Sunday, July 4, 2010

Imagine Cup (Warsaw) 2010 Blog

Welcome everyone to my Blog of the 2010 Imagine Cup IT Challenge! Over a 40 continuous hour period, I blogged the final competition of the IT Challenge LIVE. The following is the account of the competition...

The Imagine Cup is a Microsoft sponsored competition for college students from around the world who compete in any of a number of competitions, from software development, to game design, to digial media, to the competition I run which is the IT Challenge.

The IT Challenge is for Information Technology (IT) enthusiasts, frequently computer science students, but many times just college students that like technology. We started off in October with over 100,000 competitors from over 100 countries and through a series of qualifying rounds have ended up with the FINAL SIX (6) in the world who competed in a non-stop 24-hour competition to build an entire computer network environment.

The students who advanced to the finals and competed in this 24-hour competition are as follows (in alphabetical order of the country they represented):
Miklos Cari (Bolivia)
WeiQiu Wen (China)
Sherif Talaat (Egypt)
Bastien Sivera (France)
Dominik Trojnar (Poland)
Hu Zhengbin (Singapore)

The following is an account of the competition weekend as it happened...

Friday, 23-April, 8:01am GMT (12:01am California time)

A bit about the competition...

It's Friday, the day of the big competition. For the past 7 months, we have been quizzing and challenging college students from around the world through online multiple choice quizzes, to a mandatory 10-page essay relative to Microsoft technologies (specifics of Round 1 and Round 2 will be blogged later today...). In past years, the final competition was held in a city somewhere in the world (2009-Cairo Egypt, 2008-Paris France, 2007-Seoul Korea, 2006-Agra India, 2005-Yokohama Japan), however this year we're doing the final competition "online". This will be a very different experience for us as judges.

Normally in the 24-hour final competition, we bring the Top 6 finalists into a room with a stack of computer server hardware and have them install Windows software from DVD, load on Exchange email, SharePoint document management software, System Center management tools, SQL databases, etc from disc. And in the 24-hour non-stop competition period, we can watch the competitors fight fatique, chug down Red Bulls, coffee, go through bags and boxes of chips and candy, and even fall asleep on their keyboard.

This year, it'll be all "online". The servers are based in a centralized location "in the cloud", and the student competitors will be online working from their home, school, or at a location where they have reliable Internet access. We'll be remotely monitoring their progress and efforts, will have to see how "exciting" I can make this blog, although I've already started my non-stop sleep cycle for the competition by spending a better part of tonight finalizing the hardware, servers, storage, etc that the competitors will be using, so we'll see what kind of goofy blog postings I can cast after being awake for the next 40+ hours...

Friday, 23-April, 8:50am GMT (12:50am California time)

A little about the judges...

We have 4 competition judges, Chris Amaris, Valy Greavu, Kim Amaris, and myself. This is the first year we have a woman judge (Kim), a very well respected consultant in the San Francisco Area who was a delegate at the 2009 Competition in Cairo, and was a Round 2 judge this year for the 2010 competition, now joining us as a Final Competition judge! When I get a picture of Kim, I'll post it on the blog...

Ah, just heard from Valy, our judge out of Romania, checking in to the competition finals here. Valy is a GREAT role model for the competitors. Valy was a college student competitor in 2005 (Japan) and 2006 (India) being #2 in the world, to come back in 2007 and join as a competition Assistant Captain in Seoul Korea and Co-Captain and Judge in 2008, 2009, and now this year. Because he was a competitor himself, he clearly understands what it's like to be a student sweating it out in the 24-hour head to head competition.

Chris has been involved with the Imagine Cup IT competition since its beginning as a Judge every year since 2005. Chris is a very well known IT expert with over 30-yrs experience and recently the title author of the 1050-page book titled "System Center Enterprise Suite Unleashed" that came out on Monday along with co-authoring a 1500-page book on Windows 2008 R2 that released in January, and a 1350-page book on Exchange 2010 that released in October (yeah, over 4000 pages of single spaced manuscript over the past 9 months...).

I've had the opportunity to participate in the Imagine Cup since 2005 as well and have found it to be a wonderful competition, one that blends my interest and career in technology, with my passion for education and skills development, with the opportunity to meet and work with some of the smartest students from around the world! These student competitors have nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain. Not only is there an $8000 first prize, $4000 second prize, and $3000 third prize that'll be awarded to the Top 3 of this weekends 6 finalist, but to be able to put on their resume for the rest of their lives that they competed in an international competition with THOUSANDS of competitors changes the lives of these finalists forever.

