Saturday, June 27, 2009

Imagine Cup (Cairo) 2009 Blog

Hey All, Welcome to my 2009 blog for the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition! From June 27th through July 8th (2009), I will be blogging this link to update you on the latest for the competition!

Keep visiting this site for regular updates. I will be blogging every couple days from June 27th through July 2nd on my travels "to" and through Egypt, and then starting July 3rd 10:30pm California time until 10:30pm July 4th I will be blogging hourly during the 24-hour head to head competition. And my last blog on this will be on July 8th to announce the winners of the final competition.

June 27, 2009 (Saturday) 5:15pm California Time
First Blog - Intro to the Imagine Cup!
Blogging from Los Angeles, California
Okay, just starting off the journey to Egypt, but had to stop in Los Angeles to join my nephew's Bar Mitzvah, so a day of celebration here with family. So for those of you new to the Imagine Cup, it's a competition that starts off in September with over 100,000 college students from over 130 countries competing in a series of qualifying rounds in one of nine technology topics. The topics range from software development to short film to robotics to digital photography to algorithm and the like. I'm the head judge of the Information Technology (IT) competition.

For my competition, we started off with just over 15,000 competitors representing 134 countries. We had a series of 8 qualifying rounds that were multiple choice online quizzes on the topics of Microsoft Windows Server 2008, Exchange 2007 email messaging, SharePoint 2007 document management, SQL 2008 databases, System Center systems management, ForeFront security, Windows Vista desktops, OCS 2007 instant messaging, and the like. The first round competitors had to get at least a 50% score on any of the 8 quizzes we ran from September 2008 through Jaunary 2009. Amazingly the pass rate was just 16% on some of these quizzes, so it wasn't easy for just anyone to jump online and take the quiz. They really needed a pretty good book knowledge of these technologies to pass.

After 5 months, we ended up with 650 students from 82 countries advance to Round 2. Round 2 was an essay round where the students were given a case study about a real world business scenario and the students had to write an essay 10-pages or less that explained how they would use these various Microsoft technologies to solve the business challenge of the case study. This essay challenged the students to truly understand the products (not just guess at the answers) and it required them to think through the scenario and make difficult choices on how to respond.

After 4 months of working through the case studies, we ended up with just over 90 very qualified submissions. A panel of industry experts (more on the judges later in this blog) reviewed the case studies and the finalists from this 9 month journey that will be traveling to Cairo this coming week come from the following countries:
- Bolivia
- Brazil
- China
- Egypt
- France
- Hungary
- Morroco
- Romania
- United Kingdom
- United States

In Cairo, the finalists will be given a stack of computer hardware and a pile of software DVDs and will be asked to "build" a fully working computer network. The computer network will need to have Windows running on it, send and receive email messages using Microsoft Exchange, allow users to collaborate using SharePoint, store data in SQL Server, protect the information using Microsoft ForeFront, all running in a virtualization Hyper-V environment. Basically they'll have 24 continuous hours build a fully working network.

More on this later, off to dinner...

July 1, 2009 (Wednesday) 11:30pm Egypt Time
Blogging from Luxor, Egypt
Made the journey from Los Angeles to Luxor Egypt and have been here for a day. The journey was 24-hours in transit, LAX to Frankfurt (12-hours), 5-hour layover in Frankfurt, FRA to Cairo (3-hours), 3-hour layover, CAI to Luxor (1-hour). Have had some time to acclimate to the time change and temperature, visited the Valley of the Kings, the Carnack Temple, and the Luxor Museum among other sights here in Luxor. Will be departing tomorrow to Cairo to get started in on the competition!

July 2, 2009 (Thursday) 1:55pm Cairo Time
At the Imagine Cup Site!!!
I have now arrived in Cairo at the Imagine Cup 2009 site at the CityStars - Intercontinental Hotel! The competition room for the most part was setup by the time we arrived with 10 workstations setup in the main room, and a portable Rack with 10 servers setup in the datacenter room here in the hotel. Picture with Chris and the server rack in the datacenter...

We're now testing Internet connectivity, printing capability, workstation to server connectivity, and running through a checklist of at least 30 things we want to make sure "work" before we can relax and say we are "ready" for the competitors to walk in here in a couple days to start in on the competition...

