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A team of student programmers from the University of Hull has secured third prize in an international competition, sponsored by Microsoft, designed to get students interested in developing .NET applications.

The winners of the first worldwide Imagine Cup Student Programming Contest, judged on creativity and real-world applicability, were announced at Microsoft's Tech-Ed developer conference in Barcelona yesterday.

Tu Nguyen, from the University of Nebraska, wowed the judges with a virtual presentation of his Point of Delivery System (iPODS) and scooped first prize of $25,000 in the competition.

Nguyen's multi-language wireless application allows a waiter using a PDA to take orders in one language, and transmit them directly into a restaurant kitchen - translated into a language that the chef understands.

"I wasn't a developer, but I turned to Microsoft's .NET Framework for Web services because my parents needed a better way for American-born waiters in their restaurant to communicate with the Vietnamese chefs in the kitchen," says the University of Nebraska's Nguyen, who came to the U.S. with his family 13 years ago from Vietnam. "The local TV station ran a story on my solution, seven other restaurants in Omaha hired me to deploy similar solutions for them, and now the City of Omaha wants to use my solution to serve hundreds of thousands of customers in the new city sports arena."

Second place in the competition - and a prize of $15,000 - went to a team of Indian students for a medical application, called Sanjeevani. University of Bombay students Tejas Shah, Abhijit Akhawe, and Yash Doshi developed Sanjeevani to integrate different mobile devices and thereby increase collaboration between health organisations.

Plucky Brits secure place on the podium

Team Singapore and Team United Kingdom tied for third place in this year's competition and share a $10,000 prize. Team Singapore members Kapil Vaidyanathan, Anumeha Bisaria, Harishankar Vijayarajan, and Kunal Talwar competed with Smart Cart, which is billed as the world's "first .NET-savvy shopping cart". Smart Cart allows shoppers to navigate through aisles to find a particular product, provides access to a customer's virtual shopping list, and displays product information and promotions. Team Singapore members hail from the Nanyang Technological University School of Computer Engineering.

Team United Kingdom (or Team Random, as they call themselves) taught themselves to program in .NET especially to compete in the Imagine Cup challenge. David Waby, Will Johnson, Phil Price, Andrew Sterland, all from the University of Hull, impressed judged with a travellers' assistant application, called Mercury, that turns a Pocket PC into a sophisticated travelling companion.

Mercury provides capabilities such as currency and language translation as well as recommendations and directions to hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites, all in real time. The team of first year students hope to develop Mercury commercially.

Thousands of student entries from 25 countries were submitted for the Imagine Cup competition. Regional semi-final competitions were held earlier this year. The 15 finalists presented their applications to a panel of academic and independent industry experts at Microsoft's international Tech·Ed 2003 Europe Conference in Barcelona on Monday.

Microsoft is hailing the competition as a great success and already plans are underway for a re-run of the Imagine Cup next year.

The complete runners and riders of this year's competition can be found here. ®

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