We look forward to having a GREAT competition this year!

Friday, 23-April, 9:20am GMT (1:20am California time)

What the finalists will have to do over the 24-hour competition period...

So what will the competitors have a chance to look forward to doing starting in about 16-hours? They're going to be given a case study about a ficticious company that has a need to build out an entire computer network environment. The competitors will be given a Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Hyper-V R2 host server and asked to build out virtual guest images with working email, document management, security, monitoring, alerting, patching and updating, data management, data replication, etc.

So for you techies, that means they need to install and configure probably a good 6-12 virtual guest sessions, Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2007/2010, System Center ConfigMgr 2007 R2, Operations Mgr 2007 R2, Office 2007/2010, OCS 2007 R2, Windows 7, ISA or TMG, SQL 2008, etc. They'll need to integrate the applications together to make sure they all work together.

24-hours later, they'll need to demonstrate that everything works, that they met the end goals of the case study, and that they built the network environment securely.

More blog postings to follow...


Friday, 23-April, 3:19pm GMT (7:19am California time)

Okay, fewer than 7 hours before we go online, 8-hours and 40 minutes before the competition formally begins (12am GMT / 5pm California time). All of the server equipment is ready to go (I'll take a picture and post a little later this am), we have competitors that will be starting the competition at 1am, 2am, 8am, and 7pm in their local timezones, so at all hours around the clock.

In the past, we used to fly the competitors into a common City, so wondering whether spending a day of travel and then starting a competition during daylight hours in a foreign timezone vs this year where they are working in their local home timezone some in the wee hours of the night is better, worse, or a non-factor?

I think the adrenaline of competing in an international competition and the chance for prize money, title of best of the best in IT in the world, and a chance to travel to Poland for the awards ceremony will have all of the competitors pumped up regardless of what timezone they're starting and ending the competition...

Some last minute testing and then we kick off formal competition communications with the competitors in a little over 7-hours...


Friday, 23-April, 8:26pm GMT (1:26pm California time)

T minus 3-1/2 hours before the competition begins, we start a Live Meeting with the competitors in 90-minutes time where we'll share with them for the first time the details of the 24-hour competition. Up until now they've been provided the overall logistics of the technologies they need to know, how to get online, how long the competition will run, and "generally" what to expect, but the kick-off online meeting we'll have at 10pm GMT will give the competitors full details on what to expect for the competition!

When we're done with the kick off meeting in the next couple hours, I'll share the details and catch you all up on what the competitors will be seeing and experiencing over the 24-hour competition!

Got a great picture from one of the competitors (who says he's so excited about the competition that he hasn't been able to sleep tonight) so he's up waiting for the competition to start... He snapped off a few pictures, the one to the left is his "stash" to keep him awake for the 24-hour competition... Hmm, Snicker bars, Mars bars, cookies, and Red Bull! (and some mystery snack in that plastic container, we'll have to figure out what those are once the competition gets rolling along...)

Back to finalizing details...


Friday, 23-April, 11:45pm GMT (4:45pm California time)

Intro Meeting Complete - Meet the Competitors!

We had our intro meeting with the competitors and we have less than 15 minutes to go before the competition starts. Our judge from Romania (Valy) had each of the competitors send him information about themselves and a picture, so we can put a face to the name/competitor because the system... Here we go:

Sherif Talaat (Egypt): Sherif was a finalist in 2009 and went on to the finals in Cairo (his home country) and Sherif also competed in 2008 and won an offline competition where we challenged a number of folks online to compete in a mini-challenge. Sherif is a 5th year student a the MOdern Academy in Maadi (Egypt). He is studying Computer Science and Managment Technologies. Sherif's home town is Cairo.

Dominik Trojnar (Poland): Dominik, who goes by Piku, is from Rzeszów - Łańcut in Poland. He is a 4th year student at the University of Technology in Rzeszow (Politechnika Rzeszowska) studying electronics and telecommunication. Piku is the hometown favorite as the 2010 Imagine Cup awards ceremony is being held in Warsaw this summer.

Bastien Sivera (France): Bastien is a 4th year student from the Supinfo University with the campus of Nice, France.

