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The folks at Microsoft have spent time and energy attempting to get consumers to switch over from Google and to instead use their in house search engine, Bing. The company is now focusing their efforts on the education system as it launches "Bing for Schools". The new program is described as "a new initiative designed to improve digital literacy for students by putting technology in classrooms".

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Tomorrow may be the last day to snag the early bird upgrade price on Windows 8 Pro, but students have a bit of wiggle room going forward.

For whatever reason if you were planning on upgrading your PC to Windows 8 Pro, you should do it now and lock in that sweet $40 upgrade fee, because it goes up to $200 for Pro. However, students can wing it for $69.99 starting February 1st in the US with staggered roll outs depending on your location.

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Winners of Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2012

Registration has opened up for the 2013 Microsoft Imagine Cup for sudents aged 16 and above. The technology competition is in its 11th year, and to more inspire students and encourage a wider variety of aspiring innovators to participate, Microsoft has redesigned the Imagine Cup to cover the World Citizenship, Games and Innovation. If that wasn't enough, the prize money has been raised to $300,000 (US). 

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Winner of the Imagine Cup '12 - quadSquad with enable talk

The annual Imagine Cup organized by Microsoft to support student creativity in solving real world problems has just wrapped in Sidney, Australia. As usual, some of the top winners were related to Windows Phone development so we’re going to take a moment to give them their props.

Early glove prototype

First place (Software Design) – quadSqaud (Ukraine) - In what is probably one of the most unique and coolest uses of a Windows Phone so far, quadSquad have created a company called enable talk ( around their gesture interpretation technology.

In short, the problem for many people who use sign-language is the inability to readily communicate with those who don’t speak the same language (there are many sign-languages out in the world and they all have the full capacity of spoken language). 

quadSquad solve this problem by having users wear special sensory gloves that detect the signing. That data is then sent to the Windows Phone where the software takes over, converting the sign to spoken word—literally. enable talk uses Microsoft’s text-to-speech feature to “say” the whole word once it’s signed, giving signers a way to verbally communicate with those unfamiliar with the language.

Creating software is one thing but the team also made the glove system by hand (pun!) which is no small feat. Then they had to record all the gestures in a computer that can be stored for later recognition. The whole thing fits well within Microsoft’s Kinect strategy and of course helps address a real-world problem too. Awesome.

The Drexel Dragons won for Game Design (phone) with Math Dash

First place (Game Design—phone) – Drexel Dragons (US) - Ah, math. We hated it in school and we still kind of dislike it as adults but who can deny that it’s not critical? Drexel Dragons took on the challenge of making a game that can help students learn math. What better way to do that than make a game called Math Dash?

Math Dash is a Windows Phone game that allows users to complete problems by dragging the answers (in the form of sparkly ‘atoms’) into the equation field. With the correct answer, users get points for the game and yes, another new math problem. A simple progress bar keeps track of you right versus wrong answers, allowing you to jump to the next level or signaling that you lost. In addition, you can drag number atoms on to other orbs to create new numbers, should you not have the right one to choose. Finally there are also power-ups and hazards to keep it interesting and feeling like a game.

The concept behind Imagine Cup is great—it gives students a chance to shine and actually makes the world slightly better; kudos to Microsoft and all the student developers who come together every year for the competition. Each first-place winning team takes home $8, 000 for their effort.

Check the videos of both winners after the break...

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Microsoft is offering student developers who reside in the U.S. a chance to win a Windows Phone. There are some superb ways to get involved with development on the platform whilst studying at university, and the rewards with both experience and networking are invaluable. But what if you could throw a free smartphone into the equation? Makes Windows Phone development even more appealing, right?

So how does one be in with a chance of winning one? Simply publish two apps to the Windows Phone Marketplace and enter your details on the Facebook page for the offer. There are some guidelines that need to be looked at prior to steaming ahead:

  • You are a student in an accredited university/college in the United States
  • You have developed two Windows Phone applications that are (or will be) published between March 26th and May 31st, 2012.
  • The apps are targeting Windows Phone 7.5, and support Fast App Switching
  • The apps are of high-quality and are not created with one of the "do-it-fast" tools, like AppMakr or FollowMyFeed
  • You have not received a Windows Phone device in previous student promotions from Microsoft

Check out the Facebook page for more details and -of course- to submit your apps.

Source: Facebook (Microsoft Tech Student), via: Den Delimarsky; thanks Den for the tip!

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#lumiahack takes on Durban, South Africa


Over this past weekend Nokia hosted a hackathon in Durban, South Africa. Previously they have held similar events at other cities across the country, and are still having one up in Johannesburg soon. So there are many just like it, but this one was mine.

For those of you who don't know what a "hackathon" actually is, you might be surprised to hear that it's got nothing to do with hacking in the security sense. It's actually just a bunch of people hacking away at whatever the objective is, for a period of time. So, this particular Windows Phone hackathon was coders getting together and making phone apps from 4:30pm on Friday, straight through to the same time on Sunday - essentially 48 hours straight of coding joy.

The Durban event was held at the Moses Mabida Stadium - the stadium built for the Fifa 2010 soccer/ football (fight!) world cup. It wasn't on the actual field or anything- rain and computers just don't go- but rather in the room that the players do their glory walk onto the field from.

This hackathon differed from some of the international ones I have seen because this was exclusively for students (I had to use my slate as a cleaver just to get past security). Very few of them had prior knowledge of the platform, and many were actually rather new to programming. Over the weekend the guys from Microsoft did WP7 workshops to get them up to speed, and a bunch of us were there to provide support when people were stuck. The point in the whole thing was to get students excited about the platform, and to give them a jumpstart onto the WP7 bandwagon. They were each given a Microsoft DreamSpark account (which gives students all the MS software free, including a free AppHub account), and encouraged to publish at least one app onto the Windows Phone Marketplace by the end of the weekend. Nokia definitely succeeded in both of these, as many people told me how impressed they were with the platform after the weekend even though they had previously written it off, and most got at least one app submitted for certification on the Marketplace by Sunday.

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Should you be a UK student (above the age of 16) and are developing for the Windows Phone platform, you'll be in with a chance of winning one of a 100 Lumia 800s that are being given away to student developers. All that's required is for young developers to submit apps to the Marketplace and they'll automatically be in with a chance of winning one.

Not only are 100 Windows Phones being handed out, but should your app prove to be unique and of high quality you could find yourself spending the day at a Microsoft office to expand knowledge and experience with platform technicians and experts. Pretty neat, eh?

To enter:

  • Register on the competition website.
  • The Student Team will then monitor your app submissions in Marketplace.
  • 3 random prize draws (up to 30 x Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phones per draw).
  • 1 Top App Competition (up to 10 x Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phones and trip to Microsoft offices).

Be sure to enter the competition before submitting your apps and check the terms and conditions. Remember that every app you submit will increase your chances of winning.

Source: MSDN

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The Department of Computer Science and Telecommunications of TEI of Larissa has announced another Windows Phone Developer Challenge, which will encourage students to get creative and produce some interesting apps for the mobile platform. Participants who submit three apps, that pass set requirements, and have them approved / published on the Windows Phone Marketplace will be rewarded with a free handset.

The department recently held a developer contest that put students up against one another to win one of two Lumia 800s available as prizes. The announced developer challenge will begin on April 1st, and all apps submitted by students to the Marketplace afterwards will be deemed eligible for the prize. 

Source: TEI of Larissa; thanks sofoklis for the tip!

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Students at the Department of Computer Science and Telecommunications of Larissa Institute of Technology (TEI) in Greece were invited to participate in a Windows Phone app development contest earlier this year. Sponsored by both Microsoft and Nokia, the event saw students compete against one another for the grand prize, which were two Nokia Lumia 800s.

The winners of the contest were as follows:

  • Escape From Heaven ($0.99/79p) is an interesting indie game that puts the player in control of a hedgehog that is attempting to escape from heaven.
  • Ο.Σ.Ε (free - Greek) aids those who desire to use the public transport networks in Greece with live maps of train stations, details and more.

The remaining apps are the work of the runner-ups, who all received a free Windows Phone (HTC or LG) each (note that some of these apps are in Greek).

For more information on the event, apps and winners, head on over to the website (link below). It's worth checking out for the design of the contest website, which makes use of Metro elements. With all the trouble that Greece is in with regards to economics and unemployment levels, it's fantastic to see young aspiring developers produce such fine works.

Source: TEI of Larissa, thanks Sofokis for the tip!

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Big App on Campus campaign

Introducing the Big app on Campus campaign where Microsoft and the Windows Phone team is out to reward student developers for all the time and effort poured into the platform. They are partnering with the band The Gracious Few to create an awesome experience for ten lucky students at SXSW. The lucky chosen few will attend a private concert, receive backstage passes, go to a private dinner with the band, and be interviewed on national radio about their apps.

If that wasn't enough, two $15,000 cash awards are to be given to the developers for the two apps that will be named "Big App on Campus" (one award going to the top free app and the other for the top paid app). The campaign is open to U.S. college and university students who build apps for Windows Phone. Each app created from August 1st 2011 until February 14th 2012 can be entered and students can submit multiple entries. Submissions are due by February 14th and the campaign ends on March 13th.

How will the submitted apps be judged?

  • Innovation (40%): How innovative is the app? Does it do something new or does it accomplish something in a new way?
  • Experience (40%): Does it feel seamless and like a native experience on Windows Phone? Does the app have a polished feel?
  • Potential (20%): Does the app have potential in the market (lots of users, making money, both) or not?

Public voting will include the combination of number of app downloads and Facebook "likes" accumulated. To enter, you'll need a submitted and approved app on the Marketplace and complete the entry form. Be sure to check out the official rules

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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The Windows Phone team is choosing a winner per-week, through December 25th, for the best app idea that's designed through Sketchflow and published online. To be in with a chance to win the prize one week, you need to be a student and have an idea for an innovative and unique app. Follow the following steps to enter your name (and app) into the hat:

  • Sign up for DreamSpark, get Expression Studio (free of charge for students from the DreamSpark site) and the Sketchflow Template for Windows Phone
  • Create a Sketchflow prototype of your app idea and post the prototype online
  • Tweet out the link to your prototype using the hashtag "#wpappitup". For example, "Check out my idea, UltimateApp, at #wpappitup"

Two winners have been announced already; Johnny Simmons with GPSTreasueHunt and Carlos Barreto with LevelThroughCamera. Be sure to check out the rules for the competition and note that this is not available for those who reside in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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