July 2005 - Posts

Ecuador at the Imagine Cup 2005 Japan finals. Day Two.

After yesterday's test presentations, Team Ecuador hammered it hard to be ready for the real thing:
 
 
 
As you can see, the teams basically cleared the premises from every non illegal drink (available for free and in seemingly unendable quantities). It goes without saying that not everyone follows the standard way of getting ready:
 
 
 
Team Ecuador had its first presentation at noon and we were already getting nervous because they didn't show by the booths. Alas, it became clear that what they were doing is ironing out every other aspect:
 
 
 
The good thing of arriving in the last hour is that you don't have to wait outside too long, so after Team USA finished their thing, Team Ecuador stepped on stage to get everything ready in front of the judges:
 
 
 
As a matter of fact, there were some glitches with the audio and video connections, but as this wasn't part of the grading, this wasn't a problem (expect for the mounting stress, of course). And then the first real 25 minutes started:
 
 
 
The explanation of the technical details of the project happened to be, in my extra-oficial opinion, a strong point of Team Ecuador and, as you can see, there were no lack of questioning (in English of course, don't forget that most of the teams at Imagine Cup are *not* native English speakers). The other strong point was the live demo which included the update of a database in Quito (from Yokohama at midnight) and getting back a message on a Japanese cell phone that the team rented when they arrived to Narita. Even though a lot of things could go wrong, the demo went smoothly:
 
 
 
The final questions of the judged pressed on security (how to protect grades sent over the Internet?) and innovation (this kind of stuff is new in Latin America but not so much in other parts of the world). At last, the 25 minutes were over and the kids could relax for a few hours, I killed time in several ways, for example watching the Visual Gaming finals:
 
 
 
Project Hoshimi is a game in which Dr. Hoshimi innoculates himself a virus and the competitors must build nanobots (actually .NET classes) to search and destroy the virus, the "gaming field" was a special framework developed in .NET in which the competitors assemblies are loaded. Hoshimi is a strategy game that requires deep knowledge of .NET and AI. There were a high school category (some of the competitors are very young and came with their parents from places like Serbia and China) and an open category. Some of the things I saw will mold my game development webcast series that I'll be doing in August. But I digress, again. After some 6 hours, the time was close to the second graded presentation and the team used every minute: 
 
 
 
Remind, rehearse, image what are you going to say and how. At long last, they went on stage for their last presentation for the second group of judges. The view from the team's perspective was more or less like this:
 
 
 
As you can see the judges (from Japan, Mexico, and Australia in this case) took their jobs very seriously. This time the initial preparations went smoothly but the demo did have problems:
 
 
 
So the team scrambled as the 25 minutes were running up. In the end, the judges pretty much questioned the same topics of security and innovation as the first group of judges did and, after the final remarks, the work was over, now all is left is to wait for one day before knowing the 6 runners-up from the 37 teams. Leandro y Sergio suggested that we take the guys and gals from Latino teams out to some place to kill the stress but coming back to normal behavior could be hard:
 
 
 
What else could I say? what could've been done different? was the Japanese judge happy with my answer? But one good thing about young people is that they can leave things behind so, bit by bit, in Yokohama Hard Rock Cafe the teams started to do some group therapy:
 
 
 
Here Leonardo pays attention to how things went for a friend of a Mexican team, specifically from Tijuana (to the best of my knowledge, Mexico had 3 teams at Imagine Cup: Puerto Vallarta - Short Film, Tijuana - Software Design, DF - IT, but I could be wrong). After a few hours of laughter between Mexicans, Costarricans, Peruvians, Ecuadorians and Portorricans), Team Ecuador said good night in a notable more relaxed and intercultural mood:
 
 
 
Now to wait all day tomorrow, which is basically a free day and at night to the dinner where the runner-ups will be announced. We'll see.
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Ecuador at the Imagine Cup 2005 Japan finals. Day One.

And well, after the welcome party, it came the day for the first round of presentations, so things were getting serious, which was clear even as the team arrived for breakfast:
 
 
 
As a reliever, nor the Jamaican neither the Japanese teams look far better than ours. After recovering energy with a champions breakfast, the team went to check their official post:
 
 
 
And not, it's not like anything is broke. It's simply that as the presentation time got closer, the stress grew (by the way, this is Byron's picture debut, who did the trip to Yokohama through Newark, which made our team actually make a travel around the world and half to get here). Once the place was set up, it was the time for a final rehearsal and minor adjustments to the script:
 
 
 
As you can see, even Sergio Victorio (Microsoft responsible for academic evangelism for the Andean region) is dead serious about it, which just figures as he is the one who is actually paying for having the team here. The rules of Imagine Cup establish that every team has to start making two 15 minutes presentation, the first one for three of the six judges in our category, Software Design.
 