WeiQiu Wen (China): WeiQui is studying at the Huazhong University of Science and Techonology in Electronical and Information Engeering. WeiQui is in his 2nd year of study, and his home town is Wuhan, Hubei Province, China

Miklos Cari (Bolivia): Miklos is doing his post graduate studies at the Universidad del Valle (UNIVALLE). He completed his Masters in Information Systems in 2009 and was actually an Imagine Cup 2009 competitor in the final competition in Cairo last year. MIklos is from the City of Cochabamba in Bolivia

Hu Zhengbin (Singapore): Hu is a 3rd year student at the Nanyang Polytechnic School of Information Technology in Singapore.


Saturday, 24-April, 12:00am GMT (5:00pm California time)

Imagine Cup 2010 Final Competition BEGINS!!!

It is now 12am GMT and we have begun the 2010 Imagine Cup IT Challenge! The competitors have downloaded the case study (9 pages in length) and are reading the challenge now. In brief, the case study is about a non-profit research organization that has offices around the world. The requirement of the case study is to build out the initial "main office" of this organization and provide remote connectivity for laptop users and users working from Internet kiosks to access typical business technologies.

"Some" of the things the competitors will need to setup and demonstration:

  • Basic email, presence, and chat communications
  • Ability to share documents and collaborate with others in the organization
  • Users need to have access within the organization's main office as well as while the users are traveling
  • Security is critical, so having a secure environment that can be monitored with alerting to the IT administrator is key

As we are monitoring the competitors efforts, we're now 7 minutes into the competition and the first competitors are already logged into their Hyper-V virtual host server, getting familiar with the hardware that they have available, and are preparing to build out their first Windows network system configurations already!

More to follow...


Saturday, 24-April, 1:18am GMT (6:18pm California time)

Hour in, All is Chugging Along...

We are an hour+ into the competition and all is flowing along just fine! (I'm knocking VERY hard on wood right now...). The top questions from the competitors have been access to versions of Windows (2003, 2008 with SP2) and license keys that we didn't provide them at the beginning of the competition, so this is GREAT, they have a design and plan in mind, know which operating system they are building the software on, and moving ahead with installing base guest session operating systems!!!

A datacenter view... Competitors are currently logged on remotely each to a dedicated server, local disk, and plenty of capacity to run the number of guest sessions needed for the competition!

One of our judges, Valy, had a power failure at his home, so at 3am in Romania, he's driving to his office at his worksite and will be back online shortly... The normal day to day challenges in IT!

All quiet on the frontline...'


Saturday, 24-April, 4:00am GMT (9:00pm California time)

4-hours down, 20 to go, FIRST milestone issued!

Can't believe the competition has already run for 4-hours, only 20-hours to go (ouch, that sounds like a LONG time from now...). The competitors are doing GREAT, as judges, we can peer into their work and we see that ALL of the competitors have several virtual guest sessions configured and running already (actually most of them had a full compliment of servers already built out within 2-hours of the start of the competition!). We know they have read the problem set and are working on a specific task of the competition as they are asking for a weird compliment of software and license keys needed to run this one quirky Microsoft product. It's a great way for us to know where they all stand...

Chris issued the first Milestone that's not due for another FIVE (5) hours, he's such a nice guy. Was supposed to give them just an hour heads-up, but instead, he's giving them 5-hours to prepare. The first milestone is a relatively easy one, they simply need to be able to send an email message out of their network.

For you techies out there, basically they need to have gotten Active Directory setup (preferrably AD/2008 R2), have gotten Exchange email going (Exchange 2010 preferrably), have gotten a workstation setup with Office installed, and they need to setup DNS records between themselves and the Judges DNS server so mailflow happens. The qualifying test is to be able to send a message to the judges, and have an email message replied back.

Sounds pretty simple, and it kind of is if you've done it a couple times before, but when you're a college student, how many times have you setup Exchange, requested an MX record be setup in a public DNS, or have been responsible for end to end mailflow? Many time as students they may have worked as a SysAdmin or Helpdesk support in the school's Computer Science department, but building out an entire fully functional network sometimes is a stretch. We'll see how the competitors fare on this task...


Saturday, 24-April, 4:45am GMT (9:45pm California time)

A Bit about the qualifying rounds

Okay, I promised a little background on the qualifying rounds of the competition on how these 6 finalists ended up being here in the final competition... So as mentioned, we started off with over 100,000 competitors 7+ months ago. These are college studetns represening over 100 countries. This is an individual competition (where some of the Imagine Cup competitions are "team" competitions). As an individual competition, each competitor registers to participate in the IT Challenge.

