying to accomplish, and every time they toggle back and forth, it seems like they're getting things done... One of the competitors has their monitor screen set to like 1660x1280 or maybe even 2048x1660, not sure how he can even see or read what's on his screen, but instead of toggling between screens, he easily has 3-4 windows open simultaneously, to each their own...

Still no more than 1 or 2 cans of empty Red Bulls on the desks, and one competitor brought in an entire pot of coffee, but no sleepers (yet). One of the competitors cubicle is an advertisement for junk food, let's see, can of Pringles, 3 empty M&M wrappers, family pack of KitKat bars (half the bag eaten)...

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 7:08am Paris, France local time (10:08pm Friday, California time) ***
Got our first sleeper...: 17-hours of non-stop competition and "finally" we have our first sleeper, although poor guy, he feel asleep 6 minutes before we announced the next Milestone challenge, so he woke up to get the instructions for the challenge, so much for a "good nights rest"... We just distributed the 4th challenge to the competitors. In the next hour, they need to be able to demonstrate the ability to securely check-in and check-out documents from the remote Internet cafe. Gave the competitors a tip that this will likely be best served by using SharePoint 2007, although they all shook their head and knew that. For those who have been struggling with basic email, this might be a competition challenge they can be successful accomplishing as the check-in and check-out has nothing to do with any other products as pre-req's. It'll be great to be at the 3/4 mark and have all of the competitors with a few points to their name, they can probably all use the boost right about now... Will be back within the hour to post an update on Milestone #4...

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 8:15am Paris, France local time (11:15pm Friday, California time) ***
18 hours down, 6 to go...: Can't believe we've been rolling along for 18 straight hours, although the keyboards and mice are clicking a little slower around here than before, or you get the switch back/forth between screens without changes being made (switch, switch, switch, switch), it's about now that we start seeing fatigue set in where the competitors second guess themselves and the work they've done to date and start un-doing things, start un-installing or re-installing, and making steps backwards... However, everyone is still 100% in the game here. No clear cut leader...

After this recent milestone challenge, everyone has points on the board, so all of the students are in the game! Within the next hour or two, things will pick up again as the daylight will be brighter, and the light at the end of the tunnel will be very near, so they'll all get a boost of last minute energy... More to come...

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 9:19am Paris, France local time (12:19am Saturday, California time) ***
Update on some of the competitors...: It's still pretty quiet here, competitors are working away, however now that it's past 8am here, the media have been by every few moments to see if the competitors were still alive... Just finished a filming and interview with the Brazilian media covering the Brazil competitor, Thiago-Cabral Valverde... I didn't know it, but Thiago-Cabral is only 17 years old, likely the youngest competitor we've ever had in the IT finals... This is the first time he's traveled outside of Brazil, something his country-mates are routing for him as the pride of Viva Brasil!

Jean-Benoit Paux, the sole French finalist here in the IT competition is visited regularly and cheered on by his countrymates. Important looking folks dressed up in suits and ties, to other competitors in other categories from France regularly stop in to visit with words of encouragement!

Both China and Romania have very strong country team leads that visit their competitors every couple hours, even in the wee hours of the morning today, their country leads would bring in snacks, coffee, drinks, and encouraging tidbits. The competitors always get a smile when they have a visitor for them, a pleasant distraction from the intense atmosphere of the competition...

It would be interesting to compare video footage of interviews of me from the start of the competition some 19-hours ago to now as I'm sure I'm a bit more sluggish and blurry eyed than when we all started. Valy, one of our co-judges and a former two time competitor commented earlier this morning that it's better to be a competitor than to be a judge for these long hours as the competitor is actively working to do something, whereas as a judge, it's a lot of idle time and waiting for things to occur...

Oh, and one of the reporters asked me a question, "...has any of the competitors given up and quit?", my response "...absolutely not! After battling from 16,000 competitors at the start of this competition 9-months ago to the 6 in this room right now, these students aren't quitters. They're in it for the long run, and despite being up for 19+ hours, jet lagged, and close to running out of steam, they'll get their second wind shortly as this is what they've studied for and prepared for, and they only have 4-hours and 45-minutes left to strive to be the best of the best in the world!!!

Oh, and just had the Egyptian contingency in here for an interview (the 2009 Imagine Cup will be hosted in Cairo Egypt next year), and the head of the contingency asked me why we were forcing the students to work 24-hours around the clock, why wouldn't we allow the competitors to go back to their rooms and get 3-4 hours of sleep and extend the competition by another 3-4 hours... My response "...in the real world of IT, if a network is down or there is an emergency event in their company and the network HAS to be up by 8am the next morning, the implied "job" of the IT person is to work through the night and have everything up and running before the next work day. It takes discipline, focus, concentration, and dedication to make tough decisions while protecting organizational data and electronic records with due care. This will not be the last time these soon to be IT professionals will work under difficult situations, and hopefully the experience they gain from the Imagine Cup will make them better and more effective professionals needed to properly care for the network resources organization's entrust into their care..."

