Students Use Technology to Change the World

At the 9th annual Imagine Cup competition, Microsoft called on students from around the nation to “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” This year, 74,000 participants from high school students to graduate students responded to the challenge. Contestants had to use technology to address one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, including reducing poverty and hunger, improving access to education, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Winning projects included making portable devices to help visually impaired students take notes, a digital strategy game that challenges kids to improve the environment through clean energy, and a game to get rid of deforestation. Blogger Suzie Boss attended the showcase and had the opportunity to speak to several teams and mine their insights. Boss shares what she learned and how teachers can use technology for problem solving, teamwork and idea-generation in her blog article, “Students Design Games and Software Tools to Tackle Real-World Problems.”

1. Do something real. This year’s winning team developed the program NoteTaker inspired by a visually impaired student at Arizona State University. The visually-impaired student could understand concepts but was having trouble seeing the board to take notes. He went to the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing where a team formed to come up with a solution. Starting with materials they had at the ready, like a camcorder and tablet computer, they came up with a prototype that eventually fell into the hands of an industrial design student and went on to win the competition.

2. Be passionate. “You have to have passion for what you’re doing,” says a student whose team has developed a mobile app to help community health workers improve patient care in the developing world. “It’s not the idea that’s hard — it’s the execution,” he adds. Students who want to tackle huge world problems need to be driven both externally and internally.

3. Think globally. Wilson To was a member of the team that won the Imagine Cup last year and who eventually went to Poland for the worldwide competition. He was moved to address a global issue this year after getting a first hand look at what issues other students around the world were facing. This year, To presented a cell phone that has the ability to diagnose malaria in the field.

4. Focus on the positive. Two students came up with an idea to defend the world against a global pandemic. But they decided to put a spin on the winning strategy. “We thought, what if the goal was to save people instead of killing them?” said one of the creators.

LifeBound’s books emphasize global issues such as these to help students solve real problems which exist in the world.  JUNIOR GUIDE TO SENIOR YEAR SUCCESS profiles people in every chapter who are solving the world’s greatest problems, like Muhammad Eunice who started micro-financing for poor women in Bangladesh.   In CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING, we share stories of students and remarkable people from history who helped us innovate and improve the world through science, the arts and technology.   In LEADERSHIP FOR TEENAGERS, we share the stories of courageous people who use their talents and abilities in ways large and small to  make the world a better place.

How can you use these qualities in the classroom to help students come up with a plan to battle world problems? What are some everyday issues they could address using the four qualities? Have your students addressed a world issue through technology?  How will you use this summer to change the world?  What difference will you make starting now? Share your story below.

References: “Students Design Games and Software Tools to Tackle Real-World Problems” -

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