Four Drexel students defeated over 325,000 competitors to be selected Dec. 6 as finalists in the technology-themed Imagine Cup competition, an event sponsored and hosted by Microsoft.
The two Drexel teams, The Drexel Dragons and Team Beta Max, are competing within different categories. The Drexel Dragons is one of three teams competing in the “Game Design-Windows Phone” category, and Team Beta Max is one of five teams left in the “Software Design” section.
Both groups will be judged against other student teams from the U.S. within their separate categories during the finals portion of the competition, which will take place in Seattle April 20-23.The top four teams will receive a cash prize starting at $6,000. These winners will then advance to the Worldwide Finals that will be held in Sydney, Australia in July.
The theme of the 2012 Imagine Cup is “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” The eight Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations were provided to help the students get inspired.
“It’s a really interesting blend of business and technology,” Daniel Sullivan, a member of Team Beta Max, said. “In a world that we hear about car bombs and horrible things, just hearing about people that care enough to do something is great in itself.”
Sullivan, a sophomore computer science major, helped create a project that provides technology for monitoring and digitizing the health needs of patients for community health workers. Their project provides technology for monitoring community health and keeping track of patients that community health workers see every day The purpose of their software design is to monitor an area’s health over a period of time.
“Questions are uploaded to a worker’s phone, and then the worker goes to meet a patient and tags the time and GPS location, asks the questions and tags the time and location again,” Sullivan explained.
Sullivan said his biggest difficulty is “moving data between three devices, from the phone to the laptop to the web.”
The team is also comprised of Nick Doyle, a computer science major at Penn State University, and Nicole Micheletti, an art major at Temple University.
“I looked toward people I had known from high school,” Sullivan said regarding establishing a team.
This is Sullivan’s second year competing in the Imagine Cup. Last year he also made it to the final round in Seattle.
“I thought that I could do this project better than we did it last year and go further, possibly to Australia,” Sullivan said.
Matt Lesnak, Keith Ayer, and Taylor Mullen, all senior computer science majors, teamed up as “The Drexel Dragons” for their first foray into the competition, where they have entered a game called “Math Dash” that is designed to make learning math skills exciting for elementary students.
“The game itself is a way for kids to learn how to do math,” Mullen said. “They are playing with a phone, dragging numbers across the phone, and explosions are going off.”
The game encourages outside-of-the-box thinking as a teaching method for young children.
“We’re giving them blank plus blank equals nine and giving them a pool of numbers,” Lesnak said. “It is encouraging them to think in a different way.”
Taylor Kugot, a senior music production major at Queensborough Community College, has also been a contributor for the soundboard, but the team is still searching for a qualified graphic design artist.
Ayer and Lesnak started this project last spring in a class that continued on to an independent study during summer term with Frank Lee, co-director of the Drexel Game Design Program and an associate teaching professor in the Department of Computer Science with joint appointments in the Department of Media Art and Design and the Department of Psychology.
During week seven of the term, the students finally decided on their senior design project and entered their work in the Imagine Cup. The group asked Mullen, a fellow classmate, to join the team with Lee remaining the mentor.
“Professor Lee has really been a great help in getting us to where we are now,” Lesnak said.
His department was also instrumental in the reason behind the team’s name.
“We thought of a few different team names, but in the end, the computer science department was really behind us on this, and we wanted to represent the school,” Lesnak continued.
The Dragons were notified by email Dec. 6 that they were proceeding to the final round. The results were postponed almost four weeks due to the Thanksgiving holiday and other disruptions.
“It was a big relief. It was finally good to hear results,” Lesnak said.
Before heading to the final round, the Dragons are adding features to their game such as a tutorial level to make it easier to understand how to play the game. They are also considering different game modes. Currently the game only operates on the Windows Phone. In the coming months the team will expand the game to iPhone and Android devices as well as a Web. Microsoft provided the team with a few phones to give to people to test the game.
“When we have the web version it will make it a lot easier to branch out to schools,” Mullen explained.
The Dragons have already reached out to St. Francis de Sales School but are also in contact with other schools in the area to test their game. In addition to students in Philadelphia, they have let younger relatives, including Mullen’s 12-year-old sister Hannah Ainsworth, play the game.
For more information on the Drexel teams and the Microsoft Imagine Cup, visit http://www.imaginecup.us.