The Five Best Projects from the Imagine Cup Competition

More than 100 student teams are competing to solve a host of environmental, health, accessibility, and education issues. Here are their best ideas.

How do we connect people who could save time and money by carpooling together? Can we diagnose malaria with a smartphone? Those problems—and a host of other environmental, health, accessibility, and education issues—are being tackled by 124 international teams of socially conscious, entrepreneurially-oriented high school and college students as part of Microsoft's upcoming annual Imagine Cup.

The finalist teams, competing in New York in July, beat out 350,000 entrants from 183 countries. Looking through the brief descriptions of their projects over at the Imagine Cup blog, it's hard to believe that students as young as 16 are using technology in such innovative, creative ways. Here are five Imagine Cup finalists that immediately stand out as inspiring examples of how technology can solve the world's toughest problems.

1) Care Everyone, City Institute, Dalian University of Technology, China: Those of us without physical disabilities often take for granted just how easily we can access information. Care Everyone uses software "to provide a convenient and efficient method for physically disabled people to get access to information without barriers." How does it work? The software combines image and speech recognition to help disabled people "use computers to surf on-line, communicate with others and play games."

2) CarPooling Mate Finder, Universidad de Costa Rica, Campus Tacares, Costa Rica: You know those moments when you're wishing you had someone to carpool with but don't know anyone with a schedule that synchs with yours? This Costa Rican team designed software for Windows Phone 7 that will "help people find groups for carpooling based on the routes people take everyday."

3) The Hex Pistols, University of Wollongong in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Their team name alone gives them cool points, but the mobile app they've designed, MomEcare, truly addresses the problem of access to prenatal care. The app helps healthcare professionals provide "quality medical assistance to pregnant women" who are unable to get to a hospital "by guiding them through the steps of performing a checkup themselves."

4) NewKrean, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand: What if, in the aftermath of a disaster, rescue workers could quickly pinpoint the location of survivors? This team's software lets survivors "broadcast their location through social networks such as Facebook with one click in the event of a disaster, to alert rescue workers, friends and family to their exact location."

5) Lifelens, University of California Los Angeles Anderson School of Business, University of California Davis, Harvard Business School, University of Central Florida, United States: Lifelens, a collaboration between students from four schools, tackles child mortality due to the "lack of detection and availability of treatment of malarial diseases" all through a smartphone app. All a user has to do is snap a photo of a blood sample, and it can tell if someone has malaria. Easy, right?

Although the winners will walk away with prizes and recognition, all entrants own the intellectual property rights on their ideas, which means they can sell the idea, or raise capital to start their own company and bring a project to life.

photo cc (cc) via Flickr user ImagineCup

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet