RUSSIAN STUDENTS TAKE SECOND PRIZE AT SOFTWARE DESIGN COMPETITION IN BRAZIL

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MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - Students of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) won second prize ($15,000) at the international Microsoft Imagine Cup 2004 software design competition in Brazil, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.

The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a competition of students' software design projects based on web technologies and employing mobile electronic devices. The competing software projects must all boast `a smart component`, that is be customizable and user-friendly. They must be socially relevant (the highlights of the 2004 competition focused on developing hi-tech aids for children and disabled people). In addition, the projects need to be commercially viable, technically realizable, and innovative.

35 national teams took part in the competition, with the first prize going to the French students who have developed a remote control software system optimizing performance of the home's lighting, heating and security facilities.

The project presented by the Russian team, composed of the MIPT students Stanislav Vonog, Nikolai Surin, Konstantin Zhereb and Taras Kushko, was titled the `Inspirational Classroom Environment` (ICE). It is designed to develop creativity of the 5-8 year-olds, facilitating this age group's transition from the kindergarten to primary school.

The project is based on a wireless network of tablet PCs. One can easily run about a classroom carrying such a computer, explains Stanislav Vonog. Every pupil must have a tablet PC, with the teacher using a similar computer but enhanced with more sophisticated software enabling him/her to follow every activity pursued by the pupils.

The ICE is designed both for individual and teamwork. `Personal exercise` and `team painting` are unique ICE features.

This software is capable of teaching the basics of teamwork to children as it offers assignments requiring a collective input, says Nikolai Surin.

The `Magic Ink` game is the third unique feature of the `Inspirational Classroom Environment`. For example, the teacher may ask the pupils to save the Earth from an approaching asteroid. Every pupil immediately turns to his tablet PC and draws the type of an anti-asteroid system he thinks the most fitting for the Earth's protection. Our `smart paper` technology instantly converts the drawing into an animated image or a cartoon. As a result, the child promptly sees if his idea is worth suggesting for a collective discussion.

The MIPT students have already run a trial test of their ICE software in a primary school of the town of Lyubertsy, Moscow region. According to them, it took the pupils no more than half an hour to master the application.

At this age children do not yet have enough patience and assiduity but are bustling with creative designs and ideas, Nikolai Surin says, elaborating on the project's core idea. Our software offers them an easy-to-use tool making the educational process truly exciting.

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