July 2, 2009 (Thursday) 3:15pm Cairo Time
Info on the Judges...
As Chris and Jeff prep the workstations and servers for the competition, I'm going to drop this post in here to give a little background on the judges...

- IT Competition Co-Captain and Head Judge: Rand Morimoto (that's me, I'll be doing the postings here, this is my 5th year as Captain and Head Judge of the competition. I was tapped to lead the first Imagine Cup IT competition back in 2005 in Yokohama Japan. I run an IT consulting firm (Convergent Computing ( out of the San Francisco area that specializes in Microsoft technology consulting services to mid and large size organizations. In my spare time I write the Unleashed series of books for Sams Publishing including Windows 2008 Unleashed, HyperV Unleashed, Exchange 2007 Unleashed, etc.)
- IT Competition Co-Captain and Judge: Chris Amaris (this is Chris' 5th year as Captain and Judge as well. Chris is the Chief Technology Officer and a partner for Convergent Computing and is a principal consultant for the firm leading some of the network design and implementation for some of the largest companies in the world. Chris has authored several books on Windows and Exchange, and specializes in Systems Management with co-author credentials on titles on Operations Manager 2005 / 2007, Microsoft SQL, and security systems)
- IT Competition Assistant Captain and Judge: Valy Greavu (Valy was a top 3 finalist as a competition in the 2005 (Japan) and 2006 (India) competitions and joined as a judge and assistant captain since 2007. As both a former finalist and now a captain/judge, Valy brings a perspective to the competition that is helpful year after year with the competition. Valy is an Assistant Professor at the Universitatea "Alexandru Ioan Cuza" in Romania and is a Microsoft MVP)
- IT Competition Assistant Captain and Judge: Jeff Guillet (Jeff joined the competition as a judge and assistant captain in 2008 (Paris) and returns this year here in Egypt. Jeff is a senior consultant at Convergent Computing and is an author/expert on specializations including Windows, HyperV virtualization, Exchange messaging, and Operations Management. Jeff spends his time consulting for a major San Francisco based organization providing daily expertise in his area of specialization!

July 2, 2009 (Thursday) 4:05pm Cairo Time
First IT Competition Setup Challenge
Alright, so checklist item #5 of verifying that the 10 host servers that the competitors will be working on are setup properly just failed. The systems (10 HP DL380s) sitting in a rack are not BIOS-enabled to support VT virtualization support. Will need to go into the datacenter and manually reconfigure the BIOS for all 10 systems to enable hardware virtualization support. I'm making Chris nervous, telling him that we "hope" this make/model of server even supports virtualization (if not, the whole premise of this competition for the students fails and we're in deep trouble), but of course that would presume these systems are really OLD non-standard systems... (although being that these systems we're pieced together from across Europe and shipped here to Egypt for this competition, who knows...). We'll work through a couple more checklist items, and then work through the "fixing" of this virtualization hardware support issue shortly...

July 2, 2009 (Thursday) 5:25pm Cairo Time
Competition Timeline...
Okay, solved the BIOS issue, Jeff enabled VT on all 10 of the servers in the datacenter, then realized the remote access wasn't enabled, so he's there right now during on remote desktop access to the host servers.

In the mean time, few timelines here to share (all times are Cairo Egypt time (which is California time + 10-hours)):
July 3rd (Friday): competitors arrive
- Worldwide Competition Opening Ceremony (opening address by Ray Ozzie, Microsoft Chief Architect / Country Host - Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of Egypt)
July 4th (Saturday): IT Competition begins - 8:30am Cairo Time
July 5th (Sunday): IT Competition ends - 8:30am Cairo Time
July 6th (Monday): Cultural Day (visit to the pyramids of Giza, the Cairo museum, lunch on the Nile)
July 7th (Tuesday): Digital Theater / Showcase / World Festival awards ceremony at the pyramids

Back to testing and configuring servers...

July 2, 2009 (Thursday) 10:42pm Cairo Time
Too easy???
Alright, this is too easy, Jeff finished up the tests of the 10 physical servers (making sure that VT was enabled, BIOS was configured, remote enabled, HyperV service tested and working fine, unloaded HyperV service (and still working fine)), so the servers are "done". And we have 10 workstations connecting to those 10 servers and they all work fine.

