For us the past two days were a little bit like travelling back in time. We were invited to attend the STC (Student Technology Conference) aka. the German Finals of this year’s Imagine Cup. As we arrived in the Microsoft Office in Berlin, we were greeted with lunch bags and goodies, there were young people everywhere and you could taste the excitement in the air – just like it was back in St. Petersburg. We greeted Jan, the organizer, and found our friends from akili:innovation in Dresden, who were competing again this year. This time Almuth, Hannes, Matthias and Marcel were not competing with one, but with TWO projects!
The days were full of talks about the “Internet of Things” and presentations of this year’s Imagine Cup competitors. There were so many things going on simultaneously, that we barely knew where to go. So we often did what any sensible person would do: We lingered in the common area, where endless supplies of coffee and soft drinks kept our throats wet, while we engaged in conversation with a great diversity of young people from all over Germany, learning about exciting ideas and interesting projects. At close intervals food would hover by at eye-level, smelling terribly good and all we had to do is lazily reach out and stuff our faces. Heaven, I tell you!
Our friend’s presentations in the categories World Citizenship and Innovation made us forget our feeding frenzy for a short while. And then of course, there were the Games. We were really excited to meet the winners of the Global Game Jam with Fru. This game’s principle is so beautifully simple and yet so entertaining and challenging. And of course it also reminds us a little bit of Schein – so no wonder I like it that much!
For us the evening began with a great German custom: “Freibier”! Beer for everyone – as much as we liked – for free! That made the hands-on showcase of the Imagine Cup participants even better. Later entertainment was provided by a couple of DJs, a table full of colorful tape inviting us to create art.. or something similar, and lots of nice little pieces of technology that were put to use in a hackathon.
So in midst of a room that was buzzing with conversation, the sound of a quadrocopter hovering or mostly crashing, glowing Spheros zapping around at our heels and the deep booming of the music, the evening rushed by in what felt like 5 minutes. While some of us felt old and made our way home shortly after midnight, others didn’t find their beds until well past breakfast.
So the next day began lazily watching the first presentations via live stream and arriving at the Microsoft Office just in time for lunch. Friendly conversation, another couple of presentations and lots of coffee made the wait for the award ceremony quite comfortable. Our friends were awarded a third place in the Innovation competition and second place in World Citizenship. Each of them went home with a brand new Windows Phone and a Dell Tablet. So even though they won’t be flying to the worldwide finals in Seattle, I’d say it has quite paid off. Congratulation guys!
After saying our goodbyes we walked to the subway station feeling tired and strangely empty. Maybe it was because it had all felt so familiar, but we hadn’t actually competed, hadn’t presented our own project, hadn’t feared the jury’s judgment, and hadn’t felt so connected to the other teams as it had been last year. But there’s one thing we’ve learned about Microsoft in these past couple of years: They definitely look out for their own and they will make sure you are well fed, spoiled and happy!