Earlier this year I took part as a judge in the South African leg of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup competition – a global tech compo for youngsters who have a broad remit to build stuff that can be anything from robots and games to building technological solutions to some of the world’s woes. I’m currently at MS HQ in Seattle, Washington to cover the finals, where teams that have done well in their regional competition will face off against each other on the global stage.

Over the next three days, teams will have the chance to present their projects and have their work judged once again, but this time they’ll be competing for the chance to win $50 000 (the prize money per category, works out to R622 000 at current exchange rates).

Once three category winners have been chosen, those teams will compete for the title of Imagine Cup Champion on Friday the 31st of July, and the chance to meet with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

The categories are World Citizenship, Innovation and Games, and they require that teams develop projects – using Microsoft software and platforms, of course – that make the world a better place, innovate and entertain.

Three African teams are competing for the top honours: South Africa and Tunisia in the Games category, while Nigeria will compete in the World Citizenship category.

Here’s a quick rundown of Africa’s teams and some background on their projects.


Team Name: LifeWatch
Project: AsthmaVisor

Team LifeWatch comprises four Nigerian students from Afe Babalola University in Ado-Ekiti: Ahwin Kevin, Oluwaseun Adeyemo, Raymond Obinaju and Timilehin Sobola, and their project aims to make managing asthma much easier for people from all walks of life.

They say: “AsthmaVisor is a solution geared towards a more cost-effective and efficient way of supervising asthmatic patients, especially children. It comprises of a Wearable device and a Mobile App. We aim to reduce child mortality and minimise the overall fatality of respiratory diseases by providing adequate environmental and physiological supervision for patients.”

South Africa

Team Name: Digital Interactive Games
Project: PYA Maze of Gods

Team DIG is made up of two first-year students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, Jason Cross and Nicholas Jordaan, who met through their mutual enjoyment of videogame design.

They say: “Our project “PYA Maze of Gods” is a 3D Labyrinth style game built to challenge the user’s problem solving skills, reaction time and their ability to overcome the obstacles that they will encounter. The game involves in-depth lore and character profiles. The name “PYA” is the name given to the realm of the gods.”

PYA was developed in the Unity Personal Edition game engine, which both students taught themselves to use.


Team Name: T2
Project: Back in Time

Students Bilel Tabakh and Haythem Stiti make up Team T2, and according to their Imagine Cup page their game is meant to solve real-world problems and introduce new game concepts to the market.

They say: “Back in Time is a 3D game developed using Unity engine. The game consists of making the parent and the kid compete with each other in a funny and thrilling confrontation where the parent using his mobile device will be the dungeon keeper by putting monster in the kid’s way. The kid using the “Destroyer Of All Evil” which is a Microsoft band will control the character that he follows on his PC’s screen. using different movements via the band, the kid will make his way to the dungeon treasure fighting the monster to win the game.”

[Image – Team DIG Imagine Cup Page]
Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.