May 21, 2005
Got up early as we were going to be shuttled over to the Microsoft Conference Center (MSCC) for the competitions. The entire day would be spent here. We arrived at the MSCC and they had a decent breakfast laid out for us to eat through the morning. They went through on the updates about the competition including that some teams had to be moved around to the "west" regional so they could have WiFi access. One of those teams was my competitor, Carnegie-Mellon University. Taking their place would be Bradley University. The Bradley team went first, with me second and Georgia Tech last. We were escorted to one of the developer buildings next to the MSCC where we would present to two Microsoft employees. The Bradley team seemed to take forever in their presentation which was bad for me as they told us as you are going up the elevator boot up your laptop and have it ready to go to walk right in as soon as you get there. The battery on my laptop is practically shot so as I waited my laptop almost died, luckily I found a power outlet in the hallway so I could at least keep it from dieing on me. They finally came out and I hurried in with all my gear. I hooked up my laptop to the projector and got going. I was really nervous at this point and I know the judges could tell, but I kept going anyways answering every question they asked me and I made sure I covered everything even if I had to look at the screen every now and then.
I then got to the part of my presentation where I had to give a demo of my project. I gave the demo to the best of my ability, even though my web service wasn’t working I was still able to show the two judges how it would work. After I finished my presentation, a round of questions began. They wanted why I used one thing instead of another, why isn’t a certain feature there, and could this be used for xyz. After they were done asking me questions, they actually let me ask them some. Naturally I asked them how they got their jobs here and what did they do? Turns out only one was a programmer and he was a Project Manager on the Visual Studio 2005 team, however, I cannot remember what the other judge did at Microsoft. After the judging was done I had to head back to the MSCC for lunch and the national round of competitions. The judges came back with us as Georgia Tech had to have the WiFi too, for their product to work.
Soon Microsoft brought out box lunches again, but these were better than the salads last time. This time we got sandwiches. As I ate lunch in the MSCC I discovered one good perk of working for Microsoft… unlimited free drinks from drink coolers located everywhere on campus. All you can drink soda, juice, water, or milk for free! But then I guess you need that when you employ people who practically live in their offices (and yes I did see one office where someone had built a bunk bed over his desk). Anyways I finished lunch and just had to sit there. The one judge came by with the score sheet, so I could get some feedback on my project and see how I was scored. I got good scores, and some good remarks so I thought I was going to be getting 3rd place (there were 3 teams in my region, which means everyone gets money) and $500.
Shortly after this we were herded into the presentation room across the hall where they were going to announce the results from the regional round and announce who would move on to the national round (if you got 1st place in a region, you move on to nationals). They finally got to my regional and announced third place would be Bradley University from Peoria, Ill. At this point not only was I happy that I beat college students and I would be getting more money, I was scared that I was possibly going to be in 1st and have to present in front of almost all the other teams and seasoned professionals of the industry. And then they announced second place – IT WAS ME! I managed to beat a university, and get $750! Man was I excited! first place was announced and that went to Georgia Tech and they $1000 and advanced to nationals. After they announced winners they picked the order while I sat there on the Internet. I wanted to check my flight times for tomorrow so I logged onto Delta.com and checked the time. I felt lucky so I went to look at the seat map and all of a sudden a bulkhead-aisle seat opened up. I definitely grabbed that seat.
The national rounds were going on in the meantime and I just sat there a listened to a few (most of these teams knew so much more than me and everything they said went right over my head). For the rest of the time I listened to XM Radio Online while I surfed the web. Finally it was getting towards 5pm and dinner was supposed to be at 5:30, so we headed over to the other room. They had a nice snack spread laid out with jawbreakers, starbursts, cookies, and fruit for everyone to snack on during the day. We sat there and we noticed that it kept getting later and later and teams were still presenting. Finally though the last team finished up and the Microsoft Catering folks brought out the taco bar. The taco bar was awesome. These honestly were some of the best tacos that I have ever eaten. The salsa was really good too. They had a decent desert table setup; I think I got a piece of chocolate mousse. Shortly after finishing up they started with the awards ceremony. Since they were running behind they did not present the crystal awards to regional winners, but moved straight to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners of the national competitions. 3rd place went to Northeastern University with their translation program, 2nd place went to Carnegie-Mellon University for their SmartCare program, and 1st place went to one of the Virginia Commonwealth University teams – Team ECESIS. They get $8000 and a free trip to Yokohama, Japan for the Imagine Cup World Finals. They definitely were happy, when they found out that they had won. We got to claim our awards after the ceremony. I picked up my 2nd Place Rocky Mountain Regional crystal award and proceeded to find the team that had the 2nd Place Southeastern award. I couldn’t find that team so I got stuck with the Rocky Mountains. Anyways we headed back where finally I could relax. We started to pack everything back up for tomorrow we would need to catch our flights back to Minnesota and Florida. I actually got to bed early that night which was nice for a change.