The first round of the competition is a multiple choice quiz. There were 30 questions in the quiz and the competitors had to get at least 15 correct to advance to Round 2. Hey, 50% pass rate and you advance to the next round, pretty easy, right? Well of the 30 questions, the questions span the following technologies (usually 1 or 2 questions from each category):

  • Windows 2008 R2
  • Exchange Server 2010
  • SharePoint 2007
  • OCS 2007 R2
  • Windows 7
  • Office 2007
  • SQL 2008
  • System Center ConfigMgr 2007 R2
  • System Center DPM 2007 SP1
  • System Center OpsMgr 2007 R2
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2
  • Forefront Identity Manager 2010
  • Forefront Client Protection
  • Threat Management Gateway 2010
  • Unified Access Gateway 2010
  • Hyper-V R2

So while you might be a whiz at say Windows, or Exchange, or SQL, you're going to get bombarded with 30 questions across 15-20 different productlines. An example question: "When running Exchange 2010, which of the following technologies would you use to replicate data across multiple datacenters for disaster recovery? A: Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR), B: Standby Continuous Replication (SCR), C: Database Availability Group (DAG), or D: Single Copy Cluster (SCC)" (correct answer is C: DAG). And "When changing the Alternate Context in SharePoint 2007, which tool would you use? A: SharePoint Site Manager, B: SharePoint Management Console (SMC), C: Windows DNS, or D: SharePoint Central Administration" (correct answer is D)

Okay, so 15 or better on a quiz, there were 4 different days that the quizzes were offered from November/09 thru January/10 where the competitors could take the quick during the 24-hour quiz day periods, and they had 1 hour to complete the quiz. The average pass rate on the quiz was 12%.

We advanced several hundred competitors on to Round 2 at the end of January of this year...

In Round 2, the competitors were tasks to write an essay, no longer than 10-pages long, and were given 2 months to complete the task. The essay was a response to a "case study" they were provided where they had to write a technical recommendation of what an organization would need to buy and implement in terms of technologies to meet the requirements of the case study... This is a little harder, now instead of doing a multiple guess online quiz, some actual time had to be spent reviewing the case study, doing a little research, and writing up a clear and concise response.

As we get every year, this year was no different, although we had MORE competitors advance to Round 2 than ever before, and we had MORE Round 2 essays submitted than ever before as well which made the judging difficult because we had so many great submissions. The judges independently scored each case study and the resulting aggregate score resulted in the top 6 finalists!

So that's the road to the Finals...


Saturday, 24-April, 7am GMT (Midnight California time)

Kim Amaris, the FIRST Imagine Cup IT Challenge Woman Judge!!!

We hit the midnight hour here in the Americas, the sun is up for the new day for our competitors in Europe and Africa, and for our competitors in Asia, it's mid-afternoon... Competition is 7-hours down, 17-hours to go...

As it is pretty quiet on the competition front, I wanted to introduce the Imagine Cup IT Competitions FIRST Woman judge, Kim Amaris. The Imagine Cup as a whole has had MANY women judges as software development, digital media, and other fields have a wide diversity of participants. The IT Competition though has been challenged that we have never had a woman finalist, which we can't change the rules to give preference to one person over the other in the competition, but we could add a woman to our judging staff, so this year, Kim Amaris has joined the ranks as a Judge for the competition!

Kim has been in the IT Industry for more than a decade and has been a contributing author to several books on Windows, Exchange, SharePoint, and the like. She is an expert not only in technologies, but also in the management of enterprise scale IT projects.

Kim was interviewed last Fall and a transcript of that interview is posted up on our Facebook page up on

Hopefully with Kim's participation as a judge this year she can inspire women to compete and participate in the Imagine Cup IT Challenge competition this coming year!!!


Saturday, 24-April, 10:20am GMT (3:20am California time)

Milestone #1 In and Done - Email Working (well, kind of...)< Alright, it's past 3 in the morning here in California, 10:20am GMT, amazingly 10 hours into the competition already. Competitors are doing GREAT. We had our first milestone a few moments ago, the requirement was to be able to send and receive emails from their network to the judges network... Half the competitors were successful completing the milestone, that's pretty typical. Those who know how to do it know the routine. Those who have never done it before, there are a lot of moving parts as I noted earlier in my blog around DNS, Exchange 2010, MX records, etc.

BUT, as I reminded ALL of the competitors, this is just 1 of 20 milestones and we have 14 hours left in the competition to go. The key is that they don't get hung up on 1 task, to go back through the total project and make sure that they look at all of the goals and objectives and circle back around to email, they can get that working later...

So they are all chugging along, VERY impressive group of competitors!!!


Saturday, 24-April, 11:15am GMT (4:15am California time)

Warning, Hacker Attack!!! - Milestone #2

At the top of the hour, the competitors were informed that there "might" be a hacker attack within the hour and to harden their networks. At noon GMT (about 45 minutes from now) we will run scans against the competitor networks looking for system vulnerabilities. They should have proper protections in place from an external attack...


Saturday, 24-April, 12:51pm GMT (5:51am California time)

WOW, Hacker Attack THWARTED!

So for 32 minutes, the competitors were bombarded with security attacks to their network systems, with over 4000 port scans against each IP address looking for vulnerabilities. For the FIRST TIME in Imagine Cup IT Challenge history, our security attack was COMPLETELY thwarted! Not a single major vulnerability, and only 8 minor vulnerabilities detected that amounted to nothing.

After 2 of 20 milestones, ALL of the competitors are on the board with points, and in fact for milestone #2, they all got full points, so this is really anyone's competition still!

I just shot a congratulatory note to all of the competitors, we're 50% through the competition, just over 11 hours left to go, everyone is on the board with points, and they are ALL further along than at the same point in previous year competitions! (does this mean this is a SMARTER group of competitors this year, or do we need to make the IT challenge harder next year, hmm...)

Although, as with every year, as the competitors get a little sleepy, they make silly mistakes, so while they may be far far along, they might second guess themselves and in the very last moment choose to reinstall everything from scratch (we've had that happen a couple times in the past!)

The sun should be rising here in California shortly, might be good I step outside soon for a walk, been in this chair for the past 18 hours straight...


Saturday, 24-April, 3:45pm GMT (8:45am California time)

Milestone #3 OCS 2007 DONE!

With just 8-1/2 hours left in the competition, we completed the judges review of Milestone #3 which was to demonstrate that OCS 2007 instant messaging was working properly. This was a little harder of a test as the competitors had to get OCS 2007 working for IM on the "backend" and they had to also make sure the OCS IM "Microsoft Office Communicator (MOC)" client was working internally, from their laptop, and from Communicator Web Access (CWA) from their kiosk machine.

All of the competitors received at least a few points on this challenge for getting "some" of OCS working.

There is no clear-cut leader right now, we only have 3 of 20 milestones complete and a LONG way to go, this is anyone's game... We look forward to seeing the competitors continue to work through their list of tasks!

Thank you everyone for your ongoing encouragement for the competition and the competitors! I have relayed your best wishes on to the students who are glad to know they have THOUSANDS of followers right now reading up on my blog here, following us on Facebook, and sending in IMs of support! We're two-thirds done, onwards!!!


Saturday, 24-April, 4:05pm GMT (9:05am California time)

Judging an Online Head to Head Challenge...

One of the interesting things in the back of all of the judges mind was what it would be like to judge an "online" competition. For the past 5-years, the final compeition has been a face to face competition. We arrive into a foreign city, we make sure the servers arrive (which has been quite challenge in years past, like when we arrived in India and the servers weren't there nor was there adequate electrical power or even Internet connectivity to run the competition).

After getting all of the systems together in a room, we'd normally gather all the competitors, shake hands, talk about the competition, see them cart in boxes of drinks and candies, and build camaraderie among one another...

But this year, the final competition is "online", meaning that instead of all of us being in a single room, we're working from our homes or offices... Would it be the same? Would the experience be that much different?

The feedback from the competitors has been that the online competition lacks the personal touch and the friendships that are built from participating in a shared experience, so it'll be something we'll look to in future years whether we can go back to a face to face final competition.

Technologically though, I'm actually very pleased that despite the lack of a face to face contact, through the use of online cloud-based tools, we've been able to make the most out of the experience! By collecting photographs of each of the competitors in front of their workstation, we have been able to "see" who we are talking with and working with.

We are using Microsoft Live Messenger, a component of where we have a group chat setup. Any time any of the competitors or judges posts something to the group chat, everyone gets the message, so ALL questions and ALL answers to those questions are shared by everyone in the group.

