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MIS Laboratory Imagine Cup Web Page

This section of MIS Laboratory is a resource for student and mentor Imagine Cup participants

US Imagine Cup Competition Resources

Books on Giving Great Presentations

Questions the Judges Asked at the US Finals During Q&A

Mentor's Guide to the Imagine Cup

A Student's PR Guide to the Imagine Cup

US Imagine Cup Website

Imagine Cup Competitor's Overview

How to Create a Great Tech Project

Imagine Cup World Wide Finals Resources Index

The United States 2012 Imagine Cup Team

US Competitors and Mentors travelling to the 2012 Imagine Cup World Finals in Sydney, Australia

Software Design - Team FlashFood (Arizona State University - Tempe)
     -Steven Hernandez
     -Jake Irvin
     -Katelyn Kerberle
     -Eric Lehnhard
     -Richard Filley (Mentor)

Mobile Game Design - Team Drexel Dragon (Drexel University)
    -Keith Ayers
    -Matthew Lesnak
    -Taylor Mullen
    -Frank Lee (Mentor)

Software Design People's Choice - The Miracle Workers (Winona State University)
Chase Lundstrom
   - Parbati Sanjel
   - Tauseef Hemayet

Kinect Fun Labs Challenge - Whiteboard Pirates (Clemson University)
Patrick Dukes
   - Austen Hayes

Microsoft USA Chaperones

Jessica Anderson - Marketing Manager, Student Platform
Nora Kelly - Group Audience Marketing Manager, DPE US
Randy Guthrie - Senior Academic Developer Evangelist, US West Region
Lindsay Lindstrom - Senior Academic Developer Evangelist, US East Region
Erin (Ed) Donahue - Developer Evangelist, US East Region

Event and Hotel Address & Contact Info

Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9282 5000 Fax : +61 2 9282 5021

Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, Darling Harbour
161 Sussex Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Phone +61 2 9290 4000

Event Agenda and Schedule at a Glance

    Day 0  Wednesday & Thursday, 4-5 July  Travel to Australia   
    Day 1  Friday, 6 July   Arrivals/Opening Ceremony  6pm
    Day 2  Saturday, 7July  Competitions  8am
    Day 3  Sunday, 8 July  Competitions/Finalist Presentations
    Day 4  Monday, 9 July  Finalist Presentations
    Day 5  Tuesday, 10 July  Showcase/Awards Ceremony/Student Post-Event Party
    Day 6  Wednesday, 11 July  Student Departures

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6


6 July


7 July


8 July


9 July


10 July


11 July






All WWF competitors must arrive in Sydney no later than 2:00pm


Early Evening

Opening Ceremony






Competitors Briefings





Press Walk Through of Competitor Showcase



Software Design 2nd Round












Game Design Finalist Announcement


Afternoon/ Evening

Game Design Finalist Presentations



Software Design Finalist







Software Design Finalist Presentations



 Cultural Activity



Women Innovators Dinner




Learning Sessions



World Festival

Awards Ceremony



Closing Party






How to Get an Expedited Passport

Many of the Imagine Cup 1st and 2nd round competitions end within a month or two of the World Finals.  For those students who get invited to travel abroad for the world finals, a current passport is required before we can book your international travel.  If you don't have a passport, it is extremely important that you apply immediately upon hearing that you will be traveling abroad to attend the Imagine Cup World Finals.  Normal processing times for US passports are 4-6 weeks.  Expedited processes times are 2-3 weeks, but you can get a passport sooner in urgent situations. Passport application fees (including expedite fees) are not covered by Microsoft.  In 2012 the cost of a normal passport application is $110 plus $25 execution fee = $135.  The expedited processing fee is an additional $60, plus overnight delivery fees of $12.72.  To save time, you should apply for an expedited passport application in person (not by mail) at a passport processing center. You will need evidence of citizenship and a filled-out application form. For complete information see the US State Department's passport webpage: http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html .   Also see the page on getting your passport in a hurry: http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/hurry/hurry_831.html . Please note that there is no alternate award or prize for students who elect to not travel, or are not otherwise able to attend the Imagine Cup World Finals because they were unable to get their passport, visas, and airfare booked in time to attend.

