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Imagine Cup Competition Experience Worth The Drive

August 7, 2011 by Special To The ...

by Aneri Patani
Special to the Herald

You never know where a car will take you.
Sure, it can take you to work or the market, but it can do so much more.
If you’re lucky, like Cheshire resident and junior at Ithaca College Evan Marinaro, it can take you all the way to the 2011 Microsoft Imagine Cup.
Marinaro, a member of the Game Developers Club at Ithaca College, heard about the Imagine Cup from another member who received an invitation to attend the regional competition. A few members were interested in attending, but they lacked transportation. Enter Marinaro and his car.
“They needed someone with a car, and I happened to have one. So it ended up being me, another member, and the president and vice president of the club [on the team],” said Marinaro.
Although it was his car that landed Marinaro in the competition, he was very excited about being involved.
“This was a chance for me to actually make a real [video] game, something I never thought I could do. So I needed to participate once I had the opportunity,” comments Marinaro.
This was the opportunity of all opportunities for game lovers and designers alike. The Microsoft Imagine Cup is an annual event that challenges students from around the globe to use technology to make a difference in the world. Teams enter in categories ranging from Digital Media to Software Development. The 2011 challenge was to imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems. Teams had to focus on the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.
Marinaro’s team, calling itself “IC Squared” as a play on the initials of Ithaca College and Imagine Cup, entered the Web Game Design category and chose the U.N. goal of maternal healthcare.
“We looked up and down the list of U.N. Millennium goals and thought maternal healthcare wasn’t going to be as popular as solving world hunger and poverty, so we decided to make a web game on that,” says Marinaro.
The game, which was conceived and designed within 48 hours at the regional competition, was named “Embryonic.”
“[The name] was a great way to sum up the fact that our game was about an embryo. Also, the word ‘embryonic’ describes something in its early stages, like our game was,” commented Marinaro.
“Embryonic” consists of three levels. In the first level, the player takes the role of a physician who has to rid the womb of measles bacteria without hurting the fetus. The second level requires the player to match DNA base pairs accurately in order to prevent genetic diseases. In the third level, the player must eliminate toxins invading the umbilical cord in order to allow the free passage of nutrients.
“Embryonic” led IC Squared to be one of the 124 teams picked to go to the finals from the 88,000 teams that registered for regional competitions.
The finals took place in New York City from July 8 to 13. The teams presented their creations to a panel of judges on one day and held open demos for the press, judges, and other teams the next day. Following this demo, the judges announced the teams in each category that would move forward. Unfortunately, IC Squared did not make it past the final five.
“It was disappointing, of course, not to place,” admitted Marinaro, “but the other teams deserved it more.”
Although Marinaro and his teammates were no longer in the competition, they participated in other events at the finals. They joined several other teams in a community service project in Central Park. Half the group built bookshelves while the other half, including Marinaro, painted in pre-drawn murals.
“This might have been my favorite part of the trip because, afterwards, we had a picnic and made friends with a few of the African teams,” explained Marinaro.
During the course of the finals, Marinaro also took a bus tour of the city and had a barbeque
on Ellis Island.
“The whole time I couldn’t believe it was real. It was so cool getting to hang out with people from all over the world,” he said.
The award ceremony took place on the last night of the finals. Winners were announced and the Imagine Cup flag was ceremoniously passed from the USA to Australia, where the competition will be held next year.
“The award ceremony was super awesome and it felt like being at the MTV Awards,” stated Marinaro.
Marinaro plans on taking part in next year’s Imagine Cup. He is looking forward to reaching the finals in Australia and maybe even taking home a first-place victory.

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