We've used Microsoft Live Meeting for shared desktop and voice over the Internet communications where the judges have been able to peer into the systems of the competitors to browse their work, and the judges have been able to collectively review competitor progress on the milestones. Despite the judges literally on opposite sides of the globe with the competitors and judges spanning 5 continents right now, we are working and communicating as if we were all in the same room together!

So while I had a lot of reservations of the potential for success of a fully online final competition, with a little Microsoft technology on our systems, and a lot of Microsoft technology in the cloud, the online competition is a new experience and so far, so good...


Saturday, 24-April, 5:40pm GMT (10:40am California time)

A visit from Cosmin Ilie, the IC2009 (Cairo) IT Challenge Champion!

Fewer than 6-1/2 hours left in this competition, I don't quite know what happened in the past half hour, I think I must have nodded off at my keyboard... The competitors have been given the Milestone #4 challenge, so in the next half hour, we'll check in with them on their progress toward that milestone.

In the meantime, the 2009 Imagine Cup IT Challenge champion, Cosmin Ilie, popped in on Judge Valy at his University office in Romania! This is all part of that personal relationship / camaraderie that I mentioned in my last post that the IT Competition builds. We have seen Cosmin for the prior 3 years as he competed in 2007 in Seoul (took 3rd), then in 2008 in Paris (took 2nd), and finally 3rd time was the charm as he ended up in 1st place in Cairo in 2009!

Cosmin has been active on the Imagine Cup forum, providing guidance and tips to the competitors, it was great to have him pop into Valy's office and come in on the judge's concall to chat with us here in California!

Back in 2008 when we were all in Paris, the 2005 (Yokohama, Japan) Imagine Cup IT Challenge Champion, Stefan Plizga popped in on us at the final competition in Paris when we had the face the face competition there.

It is GREAT to have the Imagine Cup IT Challenge alumni continue to participate, mentor, and lead as role models!


Saturday, 24-April, 6:25pm GMT (11:25am California time)

Milestone #4 - SERVER CRASH! / ALERT!!!

The competitors just finished Milestone #4 which was to simulate a server crash and to be alerted that one of their key systems had failed. In IT, being on top of system operations is very important, and knowing the state of servers and systems is crutial. As we get to the final 6 hours of this competition, the competitors have already (should have already) built out their core infrastructure including Windows, Exchange, SharePoint, File/Print, Databases, etc. So now it is a matter of making sure they can keep their systems patched and updated, have monitoring and alerting enabled, and fine tune their environment.

In milestone #4, we brought down one of the students servers (we were nice and had them tell us which server they would like us to bring down), and with the server going offline, the person they designated as the System Administrator should have received an email alert notifying them that a server is down and give them specifics.

For you techies, this is a feature in System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, a part of the competition that Judge Chris likes as his 1050-page book System Center Enterprise Suite Unleashed thru Sams Publishing just became available worldwide on Monday that covers the step by step process of implementing SCOM, ConfigMgr for patching/updating, Service Mgr for helpdesk management, DPM 2010 for backup, and Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 for virtual server management...

Anyway, 4 milestones down, 16 left to go and 5-1/2 hours left... Chris just emailed all of the competitors the final ruberic of how the last 16 tasks will be graded. Usually we keep it a secret and just see what the competitors come up with from the description of the case study, however since the final scoring will be done by just the judges instead of a face to face interview and demonstration by each of the competitors as we have done in the past, we need each of the competitors to document their scenario so we can zip through to see that everything is working (or not).

So, onward, the final kick here to the end... 5-hours, 27-minutes, 18-seconds...


Saturday, 24-April, 9:45pm GMT (2:45pm California time)

Milestone #5 - Documentation Done... 2-hrs, 15-min, 11-sec to go...

Whew, wouldn't have believed 20 hours ago that we would be near the finish line, but we're really really close... All of the competitors completed the last mid-competition milestone, #5, which was to submit documentation of their planned/current environment. Basically, what is it that they are building to meet the requirements of the case study, what technologies do they plan to do, how do they have (or plan to have) the servers configured, etc. EVERYONE submitted their docs and earned more points. According to my scorecard, the Top 5 competitors are all within 10 points of the mean, and considering each task is worth 10 points and we have 15 more tasks to grade them on, the 5th place person can jump into 1st place right now simply by doing just 1 task that the current 1st place person doesn't complete, that's how close this competition is right now...

