As the world’s best soccer players battle for the World Cup in South Africa, an elite group of student engineers will gather in Poland from July 3-8 to crunch code for Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, reports the Seattle Times. The competition will feature students showing off software aimed at fighting global problems—such as reducing hunger and poverty, and improving education and child health. The Imagine Cup competition has drawn 325,000 students from 100 countries this year. Microsoft uses the competition to spark software creativity and to encourage students to use Microsoft software. “It’s about getting the next generation of innovators doing exciting things not only for the world, but doing great and amazing things on the Microsoft platform,” said Jon Perera, general manager with the Microsoft Education group. The competition began in April with national finals that took place online and in 68 events in different countries. The finalists from those competitions—about 400 high school, college, and graduate students representing 78 countries—are competing in Warsaw. As in the Olympics, student teams compete for titles in several categories, such as game design and digital media. Microsoft, which declined to say how much it spends on Imagine Cup, awards $240,000 in cash prizes and pays for student travel to the national and international final events. Cash prizes range from $2,000 to $25,000. “Our jaws drop on the floor” when they see the entries, Perera said. A University of Washington team designed a touch-screen diagramming program for blind students to collaborate with other students; two United Kingdom students built a Facebook app to help families separated by natural disaster, such as the earthquake in Haiti, find each other online…

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staff and wire services reports