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OAU students head to Poland for 2010 Microsoft Imagine Cup

Team Indwell of the Obafemi Awolowo University has emerged national winner of this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup competition which held last week  at the Unilag CITS complex, Lagos.

Ken Spann, DPE Lead, Microsoft Anglophone West Africa, second right with Omole Akinbiyi, first left, Oshinaga Adeboye, and Olaniran Abiola right, winners of Microsoft Imagine Cup 2010 who will represent Nigeria in Poland July this year for the final competition.. Picture by Emeka Aginam

This is the team’s second attempt at representing Nigeria at the World Finals, and they beat 5 other teams at the keenly contested event to come out tops.

Team Indwell’s winning title was ‘Brain Media’.  According to the team, the software creates access to quality education throughout the world. This is done by coming up with a platform that builds relationships which combines people (teachers, children, students and other professionals) in the developed nations with those in the under-developed and developing nations. Through this, quality resources are made available for every-body irrespective of their geographical location, political climate and gender inequality.
Team Green won the Most Innovative prize with their ‘Poverty Alleviation Portal’, a food management scheme aimed at ensuring food security in the country.

Team Wings came 2nd with the ‘Viridis’ software which is targeted at helping in environmental protection, maintenance of vegetation cover  as well as monitoring of carbon emission in the environment.

The competition invited students in tertiary institutions in the country to apply their imagination, their passion, and their creativity to develop technologies that can make a difference in the world.  This year’s theme aligns with the Millenium Development Goals which include ending poverty, achieving universal education and gender equality.

It also focuses on ensuring maternal and child health, combating HIV/AIDS, achieving environmental sustainability and growing global partnerships.

Unlike last year which had ‘health’ as common theme, this year showed a variety of ideas which cut across education, environmental sustainability, health and poverty alleviation.

Participants were each given 25mins to present their concept and demo, this was followed by a rigorous selection process that led to the announcement of the winners.

Speaking at the event, Ken Spann, Development Platform Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, said, “This is the 3rd year Nigeria has sent a team to the Imagine Cup finals. This year saw an increase in the number of schools and students participating in the annual Microsoft sponsored software competition. It is the “World Cup” of student software competition. All of Nigeria is wishing for Team Indwel’s success at the finals in Poland.

A visibly excited Akinbiyi Omole, a member of Team Indwell said, “Concept for our project developed out of joint passion by all three of us to change the face of African education using technology, and we started intensive research on the project about 2 years ago. Imagine Cup competition is timely by helping showcase our talents.

He opined, many more talents abound in the country and they can be nurtured to become the best on the continent only if more companies can come up with innovative programmes like Imagine Cup.”

While commending the winners, Ken Spann expressed hope that if the team put in the same level of seriousness as they did at the Nationals, they will set a new record as the first black country to win the cup.

He encouraged other participants to put in more effort to ensure success at next year’s event.
About Team Indwell:
Team Indwell is made up of 400 level students of the Faculty of Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University including Abiola Olaniran, Adeboye Oshinaga and Akinbiyi Omole.

The team mentor is Dr. Afolabi, a senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering.
The project concept came from joint passion by team members to change the face of African education using technology

Project concept:
This is an extensible system that allows the development of computer educational applications. The system includes a desktop application, a web application, short message services applications and a central XML Application Programming Interface (API).

The desktop application
One of the components of the system is a desktop application that assists teachers while preparing lecture notes. These lecture notes will be extracted by the system to a central xml API.

The desktop application made possible a totally new concept of chart-room for both teachers and students after school hour, for instance, a student after school can setup a visual-group where he /she invites her best teacher in school and all her favorite classmates to involve in visual forum.

Here, the students become very free to ask any question they can’t ask in the regular class. Also, a teacher could create a network of teachers from different schools around the world and get them involve in a discussion or ask questions on any skill he / she needs to develop.

Through this desktop application, a student or teacher can search for different lecture notes and/or videos of classes taken around the world about the topic of his / her desire. Also, you can search for any topic you are interested on because, apart from the central xml that was created, this application consumes other xml web services.

Also, this system track the number of times a teacher was invited to a learning network (that is, the many-participant chat-room), and display the name and profile of the teachers with the highest invitation on the web page where student search for classes. Obviously, this will serve as a great motivation for the teachers. One of the main essences of this desktop application is to be able to get a very rich xml API for educational resources.

In the new concept of many-participant chart-room system, the central xml store keeps the academic questions which the teachers ask students and in turn, all these resources can be used by other programmers who want to develop any educational application.

The Web Application
This System also includes a carefully designed web application which can be accessed with the common mobile phones. The Web application has some great features like an Artificial intelligence (for guiding and counseling students), a search engine through which students can search for lectures and classes (about the topics they specify) in other schools around the world and also they get series of quizzes in which students are graded upon, so weekly, or daily, the profile of the best students are shown on the web page. With an application like this, irrespective of the political climate or gender inequality in a country, young people can have access to quality education.

The Extensibility of the System
The systems include an Application programming interface (API), through which other software developers can create some other educational applications like SMS questions and answers application: something like the MTN-Google search but with more focus on education.

Educational games: in order to demonstrate this, I created a simple quiz game like the popular ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire desktop game’ with questions in academic fields depending on the class of the player.
And other mash-up applications for education.

About Imagine Cup:
Imagine Cup is the world’s premier technology competition designed solely for students.  Now in its eight year, the Imagine Cup has grown to be a global event, one that encourages young people to apply their imagination, their passion, and their creativity to develop technologies that can make a difference in the world.
More than 145 students registered for this year’s edition of the competition.

Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions which help people and businesses realize their full potential.  It has presences in East, West and Central Africa.


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