The Top 3 out of the 6 competitors today will go to Warsaw this summer to spend a week participating in the Imagine Cup cultural exchange activities meeting finalists from other Imagine Cup competitions (Software Design, Digital Media, etc) and ultimately walking the stage during the Awards Ceremony to pick up either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize awards!

This has been a GREAT competition so far, counting down...


Saturday, 24-April, 11:48pm GMT (4:48pm California time)


Okay, 23-hours, 48 minutes through the competition, and the final results are...

Oh, not of the competition, I was looking inside my trash can of what I've managed to choke down for the past 23-hours and 48-minutes while I tried to stay awake, and the tally is:

  • 3 Snicker bars
  • 1 bottle of Cherry Coke-Cola Zero
  • 1 bottle of Crush Cherry
  • 1 large bottle of Crystal Geyser sparkling water
  • 2 McDonalds Sausage McMuffins with Egg
  • 1 Hash Brown
  • 1 McCafe Orange Juice
  • 1 Order of greasy Chinese take-out
  • 1 Order of Dak Gui Korean take-out
  • 2 packages of M&Ms (with peanuts, of course)
  • 1 bag of Kettle Brand Salt and Pepper potato chips
  • and 2 packages of Skittles (Berry flavored)

I have my doctors appointment this coming Tuesday, he'll have a field day when I tell him my diet this past week... Actual competition closure happening VERY soon, 7 minutes and counting...


Sunday, 25-April, 12:10am GMT (5:09pm California time)


The 2010 Imagine Cup Competition IT Challenge has come to an end. After 24 solid hours from 6 of the BEST IT finalists we've ever had, the judges will now individually review each competitor's project across 15 tasks to score the outcome

I want to thank ALL of you who have followed my blog over the past 40 or so hours. I think I have imprints of my keyboard on my forehead as I fell asleep a couple times on my keyboard...

I will update this blog one more time in the next couple days once the official announcement is made on which of the 3 competitors will be traveling to Poland the first week of July to participate in the Final Awards Ceremony and World Showcase activities.

From there, it'll be July 8th when I post the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners... (this is like the TV show Survivor, the tiki holder flies away from the island from a bunch of dirty, stinky, unshaven folks, and in July we'll fly in all clean shaven, hair cut, clean clothes, make-up on (okay, no make-up for me), and the finalists will be named...)

As I closed the competition today with the finalists, there are NO losers today. These 6 are #1 in their respective countries, and even #1 on their contienent. They ARE their country representatives for the best of the best that have risen from THOUSANDS of college students from over 100 countries (okay, was curious and had a few minutes of free time and went through and did a data sort, and actually 86 countries):
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo (DRC), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam , Zimbabwe

Just to BE in the Top 6 in the world is something these students will be able to put on their resume for the rest of their lives! They have spent the past 24 solid hours (after a normal long week of school (and for most of them, work as well)) in a head to head competition!

I am VERY proud to have been able to participate once again as the Head Judge for this year's competition, and I thank my Co-Captin and Judges Chris Amaris and Valy Greavu for their continued support, and for our Judge Kim Amaris for her contribution this year! (we want to see more women compete next year!)

Watch the Final Wrap-up session here:

GREAT competition, looking forward to a week in Poland this summer to greet the competitors in person and participate in a wonderful week of festivities!



Thursday, 29-April, 9:37am California Time

Top 3 Finalists Announced!!!

From the 6 finalists who competed head to head last weekend, the Top 3 were announced. These 3 will fly to Poland this summer for a week of cultural activities, a chance to meet other Imagine Cup finalists, and at the end of the week to walk up on stage and learn whether they are #1, #2, or #3 in the world. I look forward to meeting these Top 3 competitors in Warsaw in July!

The Top 3 are as follows (in alphabetical order of the company they are representing):

Miklos Cari (Bolivia)
WeiQiu Wen (China)
Hu Zhengbin (Singapore)

CONGRATULATIONS to the Top 3, you have advanced a LONG way in the competiton!!!

However I would be remiss if I did not again recognize the other 3 finalists in the competition who endured a very long journey this year in a challenging competition that tested their knowledge and experience working with Microsoft technologies. So a huge congratulations to the other finalists who competed last weekend!

Sherif Talaat (Egypt)
Bastien Sivera (France)
Dominik Trojnar (Poland)

I will update this Blog post on or around July 9, 2010 announcing the sequence of the competitors once the awards ceremony presents the finalists with their awards!

And again, thank you to ALL of you who have followed my Imagine Cup 2010 Blog!!!



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