Chris and I snuck out to a Captain's dinner where the Captains from all 9 competitions gathered (funny, this is Egypt so no alcohol, so we're sitting in this outdoor "lounge" having fruit smoothies and eating stuffed grape vine leaves things). Back from dinner and back to building out the judges competition server system (Windows, Exchange, ISA, VLAN, DMZ, etc). We still need to load up software images (ISO files) to all of the competitors servers and we should be done.

Hmm, no power outages, no Internet connection problems, no "missing systems", this is feeling WAY too easy...

July 3, 2009 (Friday) 11:07am Cairo Time
Judges are here, We're rolling along...
Up bright and early here in Cairo, 90 degrees out at 6 in the morning although sadly this hotel is so cold that it felt good being out in the warm dry air of the desert! We got started in this morning and are continuing getting things ready for the competition. We needed a whole stack of software DVDs available that were to be supplied to us only finding out this morning the guy forgot to get the software before he left Redmond, but fortunately Chris had most of the software on his hard drive and we're downloading the rest, although despite the hotel having a 30MB pipe to the Internet, we're only getting 100kb/sec transfer speeds, so some of these files are taking 5-6 hours to download.

The competition here starts in about 24-hours, the competitors are just flowing into town now, it's fun to talk with the students in the hallways and elevators, so far have run into competitors from China, SriLanka, Portugal, Senegal, Ecuador, Canada, Jamaica... The energy here with excitement and anticipation is incredible, one of the competitors I met must not have been older than 18, first time he's been away from home in his life, he kept looking for stairs as he said he didn't know how the elevator worked. Not only an experience of a life time for these competitors in competing in a major international competition, but a life experience seeing new and different things for the first time in their lives! This is the part of this competition I love the most, having a chance to talk with the competitors to find out who they are, what their motivations and aspirations are in life, learn about their background and how they got here, all so amazing!

All of the judges have safely arrived. Valy was the last to get here, a major layover in Istanbul and running around to find his lost luggage, but with his bag in hand, he arrived here this morning a little past 4am and was bright-eyed and ready to roll (or at least jazzed up with excitement), so we're elbows deep in working through the details.

A picture above of the judges Valy, Chris, (me), and Jeff... Back to work for us...

July 3, 2009 (Friday) 4:27pm Cairo Time
Opening Event Briefing
At 4pm this afternoon, the competitors all assembled in the Grand Ballroom and were (informally) welcomed to the competition and briefed on the rules and upcoming activities (the formal Welcome will be done this evening with all of the Microsoft and polical bigwigs at the Citadel).

The Opening briefing was attended by all of the competitors (400+), the media, school and event mentors, competition Captains and judges.

July 3, 2009 (Friday) 5:04pm Cairo Time
IT Competition Briefing
At 4:30pm this afternoon, the competitors for the IT Competition all assembled in the competition room to hear about what to expect for tomorrow's start of the competition. The competitors were told generally what to expect, the overall plan for the 24-hour competition, what they can bring into the room (paper, books, MP3 player), what resources they can access during the competition (internet search engines, Technet content, etc), their ability to come/go from the room throughout the competition to go to the ballroom for meals, go to the restroom, grab coffee, etc, and what they cannot do like email, IM, poll the audience, or phone a friend. A little tension in the room as the competitors get to understand a bit of the details of the competition and cautiously look forward to the 24-hour head to head battle.

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 3:16am Cairo Time
Opening Ceremony!!!
The official Opening Ceremony was last night hosted at the Citadel, a site rich in history dating back to AD810 with scenes in history including the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, and the era of Sultans. I unfortunately missed the opening ceremony as I was finishing up last minute details for the competition and readying myself for a non-stop 36-hours of competition activities.

So the picture above was borrowed from the Microsoft Imagine Cup blog, and from what I've read on the various Twitter, Facebook, and blog postings, it was quite an evening! Joe Wilson, the Microsoft GM in charge of the competition noted that the competition started with over 300,000 competitors, and that 440 finalists are here in Cairo right now representing 70 countries. It is absolutely amazing being among these incredibly talented competitors!

I'm hoping that our 3 missing IT competitors have safely made their way into Egypt. At our competition briefing yesterday afternoon we only had 7 of the 10, we were missing our competitors from France, the UK, and from Romania. There were a handful of flights that were delayed as well as a number of missed connections for competitors, so by 7pm last night, only 75% of all of the competitors had arrived in Egypt, so I've been working with the Imagine Cup event coordinators to check in on the status of our competitors, hope they arrive in time for our 9am start, which is just over 5-1/2 hours from now!

