Sri Lanka places top three at Microsoft Imagine Cup 2022

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Named the ‘Olympics of Technology,’ the Microsoft Imagine Cup is a global premier software development competition – giving an opportunity to aspiring students hoping to use their talents, to make a difference.

Microsoft Imagine cup began in 2003, it aims to create projects that solve global issues. All competitors follow the Imagine Cup theme: “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.”

The 2022 championship saw Sri Lanka’s team rise through the ranks from regional competition to be the top three teams globally. Speaking to the team, they provided great insight into their innovation and the challenges that came with it.

Excerpts from the interview:

What was your innovation for Imagine Cup?

 We have developed a mobile app to identify two variants of learning disabilities – dyscalculia and dysgraphia. Dyscalculia is the inability to understand mathematics and arithmetic and dysgraphia is the inability to convert language into written form. These are mental conditions that are not commonly known and often go undiagnosed in many children, setting them at a disadvantage they cannot overcome. Through tests and activities, our app can successfully diagnose a child and the level of his/her ability.

How does it work?

We collaborated with medical examiners who specialise in dyscalculia and dysgraphia. As well as medical examiners we also integrated with teachers specifically trained in these learning disabilities.

Using the knowledge from these professionals we created activities that can analyse the ability of a child and his/her skill in solving math problems as well as writing problems. The app is currently in Sinhala but will be expanded to other languages.

What was the inspiration behind this concept?

 In this team, two of our members have mothers who are teachers so we have experienced the learning process and have seen how some students struggled which really had an impact on our childhood. After discussing this we researched the issue and there were very limited resources for diagnosing and helping these disabilities so we thought if we could do something related to this it would be helpful. The Microsoft Imagine Cup has four categories -health, education, earth and lifestyle . We thought it was a good way to incorporate the medical as well as educational aspects.

What were the biggest difficulties in creating the application and during the competition?

 We started the project in the initial stage of Covid so the conception of this project was virtual. The biggest issues were that we wanted to visit schools and collect data from students to get accurate statistics but we were limited because of curfew and schools shutting down.

 In the competition, the biggest difficulty was giving people an idea of what the app does. Your team is given three minutes to give a speech on your solution. This was difficult for us as the concept of the app was a complicated subject and these learning disorders are unfortunately not commonly known. Mental disabilities can be given less importance than physical ones so it was a challenge to convince the person in front of us of the severity of the issue, as well as how our app can help.

Do you plan on implementing this in Sri Lankan education system?

Despite being in the early stages of implementation we have tested our app with a few schools. There are a number of parties interested in investing in the app so we are open to possibilities.

Any advice to younger aspiring IT professionals?

 Don’t give up. No problem is too big, if you work on your ideas, you can achieve something great.

By Ruelle Sittampalam