Foreign Visas

Visas are issued by the country you are visiting, not the US government.  The United States enjoys good relationships with many Western countries, and in many parts of the British Empire and part of Europe no visa is required for US citizens travelling on US passports.  Most countries in the world do require some kind of visa, and processing times vary depending on the country, but can be up to 6 - 8 weeks. You will need to have your passport before applying for a visa, so the importance of securing a passport immediately once you know you are travling abroad for the Imagine Cup can't be overstated.  The US Department of State website has complete information for getting foreign visas for US citizens. The US Department of State web page for visa information is: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html . Microsoft has an agency that will help process visa applications, and Microsoft will typically pay the cost of your visa application.

If you are not a US citizen, but are attending school in the United States and representing the US at the Imagine Cup World Finals, your visa requirements may be different than those of your US colleagues.  Visa processing times may be much longer depending on the relationship between the country of your nationality and the country you are trying to visit. In some rare but unfortunate cases, some student Imagine Cup finalists have not been able to get a visa to travel to the Imagine Cup World Finals destination in a timely manner and were unable to participate.  If you have been advanced to the 2nd round in the Imagine Cup competition, it is a good idea to find out what the visa requirements are and be prepared to apply early if necessary to avoid the possibility of having insufficient time to apply for your visa.

Passport and Visa Information
US Department of State Passport Web Page

Australia Visa:

http://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ Students should get a Visitor ETA.  Microsoft employees should get a Short Validity Business ETA.  There is a  $20AU processing fee.  Approvals are usually immediate but you will need your passport to get one.  The "visa" is electronic and tied to your passport in Austalian Immigrations database.

Travel Arrangements
            Students and Mentors
            Friends, Family & PR

Travel, Health, Medications and Vaccinations
    US State Department Infor and Advisories for Australia
    Travel and Health Insurance Coverage

Keeping in Touch in Australia
        Using a cell phone in Sydney
        Keeping in touch with US-based family & friends

Internet, Power & AV Equipment in Australia
        Electric Voltage and Power Conversion
        Equipment in the Showcase
        Equipment in the Competition Judging Rooms

Weather and Clothing Considerations
        Competition/Judging Clothing
        Showcase Clothing
        Cultural Event Clothing
        Closing Ceremony Clothing
        Post Award Ceremony Party Clothing

        How to pack

Competition Format, Rules & Venues


Personal Finances and Shopping in Australia

Language and Communications in Australia


Imagine Cup World Wide Finals Resources Details

Travel and Health Insurance
Many insurance plans have some form of coverage for subscribers who are travelling to international destinations.  Please call your insurance company and know what is covered and what you need to do in the event of an injury or illness. In the event you feel your regular coverage is inadequate, you may want to purchase travel / medical insurance.  For US students travelling to Australia insurance packages can typically run from $75 - $200 depending on the carrier, cost of tickets, and type of coverage. One "platinum" plan I've looked at covers $50K medical, hotel if flight gets delayed, lost baggage up to $2,500, emergency dental, etc.  Some plans required a two-week waiting period so if you think you'd like some addtional peace of mind, don't delay.  Microsoft does not recommend any insurance carrier, but an Internet seach will turn up lots of different companies that are associated with names/brands that you recognize.

Keeping in Touch in Australia

Using a cell phone in Sydney

At the Imagine Cup World Wide finals, it is extremely important to be able to communicate at a moment's notice between student participants, the US ADE team and the World Wide Imagine Cup event organizers.  There are LOTS of moving parts in the event, and making sure everyone is where they need to be, at the time they need to be there, dressed appropriately, with the proper gear, equipment, etc. is a major undertaking.  This can be complicated by last minute changes to schedules due to an infinite number of possible reasons.  It is highly recommended that each team have a GSM 900/1800 mobile phone that will work in Australia.  Many US mobile phone providers have "international" calling plans, but the cost ranges between $1.75 and $3.00 per minute.  A much less expensive alternative is to purchase a pre-paid SIM card from a local provider. The pre-paid card will give you a local Sydney phone number and some increment of 100 minutes of calling time. The phones should be kept charged and left on when you (students and mentors) are in the hotel room. We have had a case in the past where a team missed their call to the stage to be advanced to the next round because they got confused at the time and we couldn't find them.

