2 Australian med students win Microsoft technology contest
A couple of medical students from Australia were “excited and still kind of shocked” to emerge the winners from a field of 14,000 teams in Microsoft’s annual global technology competition.
Seattle Times technology reporter
After months of competition and a field of 14,000, one student team emerged victorious Friday in the championship round of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.
The company global student-technology competition, now in its 12th year, has teams of college and high-school students from around the world competing to create technological solutions that address everything from health issues to gaming to innovation.
Eyenaemia, a team from Australia, took home the top prize. The prize includes the Imagine Cup trophy, a $50,000 prize and a mentoring session with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Team Eyenaemia — Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang, 22-year-old medical students at Monash University in Melbourne — won for a phone app that helps people identify their risk for anemia. The user takes a selfie of his or her eye, and the app analyzes the conjunctiva to make a risk assessment. The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white surface of the eye.
“I’m very, very excited and still kind of shocked,” Tang said immediately after her team’s win was announced Friday at the Washington State Convention Center.
Tang said she and her teammate would use the prize money to expand the research that feeds into the Eyenaemia app. The team has research under way in two hospitals in Melbourne.
She hasn’t had time yet, she said, to think about what she’d like to ask Gates when she and Seah meet with him.
This was the first year the Imagine Cup finals — and the Imagine Cup World Championship ceremony — have been held on Microsoft’s home turf.
From the original field of 14,000 teams, 34 teams representing 34 countries entered the finals, held earlier this week. Sixteen judges narrowed those 34 teams down to nine for the championship round.
From those nine, a winner was chosen in each of three categories: world citizenship, innovation and games. Eyenaemia took first in the world-citizenship category. Estimeet, a New Zealand team that created an app that shows how far away a user’s friends are from a designated meeting location, won in the innovation category. Brainy Studio, a team from Russia, won the games category for “TurnOn,” a game about a small electrical spark trying to light up a city.
Each category winners competed for the championship title.
They faced three judges in a lightning round to determine the final winner: Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO; Hadi Partovi, co-founder of Code.org; and Erik Martin, general manager of Reddit. The contestants had 90 seconds to answer the judges’ questions.
In the end, the judges were unanimous in their decision to award Eyenaemia the top prize, citing its elegant and simple solution to a widespread health issue, and the fact that the team members already had a plan for how to distribute their app.