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RISE Sponsors Microsoft Imagine Cup 2015, Two AUK Teams Win the Competition And Qualify for the Pan Arab Semifinals in Bahrain

Two AUK teams won the Kuwait finals for Microsoft Imagine Cup 2015 competition and qualified for the Pan Arab Semifinals coming up in June 2015 in Bahrain. This year's competition was held at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) under the sponsorship of the Center for Research in Informatics, Sciences and Engineering (RISE). The Imagine Cup, in its 9th year in the Gulf, is Microsoft's initiative to encourage young people to apply their imagination and creativity to technology innovations that can make a difference and address pressing world issues.

The 2015 Kuwait Imagine Cup began with a series of keynote addresses by Dr. Ali Charara, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences at AUK; Charles Nahas, General Manager, Microsoft Kuwait; Bashar Atout, CEO of Al Diyar United Co.; and Fahad Mohammad Al Menayes, Group Chief Information Officer of Burgan Bank. The student presentations followed, where students explained their creative technological innovations, including motion-based educational tools and games to support mental health research. The competition brought together teams from AUK, American University of the Middle East (AUM), and Gulf University for Science & Technology (GUST). Each team was given ten minutes to present their project and perform a live demo, followed by a five minute Q&A session with the judging panel.

The winning teams were announced during the awards ceremony: The Innovation category winners were the Geeksters from AUK for their application LinkGo, augmented reality software for smartphones that brings reading to life for a variety of learning styles. The World Citizenship category winners were the Skywalkers from AUK for their system PostFix, a wearable pad and a software solution that alerts users of poor posture and provides monitoring tools to improve health. The Geeksters comprises Hala Al-Faisal and Fatemah W Malallah and the Skywalkers are Aya K Al Toukhy, Darin H Kablaoui and Hala Al Faisal - both groups worked under the mentorship of Dr. Amir Zeid who expressed delight that "all AUK participating teams this year were females, which I consider a very positive phenomenon", explaining that computer studies are usually male-dominated fields in the United States and many other parts of the world. The winners of the computer gaming category came from GUST for their RPG style educational game "Hover Knight - the Quest for Graduation," a program to improve students' decision making and problem solving in an engaging way.

During the entertainment hour of the event, judges convened to determine the competition winners and the audience enjoyed a surprise hip-hop dance performance. This year's judges were: Bashar Atout, Ghada Y. Al-Amer, Technical Support Manager of KUFPEC, Jamal Raja Al-Enezi, Information Technology Planning Team Leader of KOC, Fahad Mahammad Al Menayes, and Maytham Safar from the Computer Engineering College at Kuwait University. The 2015 Microsoft Kuwait Imagine Cup at AUK was also made possible by Burgan Bank and Al Diyar United Company.

The Imagine Cup 2015 allows students to bring their technological ambitions to fruition with the help of Microsoft resources and guidance. The competition is broken into three tiers of competition: Games, Innovation and World Citizenship. The Games tier invites creative students to produce a game on the following platforms: Windows (PC or touchscreen), Windows Phone, Xbox Indie Games or Kinect SDK. The Innovation tier includes innovative, ground-breaking and appealing software engineered by students using Microsoft tools and technology. Lastly, the World Citizenship tier is built for solutions to global challenges - apps to help reduce world hunger, raise environmental awareness or provide better access to education, for example. This year's winners brought a variety of technological innovation to the competition, impressing both the judges and the audience.

AUK has been involved with the Imagine Cup for the last six years, but 2015 marks the first year that the competition was held on campus. Dr. Amir Zeid, Director of RISE, has mentored 5 different winning AUK teams in past years. This year, eight teams from Kuwait participated, and three of the top five groups came from AUK. Dr. Zeid noted that this year's sponsorship by RISE aimed to support AUK student innovation, and will continue to promote creative learning outside of the classroom. AUK teams have won regional titles in the Imagine Cup for many years: 1st Place Mobile Award in 2009, 1st Place Software Design Award in 2010, and 2nd Place Software Design Award in 2011. In addition, three AUK teams qualified for the world Finals in Poland in 2010, New York in 2011 and Sydney 2012.

The Geeksters and Skywalkers of AUK will represent Kuwait in Bahrain in the Pan-Arab Semi finals where they are going to compete against teams from 13 different countries. The winners of the Pan-Arab semi-finals will have the chance to move on to the Imagine Cup World finals in Seattle, Washington in July 2015.

About RISE:
The AUK Center for Research in Informatics, Sciences, and Engineering (RISE) serves as AUK's primary source for multidisciplinary research and development (R&D) activities. The Center employs a holistic approach to R&D by integrating academic disciplines, and forging connections between local & international innovators, academia & industry, and technology & society.

Opening remarks by Dr. Ali Charara, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Opening Remarks by Mr. Charles Nahas, General Manager of Microsoft Kuwait

The Judges Committee

AUK team - Skywalkers- from left Aya Al Toukhy; Darin Kablaoui; and Hala Al-Faisal

AUK Team - Geeksters - From Left, Fatemah Malallah and Hala Al-Faisal

Eman Karam representing AUK Team- Novators

Audience including AUK administrators, students, parents, and external visitors

Team Mentors, from left, Dr. Israa Omran, GUST University; Dr. Amir Zeid, AUK; and Dr. Seifedine Kadry, AUM

AUK Winning Team - Geeksters - Innovation Category

AUK Winning Team - Skywalkers - World Citizenship Category

GUST Winning Team - Keybladers - Gaming Category

From Left Dr. Amir Zeid, Director of RISE Center receiving Sponsors Award from Mr. Charles Nahas General Manager of Microsoft Kuwait

The three winning teams with the judges committee holding boarding passes to Bahrain

AUK Imagine Cup teams from previous years with Dr. Amir Zeid

From Left Dr. Amir Zeid, Director of RISE Center; Mr. Charles Nahas General Manager of Microsoft Kuwait

Mr. Munawar Mullaji, AUK Multimedia Equipment Technician, discussing Imagine Cup team technical support prior to the event

Released by the Office of Public Affairs on the 4th May 2015

Photography by the Office of Public Affairs (C) 2015

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