First published on MSDN on Jul 29, 2014
They've been arriving all morning: bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, excited and tired. Our Imagine Cup World Finalists are coming from dozens of countries around the world to Seattle today, bringing with them their laptops and their robots and their gadgets and their hopes. At breakfast I ran into Gabriel, a Microsoft Student Partner from the Philippines whose team Hiraya won our User Experience Challenge a few months ago. "It's a dream come true!" he said. I know how he feels.

I learned to code as a kid around 1981, in an after-school coding class held in someone's basement. My afternoons there were electric. I didn't have a computer -- few people did in 1981 -- but I could go there and type glowing-white commands into the black screen of those TRS-80 Model IIIs and make a whole new world come alive.

Our World Finalists have put in long hours and done incredible work. They've triumphed in their National Finals, in our global World Semifinals, and now they've made it all the way here to Seattle.

It's going to be an incredible week. Here's what we've got planned:

Tuesday, July 29th: Students arrive for their briefings to prepare for the week ahead. We end the day with a welcome reception at the University of Washington.

Wednesday, July 30th: Our first day of competition begins with live presentations. Each team has ten minutes to present their project to a panel of judges, followed by ten minutes of questions and answers. When we're done, all the teams travel to Microsoft global headquarters and set up a showcase of their projects for thousands of Microsoft staff to come see firsthand.

Thursday, July 31st: Our second day of competition takes place at Microsoft and consists of hands-on judging. Each judge spends fifteen minutes with each team, trying out their project directly and having an informal conversation about their work. At the end of the judging we have another showcase for Microsoft staff to come see. Then that evening is our Partner Awards dinner where we'll give out prizes for the Facebook Creativity Award, the AppCampus Award, the Apps for Office Challenge, and the Windows & Windows Phone Challenge.

Friday, August 1st: Bright and early, we all head down to the Washington State Convention Center for the Imagine Cup World Championships. We'll award prizes to the first, second, and third place teams in the Games, Innovation, and World Citizenship categories. And then the three first-place teams will compete live onstage to see who takes home the overall Imagine Cup trophy and gets a private meeting with Bill Gates. That afternoon, our student teams will participate in the Amazing Seattle Race! Equipped with GPS devices, students will carry out a scavenger hunt across downtown Seattle culminating at the Space Needle. And that evening we'll have a big celebration for our students at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum.

Saturday, August 2nd: On our last day together, we have one more showcase: Imagine Cup Day at the Museum of History & Industry. At this free public event, the museum is open to everyone and our students will show off their projects to the citizens of Seattle. We'll have lots to do for families including breakdancers, live music, mad science projects, and free treats. And we'll end the day with our students attending Seattle's Seafair celebration with fireworks, live music, and an evening air show over Lake Washington.

Wow! And I'm not even including everything, like the Brain Games World Finals Challenge, learning sessions with Microsoft engineers teaching our latest technology, and much more.

All week you can follow the action on Twitter thanks to our YouthSpark Imagine Cup Reporters comprised of high school students, and you'll also see updates from the Microsoft News Center's Twitter account and of course, our Imagine Cup Twitter staff . And keep checking our homepage for the latest blogs, articles, and Imagine Cup TV episodes!

Finally let me just remind you to tune in to our livestream of the Imagine Cup World Championships this Friday, August 1st, at 0830 Pacific time. It'll be right here on our homepage and it's going to be a powerful and inspiring experience. Join us!

John Scott Tynes
Imagine Cup Program Lead
Microsoft Student Developers