Oh, while I was surfing around, I found this picture of the Stage being built for the Awards Ceremony being held on the 7th. So after 3-4 days of competition and event activities, the final awards will be handed out, but not in some hotel ballroom or theater, but on a special stage being constructed with the Great Pyramids of Giza as the backdrop, check out this picture! How fun will it be to walk up on the stage as a winner of this competition with the 7th Wonder of the World right in front of you!!!

So, with all of the pomp and circumstance beginning, this competition is now officially "on" and in just a few hours I'll be kicking off the 24-hour IT competition and then the 5-hour judging period that'll follow. A nice 29 hours non-stop event with a few hours before and few hours afterward, so 36+ hours of no sleep ahead of me...

I'm going to try to get a couple more hours of sleep... Will blog in a few hours as I kick off the 2009 IT Final challenge! Join me starting 11pm California time (July 3rd) as the 24-hour competiton clock begins!!!

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 9:04am Cairo Time
IT Competition is a GO!!!
We are off and running, all 10 competitors have made their way into Egypt (couple late flights with our last competitor arriving at 4am this morning, ugh!), but everyone is here!

We did a quick briefing again on the rules and at 9:02am, the competitors were position at their workstations and will be working for the next 23-hours and 56-minutes to meet the requirements of the competition.

Pictured above: [back row] Jeff Guillet (judge), Thiago Cabral Valverde (Brazil), Miklos Cari Sivila (Bolivia), Mohamed Karim Es Skalli (Morocco), Abdul Rauf Butt (UK), Sebastien Cubito (France), Roland Sarkozi (Hungary), Mike Burr (USA), Chang Wu (China), Rand Morimoto (Head Judge), Valy Greavu (Judge) [squatting] Cosmin Ilie (Romania), Sherif Talaat (Egypt)

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 9:55am Cairo Time
The Case Scenario...
Each competitor has been given a 9-page case study (with 2 addendum pages) based on this year's competition theme "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the world's toughest problems". The scenario is abouta non-profit organization that is providing computer training to children ages 12-17 worldwide who otherwise do not have access to computers. The main office is where all administration takes places, and remote training facility offices are on the other end of wide area network connections where the trainings will take place. These remote training facilities will pop up worldwide, and the competitors are to build out the infrastructure needed for both the main administration office and the first training facility.

Some of the requirements the competitors need to setup:
- have email setup for communications including presence and chat
- need to be able to share documetns and collaborate internally and externally
- ability to create and post forms on a Website
- ability to manage data in a database
- etc

For those familiar with various Microsoft technologies, the competitors have been given a workstation and a single physical host server (8-core / 32GB Ram / 500GB of disk) and will need to setup Hyper-V for virtualization and work with a variety of Microsoft server products like Windows 2008, Exchange 2007, SQL 2008, SharePoint 2007, ISA 2006, System Center Operations Mgr 2007, System Center Configuration Mgr 2007, ForeFront security, etc.

About an hour into the competition, the competitors are busy building base server images after they have penciled out their design and architecture. We had a slight power failure for the workstations in this room here, although fortunately the servers are on UPS battery backup so none of the competitors lost actual work they were doing, about 3 minutes later the power came back up and everyone was back to where they left off. We understand the entire bottom floor of the hotel has no power right now, so we'll see if we end up with more impromtu power failures here the rest of the day...

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 12:28pm Cairo Time
All's quiet, Lunch is available, Visit from Ray Ozzie
The competition, now 3-1/2 hours into the 24-hour period is humming along, no new power failures, competitors are heads down building out server images and appear to be making great headway. The room is super quiet other than the hum of computer fans and the clicking of keyboards, so nothing exciting to report on the competition front.

Lunch is available for the next 90-minutes so we've told the competitors they can swing into lunch any time, grab food and bring it back, or eat down in the lunch pavillion. We're not concerned about the competitors leaving the competition room, they've all been advised to not talk about the competition, ask questions of friends or peers, and as they have worked VERY hard to even get here, last thing they want to do is get disqualified, so it's a great group of competitors working their hardest and doing their best!

We just had Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's "Chief Software Architect" join us in the IT competition room. Ray took over Bill Gate's roll as the Chief Software Architect for Microsoft a few years back, it's a very big honor for us to have Mr.Ozzie here in Cairo with us, and was nice he came to visit the IT competition!

