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At Imagine Cup finals, next generation of entrepreneurs shine

Jeremy Kirk | July 9, 2012
On Saturday, Pedro Querido of Portugal waved his arms back and forth, taming a shopping cart with a green basket that seemingly had a mind of its own.

"Whether you win or lose, everyone learns how to put together a business case, how to pitch something to experts, teamwork, analytical skills," Hooper said. "I used the skills I learned from this all the time."

Hooper, who was a judge at this year's competition, took SOAK to market, meeting with investors in Silicon Valley and using Imagine Cup prize money to initially fund it. Unfortunately, the global financial crisis hit, and it became difficult to raise capital, Hooper said.

Hooper, based in Melbourne, is now working with a former Imagine Cup teammate on a personalized radio service called 121Cast. The Imagine Cup skills he learned allowed his current team "to do in three weeks what took us a few months" while preparing for the Imagine Cup.

Preparing before the second round of judging, the Portuguese team scrambled to make last-minute adjustments to its shopping cart. It is designed to for people who have trouble pushing a shopping cart in a store. A shopper controls the cart through hand gestures which are interpreted by the Kinect controller, and it will follow people while they shop. The teams hopes it will be of interest to stores seeking to increase accessibility.

Wi-Go is the brainstorm of teammate Luis de Matos, who has used a wheelchair since he was 14 years old. During their preparations, Querido fiddled with wires and made final tweaks. Suddenly, a wheel fell off, and the computer nestled at the back of the cart took a dive to the carpeted floor.

"It's OK," said fellow teammate Michael Adaixo coolly as the shopping cart's alarm went off as well.

The students, who study computer science at the Universidade da Beira Interior in Covilh㬠Portugal, made it through the first and second rounds, becoming one of six teams to compete in the finals on Monday. The winner of the Software Design competition will be announced on Tuesday.


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