 
And there you have the Ecuadorian shirt doing its first presentation, which is basically for reducing the stress, as the judges even if they are present didn't take any notes or qualified the team in any other way. Moreover, only two members of the team must do the talk, that's why Mario and Leonardo, even as they were there could just watch from behind:
 
 
 
And try hard to telephatically transmit the script to the guys in the front. It's hard not to be able to do any more. In the end things didn't go bad, there's a lot to fix and better for sure, but that was what this presentation was meant to, so that after the mandatory feedback the whole team could even smile and breathe:
 
 
 
 
Anyway, you have to check out Christian's face: he hasn't fully overcome the first round and the second one was just a few hours ahead. At the left you can see Leonardo Doeyo, Microsoft responsible for academic evangelism in Latin America, an Argentinian who is as good as any Caribbean at singing and dancing salsa (which I know for what happened later, but I digress). After lunch, the team waited for the presentation for the second group of three judges:
 
 
 
Once they got the handle of the game, they are more relaxed as they must basically repeat what they did in the morning (totally OT and only relevant to Latino audiences: guess who is becoming known as Elvis Crespo across all Imagine Cup?). I save you the picture of the second presentation because, as I said, it was pretty similar to the first one, only more relaxed hence better (now the real question is how the other teams are doing). At dinner, the agenda said it was karaoke night. It's widely known that karoke is a Japanese National Sport (they've got entire buildings dedicated to it around here), so every team *just had* to do it. Team Ecuador choose one of the very few songs in Spanish: "La Bamba" (Para bailar la bamba, para bailar la bamba se necesita una poca de gracia...)
 
 
 
No national pride involved here: Team Ecuador was one of the best at it! Again, the relax was what everybody needed as tomorrow comes the real thing: two 25 minutes presentations done by the whole team. The judges will take notes and decide. For good or bad (or better, whatever).
 
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Ecuador at the Imagine Cup Japan 2005 finals

In our last chapter, we left our heroes very tired after a really long trip (by modern standards, anyway). Actually, we got to Yokohama at 7:30 A.M. on Wednesday (Tuesday night in Quito), at pretty much the same time as several other teams. That's why this day was dedicated for the teams just to recover themselves. At night, the Imagine Cup hosts throw a "Welcome Party":
 
 
As many other official Microsoft parties, the night was kind of boring relaxing but there was still good chance of making new acquaintances, like Christian here who is already good friends with the Costa Rica team (which is in the Office Design category, and therefore not in direct competetion with our team which is running in the Software Design category):
 
 
 
A nice surprise was a ryu-kyu dance énsémble, which performed an intriguing mix of folkloric and modern rhytms:
 
 
The presentation was not only unexpected, different, cool and, dare I say, educative, but, amazingly, ended with many developers-developers-developers dancing and claping on stage:
 
 
 
This of course included the andean/ecuadorian team (do you recognize some of them in the above picture?). All in all, it was a nice relaxing time, great for getting used to the local ways and for making new friends:
 
 
 
As in other Microsoft parties there was no alcohol (which in this case was mandatory because of the kids as young as 14 who are running on the High School category, they traveled with their moms by the way). At 9:30 P.M. the place was closed, which is just good, as tomorrow (well, today) the serious stuff will start and we need the neurons of the team as clear as possible.
 
 
Edgar Sánchez
 
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Ecuador in the Imagine Cup Japan 2005 finals

To begin with, the trip Quito-Bogotá took me an hour and 15 minutes then, after waiting 5 hours, more than 10 hours between Bogotá and Paris, and finally over 12 hours between Paris and Tokyo. The team did it even longer: Quito - Bonaire (in the Antilles) - Amsterdam - Paris - Tokyo. To get an idea of the size of the trip, this picture illustrates just the last leg:
 
I took the picture at 4 A.M., while flying over Siberia when we had still three hours before getting to Tokyo. That should easily explain why the team that in Paris still looked like this:
 
Nine hours later, while flying over Siberia, looked like this:
 
Almost two days flying, with precious little sleep and a time zone shake up (I'm writing this at Thursday noon in Yokohama, which happens to be Wednesday at 10 P.M. in Quito), but the team is now in good shape again (they are strong college students, these guys) and poised for the first round of presentations this afternoon.
 
 
Edgar Sánchez
 
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¡Windows Vista!

"Longhorn" has just got an official name  ¿What do you think of it?
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Almost ready for Imagine Cup Japan

On Monday I'll start a (very long) trip to Yokohama for the Imagine Cup finals. An Ecuadorian team from the Universidad Católica won the Andean Region chapter and with that their ticket to the Yokohama finals. As I was designed coach for the team, Microsoft is sending all of us to Japan (us and 35 other teams). As a bonus, we will be doing the trip Quito-Bogotá-Paris-Tokyo-Paris-Bogotá-Quito, so I'll be in France for the first time in my life also. This is going to be a really cool trip!
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