Great time for the media to interview me, I can get all philosophical and stuff and blame it on my being up for the past 24+ hours...

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 11:49am Paris, France local time (2:49am Saturday, California time) ***
Winding down...: The IT Challenge goes for another 2-hours and 11-minutes and then we do the judging. So far we've gone through 5 separate milestone challenges where we've tested the competitors on incremental steps in their setup and configuration of technologies, and they have all made incredible strides to meeting these milestones. However the scores for these milestones account for less than 20% of the total score of the competition, so this is still anyone's ballgame.

We have seen in years past, individual who were doing extremely well throughout the competition milestones and then in the last 2 hours of the competition try to "improve" on their progress and completely screw things up to the point where nothing worked in the final judging, so we will only know who will have met the end goals of the competition when we walk through their final configurations this afternoon...

At our 11am milestone challenge, the room was filled with media and press taking photos, videos, and then conducting interviews with the competitors. Everyone is excited about the competition as it nears its end...

*** Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 6:13pm Paris, France local time (9:13am Saturday, California time) ***
And the winner is...: The 24-hour period is over and the IT challenge is complete! Over the past 4-hours since the 24-hour competition was complete we did one on one 30-minute reviews with each of the competitors. Unfortunately, I cannot say who the winner is as that will be announced at the final awards ceremony on Tuesday... So, everyone will have to wait for the names of the winners...

Before I wrap up this blog and crawl in to bed, I wanted to congratulate ALL of the competitors of the IT competition. Regardless who takes 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize being awarded, just the shear fact that the competitors have worked their way from 16,000 competitors from 84-countries down to the best 6 in the world is a HUGE HUGE accomplishment, something that is an amazing feat! None of the competitors gave up, quit, cut corners, or were defeated by the competition, rather each competitor did their very best in a VERY tough competition!

It's been a grueling 24-hours plus 3-hours of judging... Just submitted the official results in to the competition leads, powered down and bundled up the cables and everything for all of the servers, and will make a few rounds of visits to folks in the competition, then will call it a night...

Come back on Tuesday morning around noonish California time, I will post the winners and info from the awards celebration!!! Thank you for ALL of you for following the competition over the past few days. It has once again been a wonderful competition to be a part of, and look forward to seeing the competitors up on stage on Tuesday!

*** Posted Tuesday, July 8, 2008 4:40pm Paris, France local time (7:40am Tuesday, California time) ***
We have the Winners!!!: Hello all, we have the winners formally announced here in Paris for the 2008 Imagine Cup IT Competition! Set in the Louvre Museum, the Imagine Cup final awards ceremony was joined by over 370 competitors plus ambassadors, dignitaries, judges, college mentors, family, and friends. The winners of the 2008 Imagine Cup IT Competition are as follows:
1st Place: Jean-Benoit Paux (France)
2nd Place: Cosmin-Voirel Ilie (Romania)
3rd Place: Yan Liu (China)

It's hard to call out specific winners in this competition as ALL of the competitors have worked extremely hard and overcome many personal obstacles to make it to the final competition. As I started off the IT competition this past week in Paris, I reminded the 6 finalists that each of them already were winners. Starting from over 16,000 competitors to be in the final 6 is an amazing feat in itself!

A long journey it has been over the past 9 months to get to the final awards here in Paris. Congratulations to all of the IT competitors for a GREAT job done!!!

A final farewell to our 2008 competition with a photo here of ALL of the 9 category winners of the Imagines Cup 2008! Some $260,000 was given away this afternoon in prize money, but most importantly is that the competition has brought together the best IT minds in the world from colleges and universities spanning over 100 countries. It is our hope that these individuals will help lead us into a safe, secure, an innovative world of tomorrow!



*** Posted Tuesday, July 8, 2008 6:34pm Paris, France local time (9:34am Tuesday, California time) ***
Ready for Egypt???: The ink isn't even dry on the award certificates of the 2008 competitors and we're already taking registrations for the Imagine Cup 2009 competition. For the past several weeks we have been working to improve, expand, and develop new challenges for the next year. It was announced that the Imagine Cup 2009 competition final will be held in Egypt!

The first round of competition will start as early as this October (2008), so we're encouraging competitors to sign up and start being ready for this upcoming year!!! For any of you who have been following my blog, THANK YOU very much for your interest in this competition! If you know of ANY college students (family, friends, relatives, etc) that have an interest in technology (they don't have to be majoring in computers, they just have to "be in college" right now and have an interest in competition in IT categories), send them to http://www.imaginecup.com/ to sign up for any of the 9+ categories for next year! That's it, I'll catch you all next summer when I blog from Egypt... Rand

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