Most phones that use SIM cards purchased from a US cell phone providers such as Sprint, ATT, T-Mobile are "locked" so that they will only work with that company's SIM cards.  There are special codes that the company has that can unlock a phone so it will accept a SIM card from any provider.  If you want to get your phone unlocked, the easiest way is to call your service provider and asked to get the phone unlocked.  I did this successfully with ATT and my Samsung Focus WindowsPhone.  When I arrived in Cairo, Egypt for the 2009 Imagine Cup finals and Warsaw, Poland for the 2010, I went to a local Vodafone store and bought a pre-paid 100 minute SIM card for $18 that gave me a local phone number. It took about 10 minutes at the store and I was all set up.  When I got home I put my ATT SIM card back in and it worked fine.  I expect you can do the same in Sydney. If your service provider won't unlock your phone for you, you can have it done for a fee from a variety of places including http://www.unlockingcodesforphones.com. From what I've found, "disposable" phones are not an option in Australia.


Keeping in touch with US-based family & friends

Australia is 3-6 hours behind us by time calculation of the US (depending on where you call home). But since they are over the International Date Line, they are actually 15-18 hours ahead of us according to the calendar. That is why you will leave on a Wednesday and arrive on a Friday. So when friends and family back in the US call you in the morning their time, they are going to wake you up. Here is a little conversation table:































The bottom line: mornings in Sydney are the best time to reach family and friends in the US, and you'll most likely be busy during those times, so plan accordingly!

Within the Imagine Cup venue there will be reliable high-speed wireless Internet.  Guest rooms will also have free wired internet access, but in-room wireless costs $$$.  Be careful that you don't "accidently" sign up for in-room wireless charged to your room because Microsoft will not reimburse you for Internet charges.  Since students will be sharing a room, you might want to bring a small switch/router and a few cables to facilitate connection sharing in the room. The best / least expensive way to stay in touch with US-based family and friends is via Skype.  You can also call non-Skype users for about $.02 (two cents) per minute anywhere in the world, plus send SMS text messages and video calls.  For small extra fees you can get a phone number that people can call you on, a voice mail box, and even call forwarding to your cell phone. Considering that a ten-minute long distance call from the hotel or your cell phone will cost between $20 - $50 , You could talk for hours on Skype for less than that. One way I keep in touch with family and fans at home is that I have a US Skype-in phone number that I forward to the local phone number that comes with the prepaid SIM card on my mobile phone. That way someone at home can call a local US phone number and my mobile phone in Australia rings and I only pay the cheap local phone minutes instead of International calling rates on my cell.

To use Skype you will need speakers, ear buds or headphones and a microphone connected to your computer. Most newer notebook computers have integrated microphone, speakers and camera that works great. Some frequent Skype users purchase inexpensive "headsets" such as the Microsoft Lifechat LX-3000, which is a very high quality digital headset with boom microphone that retails on Amazon.com for about $21 plus shipping. Not only is this headset great for voice conversation, you'll be amazed at how good music and video sounds. 

Internet, Power & AV Equipment in Australia

Electric Voltage and Power Conversion

Australia uses 240 volt and 50 Hz (cycles per second).  The United States uses 110 volts at 60 HZ.  Fortunately most electronic equipment, particularly computer equipment is dual voltage.  If you look at the power brick on your notebook power supply, if it says something like " INPUT: 100-240V ~   50/60HZ then you have a dual voltage power supply and you won't need a voltage converter for that device.  My cell phone charger is also dual voltage, but you have to check yours to make sure.  What isn't dual voltage is the plug at the end of the cord.  Australia uses a v-shaped blades (Type-I AS 3112) plus ground type system rather than the two parallel blade-type plug that we use in the US.  My suggestion is for each member of your team to go to Radio Shack or Amazon.com and buy a single plug converter and bring a US power strip and voila! you can now plug five US appliances into your single Australia/China plug.  The price of one of these should be between $8 - $10.  If someone is trying to sell you something that costs $50 or more, run away! They are trying to sell you a voltage converter that you don't need.

Australia power plug adapter

Caution!  Some common travel items that may not be dual voltage include blow dryers, curling irons, electric tooth brushes, etc.  Don't assume with these items; check the tag or labels!  Don't bring them if they won't run on 240v 50hz unless you (1) want to ruin the device and (2) want a really spectacular electrical fire in your room complete with sprinklers, foreign firefighters and hotel staff screaming at you.

