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UCA Students’ Software Design Places Third in Microsoft Imagine Cup

An automated system designed by two UCA students that allows people to self monitor their diagnosed skin cancer using cell phones placed third in software design in the U.S. finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011.

The Imagine Cup is the world’s premier student technology competition sponsored and hosted by Microsoft. This year, 74,000 students from 400 different schools participated in the competition. The top 10 teams competed in the finals held April 9-11 in Redmond, Washington.

Team UCA Ursus — sophomore Brendan Lee of Alma and Muhyeddin Ercan, an international graduate student from Turkey — competed against students from Harvard, Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Central Connecticut State University, Wayne State University, University of Michigan, Arizona State University, Brigham Young University, University of California-Los Angeles and University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

Lee and Ercan received a $3,000 prize for their third place finish.

“We had a great time competing at Microsoft and showing our ideas to the world. We had some tough competition, but ultimately it comes down to what changes the world the most,” said Lee. “With the research and guidance of Dr. (Sinan) Kockara, we were able impress some of the greatest software developers in the world.”

Ercan and Lee were proud to represent the University of Central Arkansas on a national scale.

“We did a great job in favor of the people that suffer from skin cancer,” said Ercan. “The inspiration of our application comes from our mentor who encouraged us and guided us to find this innovational idea.”

This is the first time Team UCA Ursus  has competed in Imagine Cup.  The team’s success was not a surprise, said Dr. Sinan Kockara, assistant professor of the Computer Science Department and team mentor.

“I had already started research with Brendan and Muhyeddin and this work was published in the Oxford University’s Bioinformatics Journal,” said Kockara. “Our project was based on published work.”

Kockara said the team’s top three finish would not have been possible without the support of Computer Science Department Chair Dr. Chenyi Hu.

“He made this project possible for us by providing software, hardware, and moral support,” Kockara said. “He never said ‘no’ for any request throughout this project.”

The teams competing in the Imagine Cup created real-world software applications using Microsoft technologies. The software applications addressed this year’s theme: Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.

“It is inspiring to meet so many students who are on the forefront of new discoveries,” stated Mark Hindsbo, vice president of Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft,  in a release. “Whether they go on to develop a breakthrough in healthcare, start a company or become better prepared to enter the workforce, students who participate in the Imagine Cup are leading us into a bright future.”