Brothers take top spot in programming contest

Every child around the world should be entitled to a primary education, but many are not receiving a full or even a partial primary education, say the creators of My Mouse Games. They should know; they’re students themselves.

Brothers Jimmy, Mark, and Luke Dickinson worked together as team MultiPoint Web to participate in the U.S. Imagine Cup finals from May 2 to 5 in Cambridge, Mass. Imagine Cup has been characterized as the "World Series of software" since its first year in 2003. High school and college students are asked to create innovative solutions to tackle the world’s problems.

To combat the lack of funding, training, materials, and manpower that often stand in the way of providing a universal primary education, the group created My Mouse Games, a solution that builds upon existing education systems to provide a set of low- to no-cost, customizable web-based learning activities that allow every child to participate with multiple mice on one computer, with limited available hardware resources and funding.

MultiPoint Web earned first place and a chance to compete in Cairo, Egypt, in July, something the brothers are very excited about.

Jimmy Dickinson, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in computer information systems at Georgia State University, said he learned about Imagine Cup after competing in another Microsoft competition. Because he did well in that competition, and he saw the Microsoft Multipoint Software Development Kit software, he recruited his younger brothers to work with him on the project. Mark Dickinson attends Portland Community College, where he is majoring in computer science, and Luke Dickinson is a high school student at Tigard High School.

"Since I only entered a few hours before the first due date, I figured there would be no time to form a team that works well together in the remaining month. My younger brothers may not have had the best skill set compared to my [graduate school classmates], but I knew that we already worked well together and that was more important," Jimmy Dickinson said. "We never expected we would make it this far."

Anthony Salcito, general manager of U.S. education at Microsoft, said the competition began as a way to connect students with innovation. This year’s theme was aimed at achieving the United Nation’s eight Millennium Development Goals, such as fighting hunger, poverty, and AIDS, as well as improving education, maternal health, and environmental sustainability.

"The skills they learn will help them later in life and hopefully inspire them to tackle these problems that they’re facing," he said of the participants.

Students, who must be at least 16 years old and attending an accredited high school or institution of higher education, are asked to put together a business and marketing plan in addition to using software to tackle the world’s problems.

"We hope to get kids excited about thinking big and raising expectations," Salcito said.

Imagine Cup began with about 1,000 competitors from 11 countries, and this year the contest saw more than 300,000 students from more than 100 countries. There were about 125 teams entered in the U.S., which were narrowed down to 15 teams who competed in Cambridge.

For winning first place in the U.S. competition, MultiPoint Web has a choice of $8,000 in cash distributed equally among the team, or $16,000 toward a National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance e-team grant for further development of their project. Jimmy Dickinson said he and his brothers are leaning toward the grant.


My Mouse Games

Imagine Cup

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