Equipment in the Showcase

In order to guard the fairness and integrity of the competitions at the Worldwide Finals in Sydney, Microsoft will offer the same set of benefits, services, and rules for each team within each competition and in the Showcase. More specifically: One physical work station area will be provided for each Software Design, Game Design, Embedded Development and Digital Media team in the Showcase to set up their equipment (dimensions of this space are approximately 150x50cm). One VGA monitor per team will be provided in the showcase. Note that Digital Media will also have a separate assigned room with additional workspace outside of the Showcase.  XBox/PC Game teams should bring their own sound amplifiers and speakers with appropriate Xbox and/or PC adapters.  Make sure the speaker power adapter is dual voltage!

Power adaptors will be provided based on previous requests made in the competitor surveys. Note that power in Australa is 240V/50Hz and uses a “Type-I AS 3112 ” connector. It is highly suggested that each team bring several of their own adapters and power strips as explained in the "Electric Voltage and Power Conversion" section above.

Audio, Video and Network configuration services will be provided to help each team configure their presentation equipment both for the Showcase and in the Judging Rooms.

Game Design Showcase booth example from Imagine Cup 2009 World Wide Finals  Embedded Design Showcase booth at Imagine Cup 2009 World Finals

Equipment in the Competition Presentation Judging Rooms

Each team in Software Design will be responsible for providing its own computer(s) for the competition, but one back-up desktop machine can be provided if the team can prove that their own machine has failed and they need a temporary replacement.

Each team in Embedded Development, Game Design and Digital Media will have some computers and necessary auxiliary equipment provided (e.g.: for Digital Media this will include (1) Flip video camera with a desktop computer to act as a video editing workstation).

Judging Rooms for Software Design, Embedded Development and Game Design presentations will be equipped with:

(1) 180cm x 70cm table
(2) 42” flat screen monitors, each with a 4-input KVM switch for accommodating multiple sources
(3) Network connections as necessary (wired and wireless)

Note: these judging rooms are typically smaller suites at the convention center.  Teams will have about 20 minutes to set up before their presentation, and will not have access to these rooms in any way prior to their competition time slot.  Be prepared!  Have a back up plan and back up equipment and lots of different cables and adapters.

A Survey will be sent to Finalist teams shortly after 1 June in order to assess the equipment the teams will be bringing to the finals. Requests for power adapters will be part of this survey. The basic rule of thumb for bringing competition equipment into and out of Australia is that students should consider the equipment as “personally owned” and that it will not be given or sold while in Australia – the items that you bring into the country will also be with you when you leave the country. Therefore there is no need for you to declare customs on this and you can proceed through the "nothing to declare" line. For any equipment or valuables above that of a laptop, we recommend that they carry original receipts if available, but not necessary.

Any equipment outside of these baseline provisions will be up to the competitors to procure, deliver to Sydney, etc. We do have some contacts that could help them with that process but the responsibility is completely up to the teams.

Software Design Judging Room from Imagine Cup 2009


Weather and Clothing Considerations

Since Australia is south of the equator, it will be the middle of winter. Sydney has approximately the same latitude as San Diego, Californa The daytime weather in Sydney during the time the Imagine Cup competition will be held averages in the mid 50s to low 60s.  Rain showers are possibility as the seasonal average is for two inches of rain to fall during the month, but on average there are 20 sunny days in July. During the event we will be inside almost the entire time except for the cultural activities in and around the city on Monday July 9th. You may also find yourself walking between the hotel and the convention center, or walking about downtown during your free time so bring something to keep off the rain. The dress code at the Imagine Cup tends towards the casual.  For the Microsoft Corp team running the event, denim jeans and polo shirts or event tee-shirts with comfortable shoes will predominate.  The US team will be given several event tee-shirts that will be appropriate for use anytime / place during the Imagine Cup finals.  From team to team and country to country, dress will be all over the place, from extremely casual to very formal.  Teams are to dress according to their country's standards and do not have to worry about adhering to Australian or foreign expectations.

Presentation Clothing

All students on a team should have a similar appearance.  You do not need to match exactly, but extreme deviations between team members should be avoided.  Teams may wear the Imagine Cup shirts that will be provided by your US Microsoft sponsors, matching school shirts with tan slacks, or more formal dark slacks/skirts with collared shirts & ties, jackets, or any other conservative clothing the team deems appropriate.  Comfort and avoiding an appearance that distracts the judge's attention away from your technology presentation are the priority. Some teams have worm their team tee-shirts for Round One, school logo shirts for Round Two, and business suits for Round Three.

