Posted on May 27, 2015

The three teams that will represent Qatar in the regional finals of Imagine Cup – Microsoft’s annual global technology innovation competition – had a special audience Tuesday when they pitched their ideas to Her Excellency Dana Shell Smith, the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, who paid a visit to Microsoft Qatar’s Doha headquarters at Qatar Science & Technology Park. Each year in Qatar and across the globe, Imagine Cup challenges young innovators to develop solutions that seize market opportunities and address key social issues using the latest Microsoft devices and services.

Late last month, three teams from universities in Qatar took home top prizes at Imagine Cup’s Qatar Finals in the competition’s Innovation, Citizenship and Gaming categories. QU-Mechatronics, The Tartans, and Al Zubarah– the winning teams from Qatar University, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, and Texas A&M University at Qatar, respectively - pitched their ideas to the American Ambassador. In addition to congratulating the national winners, the Ambassador talked about the projects at length with the students. She was joined for the special session by Microsoft Qatar’s General Manager, Naim Yazbeck.

Yazbeck said: “For the students and for Microsoft, it was an honor and a pleasure to be paid a visit by such a distinguished, energetic and inspiring advocate for American and Arab innovation. We are grateful to Ambassador Smith for taking the time to hear the teams pitch and together, we wish them luck as they head to the regional semi-finals in Bahrain. Through Imagine Cup, Microsoft provides the perfect technology platform for cultivating student innovation and we look forward to continuing this tradition in the region for many years to come.”

US Ambassador joins local tech stars 2 [].jpgExpressing her excitement that an innovative American company like Microsoft was playing such a key role in empowering and inspiring Qatar’s next generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs, the Ambassador said: “This event embodies the best of an American-Qatari partnership to promote innovation and build tomorrow’s leaders. Leadership is all about exploring new ideas and opportunities, and that is exactly what this competition encourages. What these three teams have accomplished is amazing and I wish them luck in Bahrain.”

Under the Innovation category, Team “QU-Mechatronics” from Qatar University under the mentorship of Dr. John John Paragas Cabibihan developed ‘Robo-Barista’, a machine that can draw on the top of the creamy layer of a coffee cup using chocolate syrup. It’s attached to a device with a touch screen. The user can draw anything on the screen that they would like to see in their cup. 

Under the World Citizenship category and with the help of their mentor Dr. Maher Hakim, “The Tartans” from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar presented ‘WeServe, a crowdsourcing web application that provides a platform for inspired service groups to write proposals and request funding, in addition to being able to explore areas in the world where there are ongoing or completed projects. WeServe brings together like-minded people who aim to contribute to developing Lower Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs).

US Ambassador joins local tech stars 3 [].jpgTeam Al Zubarah from Texas A&M University at Qatar and Qatar University entered and won in the Gaming category under the mentorship of Mr. Alhasan Adnan Alsammaraie . Makkar is a two-player strategy game that couples the user’s physical location with the digital location of their avatar, the Fox or Makkar. Each player has 60 seconds to create their map by placing a rabbit, coins, obstacles and a starting point. The objective of the game is to capture your opponent’s Rabbit while protecting your own Rabbit in 60 seconds. The concept of the game is to facilitate physical activity among users through requiring physical movement for gameplay as the game uses special input to translate the user’s physical motion to movement in the game.

In 2015, Bahrain will play host to the second Pan Arab semi-finals from 31 May to 2 June. Qatar’s tech stars will join the brightest young minds from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates to exemplify the power of Arab student innovation at the Semi-Finals.

Last year, teams from 12 Arab countries gathered in Doha for the first ever Pan Arab semi-finals of Microsoft's famed global student technology competition – held under the patronage of Qatar's Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Her Excellency Dr. Hessa Al Jaber. The competition is currently in its 14th year globally and has grown to become the world's global student technology competition with more than 1.65 million students from more than 190 countries having participated in the Microsoft Imagine Cup annual competition from inception.