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Earlier today I stopped by the Microsoft campus in Redmond to check out many of the finalists in the company’s U.S. Imagine Cup software design competition. All of the projects were impressive, but I wasn’t surprised to just learn that the winner was this note-taking device and application for low-vision and legally blind students.

The ASU team that won the U.S. Imagine Cup software prize

The project was inspired by the personal experiences of Arizona State University’s David Hayden, a visually impaired student who worked with team members Michael Astrauskas, Qian Yan, and Shashank Srinivas, and mentor John Black.

Hayden leads us through the project in the video above, showing how the special camera puts a live video stream of the white board onto the Tablet PC, allowing students to follow along and take notes on the machine without lifting their heads and requiring their eyes to readjust.

The team will now go on to represent the United States in the international Imagine Cup finals, to be held in New York City in July.

Winners in the Game Design for Windows/Xbox category was a team from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, which developed a game call Spero focused on environmental solutions and energy conservation. The winners in the mobile game design category were from the University of Houston, with a game called Forest Gun about ending deforestation.

More info on all of the finalists in this Microsoft post.

Projects in the annual Imagine Cup competition are meant to address different aspects of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The intellectual property created by the students as part of the competition is theirs to keep, possibly even resulting in products in some cases. Microsoft says its goal is to help encourage a new generation of technologists, to help fill the rising demand for talent in computer software engineering and related areas.

The competition started in 2003. Over the years, the Imagine Cup teams have become more well-rounded, including not just computer scientists but also people with other types of talents, including business and humanities, said Mark Hindsbo, Microsoft VP of U.S. Developer & Platform Evangelism.

“They’re not just about writing good code,” he said. “They have a very holistic picture.”

More than 75,000 teams registered for the U.S. Imagine Cup this year — a three-fold increase over the previous year — resulting in about 1,500 fully completed projects, a record for the competition.

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