Back to twiddling our thumbs here and answering a few random questions here/there that the competitors come up with...

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 3:35pm Cairo Time
6-1/2 hours down, still not much excitement...
We're now just over 6-1/2 hours into the 24-hour competition and still nothing too exciting to report. The competitors are chugging along on their systems building out system images, a couple are struggling to get the appropriate IP addresses set on their images (they were given a specific range of addresses to use, and they're getting creative on using addresses they haven't been assigned), and a lot of users are reading content on the Internet to learn software they've never used before, nothing like Just in Time product learning. But overall, all has been smooth, systems are continuing to operate, no further power shutdowns, and plenty of sodas, candy bars, and ice cream to keep them sugared up.

During the lull of the past few hours, I was asked to sit in as a judge for the Imagine Cup Software Design competition. VERY interesting process, 68 teams that have created software over the past few months, they then created a 10-minute video that demonstrates their software, and the judging criteria is used to determine if they've met the goals and requirements of the challenge. It was a very new experience and a chance to crossover to another competition.

We'll have our first "challenge" in 2-1/2 hours, which the competitors have already been given the challenge which is for them to be able to successfully send and receive email messages from their system(s) out to the judge's system. A task that will be interesting to see how many of the competitors are able to make this first milestone in a few hours...

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 6:09pm Cairo Time
Milestone 1 Complete!
We just completed the first of 5 milestones for the competition, after 9-hours into the competition the competitors had to demonstrate that their system was capable of sending and receiving email messages. For you techies, that means their DNS records need to be setup properly to find the judges email system, and they needed to provide a DNS record to the judges DNS to find them. About half of the competitors successfully completed this task, and the other half did not successfully complete this task.

As I mentioned to the competitors, their ability to complete this task or not, while worth 10-points in the competition, does not make a major difference in the whole competition scoring as there are still 19 milestone/tasks they need to complete, so the competition is still up in the air.

We will have a 2nd milestone a little later this evening, I can't say exactly when, but gave the competitors a heads up it will not happen in the next 90-minutes so they can go to dinner and walk around to freshen up. Half the room is empty, so it looks like they all took me up on the having a break here...

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 9:10pm Cairo Time
Hacker Attack!!!
Alright, 12-hours into the 24-hour competition period and the competitors are slowing down a bit, okay well a few of our competitors are slowing down a lot. But they are all still slugging away at the competition challenge and it seems like everyone is making great headway...

The milestone challenge (#2) was a simulated hacker attack. An hour ago, the competitors were "warned" that there was an escalation of hacker-like activity going on in the world and they needed to protect their systems to prevent being a victim of this errant activity on the net.

During this simulated attack, the judges ran a series of port scanners, vulnerability assessment tools, and security analysis algorithms against each of the competitors networks. Overall, the competitors all did extremely well on this milestone challenge, thanks in part to the "secure by default" nature of the latest Microsoft Windows operating systems, and the sensitivity and awareness of IT professionals like these top notch competitors who are made aware of the importance of security in their daily default implementation of technologies. Effectively, in the past, the nature was implement first, then worry about locking down security some time later; whereas today it is lock down security while you are implementing the technology.

A very good milestone challenge with great results across the board, something that will be very comforting to some of the competitors who finally have points up on their scorecard...

July 4, 2009 (Saturday) 10:45pm Cairo Time
Okay, this place is too quiet, got bored, fiddled with Photosynth of the competition room so you can effectively see a panorama of the entire room that we're in. Click on the link below and you'll be able to pan around the room, zoom in on one of the diagrams on the wall, and see where we've been held up for the past almost 14-hours...
Link to Photosynth of the Competition Room

We were also informed that there will be a planned power outage in the next 10-15 minutes. They have the entire competition area running on 2 gas generators for power, and every 12-hours they have to flip from one generator to another, and during that switchover our workstations drop offline for a couple minutes (the servers are on a separate UPS battery backup and are protected from the power cycle)

July 5, 2009 (Sunday) 12:37am Cairo Time
Milestone #3 - Secured Email
We are now 15+ hours into the 24-hour competition, this challenge involved having the competitors demonstrate their ability to send a secured message from an external kiosk. Effectively in this case scenario, one of the mobile executives in this non-profit organization needs to send a private message back to her main office and needs to do it from an Internet kiosk. As with any private or confidential communications, the key is to ensure that the data stream is encrypted (using HTTPS) and that the end to end message creation and transmission is protected (using SSL/TLS).

This was very much an extension of Milestone #1 that was just basic email sending and receiving, and you'd think that if 7 hours ago the competitors had to just send basic email then, that by now they would be able to send an email still and add encryption to the communications. However 2 of the competitors that were able to send emails earlier in the competition "broke" their configuration and they cannot even send a basic message right now. This is a common challenge as things work, then the competitor tries to add functionality or is tinkering with other functions and then all of a sudden something stops working.

However, now 65% into the competition, every one of the competitors has points on the board and even a person who scored very high on the first 2 milestones got a 0 on the 3rd milestone, so this is still anyone's game as it always is. With just 3 out of 20 scores recorded, there's a long way to go...

July 5, 2009 (Sunday) 2:44am Cairo Time
Network Traffic...
What does one do at 3 in the morning when all is pretty quiet on the competiton front? You map the network traffic being generated by the competitors in and out of the network...

This diagram shows the communication from all of the competitors to the outside world, so the various Web searches, blog searches, sites they're connecting to download information, etc... As part of the competition, we (the judges) have to monitor the communications of the competitors to ensure that the competitors are only accessing publicly available static Web content.

A couple years back we had a competitor that contracted a worm and the traffic from his system was going crazy as the worm was broadcasting all over the place, problem when you are out downloading a bunch of junk haphazzardly...

So far this year, no worms and no errant traffic, just your typical Bing, Google, TechNet type of stuff...

July 5, 2009 (Sunday) 3:20am Cairo Time
Milestone #4 - Chat...
At a little past 3am this morning the competitors had milestone #4 they needed to have completed. The challenge was to provide the ability for the Executive Director of this case scenario organization to be able to step up to a kiosk and carry on a quick "chat" session with someone from her organization. Technologically, we were looking for the successful implementation of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 with the instant messaging feature operational over an SSL-based Web connection.

This was a tough challenge as OCS isn't the easiest product to make work, lots of moving parts and the need to setup certificates and all. Needless to say, only a couple of the competitors had it working in time for the challenge, but one of the competitors who had successfully completed this milestone hasn't been completely successful on any of the other milestone challenges, so in a single challenge, he's now in the game!

As we zip past 18-hours of non-stop / no-sleep action here, the bowl of chocolate covered expresso beans gets emptier and emptier, and the pile of shish kabob flavored potato chips that we thought no one would venture eating is almost gone too...

July 5, 2009 (Sunday) 6:18am Cairo Time
Milestone #5 - Morning in Cairo!
The sun is rising here in Cairo and the competitors have now been at it for 21-hours straight (well, most of the competitors, we've had a couple competitors disappear in the past couple hours, likely in their rooms taking a quick nap, with one competitor that fell asleep at this workstation, we let him sleep for a while, but Valy then woke him up).

6am marked the deadline for Milestone #5 which was to manage a "Server Crash!" The scenario is that during the course of business the organization has a server failure and the IT department, properly prepared, is notified of the failure and is able to quickly respond to the failure. For you techies, this typically involves the implementation of System Center Operations Mgr 2007 (some of the competitors here have implemented the lighter System Center Essentials which is perfectly fine).

Timingwise, the hotel had informed us that they were going to cycle their gas powered generators at 6am, so we had both a simulated system outage as well as a scheduled real world power outage with the requirement of this milestone for the competitors to be electronically notified of such outage...

Half the competitors successfully met the requirements for this challenge which means they are moving along the process to completing all of the major tasks for the competition! 2-hours 48-minutes left to go, we'll see where the competitors all end up in the end here...

July 5, 2009 (Sunday) 9:08am Cairo Time
24-hours Done!!! On to the Judging!!!
It has been 24-hours since we started this competition, the room in the end was still filled with the 10 competitors we started with, everyone worked very hard to the very end! As I we completed the competition, I reminded the competitors that it wasn't about being "first place" this week, it's about competing! Regardless of where these competitors end up in the scoring, they are #1 in their country and they are at worse #10 in the world among 300,000 students that started this competition way back in September 2008!

As we wrap up the competition phase and move onto the 5-hours of judging, I want to thank my co-Captain, Chris Amaris, whom after 5-yrs with the competition an amazing supporter of education, learning, skills development, and motivation to so many in the IT industry! To Jeff Guillet and Valy Greavu, our judges that have been with the students throughout this competition from the blogs and forums, to the hour by hour of the competition. Thank you for being the mentors and supporters of the competitors to make this a wonderful competition!

And lastly, to the 10 competitors, a wonderful opportunity meeting and working with each of you this past 24-hours! We will do the judging now, get some sleep, and then enjoy the rest of the week here in Cairo among the pyramids and antiquities with our peers from around the globe!!!

This will be my last post for a couple days, and then on the evening of July 7th here in Cairo after the Worldwide Finals Awards Ceremony, I will be able to announce the top 3 finishers of this years competition!

Thank you for all of you who followed my blog these past many hours!!!

July 7, 2009 (Wednesday) 9:03pm Cairo Time
And the Winners are...
Okay, the final awards ceremony is still going on, but wanted to make a quick post of the top 3 finalists for the Imagine Cup 2009 competition here in Cairo that was just announced here on the stage overlooking the Great Pyramids of Giza!

The top finalists are:
1. Cosmin Ilie - Romania
2. Wu Chang - China
3. Miklos Cari Sivila - Bolivia

I'll post more a little later this evening, but didn't want all of you waiting at home to keep waiting... I'll share more about the final awards ceremony as well as the state of the judging, the competition, and where the Imagine Cup 2010 will be held... I'll post something in a few hours...
Okay, back online to finish this post from last night... So the final awards ceremony begun as the sun was setting in the Egyptian desert, the Great Pyramids of Giza in the backdrop behind the stage, everyone of the 440 competitors along with mentors, advisors, competition captains, judges, the media, and dignitaries from around the world joined in this celebration!

After months of qualifying rounds and sleepless nights, ending in a week of head to head competitions, cultural events, and collaboration with peers from around the globe, the energy at the final awards ceremony was enough to light up the peaceful patch of the sandy desert. As has been the tradition for from the very beginning of the IT competition in 2005 in Yokohama, the winner of the IT Competition (this year, Ilie Cosmin from Romania) when asked to give his acceptance speech invited up the 9 other IT competitors to share the stage with him. The IT competitors share a comraderie and together they know they have a shared experience that they'll never forget!

It has been a FUN competition to support this past year, a whole lot of work, but something that is extremely rewarding when given the chance to work with some of the smartest young minds from every part of the globe that'll shape our future! I'll never forget an email I received from a competitor a few years back from one of our finalists who got a check for $8000. He said he didn't compete to win money, and in fact wasn't aware there was a cash prize, he just wanted to participate. He lived in a very small town that only had a single computer, and every evening after school and finishing his chores at home, he'd walk to the doctor's house (who allowed him to use the computer) and competed online until the power in the town shut off at 10pm. When he received the check, it was more money than his mother and father made in a year, and he got a full time job working for Microsoft after the competition. He was able to send his 7 brothers and sisters to school, move his family out of a dirt floored home with a bathroom shared by 100 people to a 1 bedroom apartment in the city with 2 shared bathrooms just for their floor. He shared with me the Imagine Cup changed the life for him and his family forever. A wish that he and his parents could have only dreamed of came true.

Communicaitons like that from past competitors remind us that we can do something that can make a difference in a small way or maybe in a big way by touching the lives of young, hard working individuals in the things we choose to do...

Thank you to all of you who joined my blog this year! I wish you ALL the best!!!


July 8, 2009 (Thursday) 5:54am Cairo Time
Imagine Cup 2010 Poland!!!
Okay, I haven't even checked out of my room here in Cairo and I'm getting flooded with emails for our work with the NEXT competition! Starting this morning, the Imagine Cup 2010 competition has kicked off, competitors are encouraged to sign up and participate in the 2010 competition that'll end in Warsaw Poland next summer!

We've been working on the details for the 2010 competition now for the past month working through the details of the IT competition, how we'll step it up a notch (or two) to make the next competition as challenging and rewarding as in the past...

I've never been to Poland as I've never been to Cairo, Seoul, Delhi as the Captain and Head Judge of past Imagine Cup competitions, so I'll do some research on Poland and start getting the competition off the ground for 2010!

Catch you all next year!!!



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