Microsoft is expecting approximately 400 student finalists to compete in this years' Imagine Cup competition.
The theme for 2012 is: 'Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems', in order for students to develop new technologies that may improve current issues across the world.
The finalists will be competing in Sydney, Australia, and the Imagine Cup will run from July 6 - 10.
Students who compete aim to create solutions for the required theme, by using software available on DreamSpark. Since it was introduced in 2003, according to Microsoft, there have been over 48 million downloads in 165 countries by students.
Once Windows 7 was introduced, the software giant saw a surge in DreamSpark downloads, and predict that this trend could continue after the release of Windows 8.
DreamSpark is a developer-centered service that offers students a chance to get their hands on software they may not necessarily be able to afford -- or may go through illegal avenues to acquire. If your school has a subscription with DreamSpark, then participating students are able to download a number of software packages that usually carry a heavy price-tag. Some of the downloads on offer include:
Visual Studio 2010 Professional
Kinect for Windows (Beta)
Kodu game lab
Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Ultimate
Windows Phone and App hub (including a waived registration fee)
In total, over 350,000 students registered for last years' competition, representing 183 countries. In 2011, after the finalist teams were whittled down, 128 finalist projects from 70 countries competed. The exact number of students who will be going to Sydney for the 2012 competition will be known later in the year.
Most students are eligible to participate, however, where U.S. export regulations prohibit the export of goods, residents of those countries are not eligible to apply. These countries include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
Two new Challenges for the Imagine Cup 2012 have recently been announced, which focus on use of the Windows Metro Style App and Kinect Fun Labs software. It seems that students are becoming more interested in these kinds of interactive and cloud technologies -- a spokesman indicated that once the Windows phone was released, 48 percent of Imagine Cup entrants last year used the technology, where 32 percent opted for Azure software.
The Kinect Fun Labs Challenge is the first time Microsoft has used Xbox 360 Kinect technology in the competition, and competing students have been asked to consider how to use this technology in relation to the 2012 theme.
The Windows Metro Style App Challenge is designed for creative students to build prototype apps that can be integrated with anticipated Windows 8 features and modern web standards.
Students are still able to sign up for these challenges -- in addition to previously announced software, game design, Azure, Windows Phone and IT competitions that are currently running.