Showcase Clothing

The Showcase is an exhibit hall type venue similar to a Science Fair with each team having a booth.  Dignitaries, media and event guests will wander the Showcase to view the different projects.  Members of the Microsoft PR team and other media outlets such as television and Internet news outlets may have cameras and sound equipment and want to talk to you (students) about their projects. That being said, student clothing should be clean, neat (not wrinkled!) and similar, but can be comfortably casual.

Cultural Event Clothing

On Tuesday, July 6th there will be a variety of off-venue cultural tours for attendees visiting places of historical or cultural interest.  These tours will consist of bus rides and lots of walking. There is also the potential for a harbour, river or lake-type excursion.  Attendees should dress comfortably, but with particular attention to comfortable shoes.  A hat to keep the sun off is a good idea, as is a windbreaker in case of rain.  A small backpack to keep personal items together and to carry water is a great idea. A small collapsible umbrella is also a good idea.

Closing Ceremony Clothing

The Closing/Awards ceremony is the highlight of the Imagine Cup, and lasts between two and three hours (think Academy Awards night).  There will be several speeches, some kind of cultural show, and a video summary of the event.  Winners will be invited on stage to receive trophies and giant prize money "checks", and have pictures taken.  That being said, students will either wear their country's team shirts or something a bit dressier.  Unlike the closing ceremony in Cairo that was held outdoors in the desert, Imagine Cup 2012 closing ceremony will be in a formal theatre-type venue, which suggests a slightly more formal appearance might be in order for finalists. Most of the US finalist teams last year wore business formal attire (suits and jackets).  Students that know they are not winning awards (because you didn't advance) can dress casually, but since there will be lots of press, and probably a showcase, you should wear your team shirts at least.

Imagine Cup US Finalists in Egypt  US Imagine Cup finalists at Closing Ceremony


Post Award Ceremony Party

After the awards ceremony there will be party back at the hotel that will last until about 1am.  This is very casual and there is some food, drink and music.  Last year there was a DJ playing electronic/club music and the US team got the party started with some dancing that eventually got everyone out there having a good time.  Wear whatever you like!

The US team gets the party started at the Imagine Cup closing party in July 2009  http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/video/video.php?v=563705752124


How to Pack

Only pack items into your checked-bag that are non-essential to your competition.  Baggage does get lost, and at least one team each year is unable to compete because their project hardware was lost by the airline. Clothing, toiletries and other generic/easily-replaceable items are the rule. Computers, project hardware and essential software (and backups) should be carried on board the plane with you.

Checked Baggage: Unless you are a frequent flier, for International Travel you will be restricted to one piece of checked luggage that cannot exceed fifty pounds in weight. This is easy to exceed if you over-plan for contingencies.  Overweight or excess baggage charges are very high $100 - $200 (United Airlines example used).  Even within the 50lb weight restriction, fitting all your stuff into your bag can also be a challenge.  Here are some tips:

Carry-on Luggage: Put at least one change of clothes and two changes of underwear in your carry-on bag.  Also a small zip-lock bag with your essential toiletries (keep sizes under the 3oz limit).  If you miss a connection and get delayed for any extended period of time, or the airline loses your luggage, you'll be glad you've got something to change into. A comfortable hoodie sweatshirt would be nice too. I would put any essential project hardware (like Xbox controllers, your ebox, and your 240v power adapter and power strip in there as well. Then fill it with some of the loose stuff from your other suitcase to reduce its weight if necessary.

Carry-on Backpack: Here is my list:

Personal Finances and Shopping in Australia

We do not recommend that you carry a lot of cash with you during your Imagine Cup stay.  US currency will only be accepted at airports in the US. Once you are in Australia you will need to use local currency. The good news is that your credit cards and ATM cards will be acceptable and the foreign exchange rate is calculated for you. A couple of guidelines to make sure you don't run into financial trouble:

Other Safety Considerations

Dangerous Animals
Australia boasts the most potentially-dangerous animals in the world. In our downtown setting, you won't have to worry (much), but you should be aware that there are jelly-fish with lethal stings in the ocean, and crododiles in almost every fresh-water stream, river, swamp, and estuary. Never stand directly on the bank of a stream, river, pond or swamp, or lean over the railing of a boat on fresh water. If planning a dip in the ocean, then check with local authorities about safety. In many parts of Australia, swim beaches are protected by nets to keep out the jellyfish.

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