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The winning team, The Knights from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, created an automated robot using artificial intelligence to identify and remove weeds from rows of crops./COURTESY

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2 JKUAT students declared winners of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup championships

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21 – Two Kenyan students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology have won Sh1.7 million in Microsoft’s 18th edition of the annual Imagine Cup Championships.

The two, Michael Mwaisakenyi and Kenneth Gichira, won the competition that saw thousands of students across the world submitting innovations to impact their communities, both locally and globally.

The competition advanced through hackathons, online semi-finals, and virtual regional final events, bringing together finalists via Microsoft Teams. Six teams, including a team of bright young minds from Kenya , were selected to move forward to the World Championship and present their projects to compete for the 2020 trophy on the biggest stage yet—the Microsoft Build digital event.

The winning team, The Knights from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, created an automated robot using artificial intelligence to identify and remove weeds from rows of crops. Their solution uses cameras as sensors to gather input from the environment and eliminate farmers’ need to use environmentally harmful pesticides in their weeding. As part of winning the regional finals, the team won 8000 USD each. Prizes also included Azure credits and a spot in the Imagine Cup World Championship event.

“Imagine Cup has always aimed to empower students to use their imagination and passion for technology to develop innovative and inclusive solutions that tackle key societal issues. This aligns directly with Microsoft ongoing commitment to providing students with the necessary resources and platforms to hone in on and grow their skillset. With an increasing focus on bringing the world together digitally, we’re continuously encouraged by the projects young developers create to make a difference. We are also extremely proud of The Knights, who by making it to the championship event, have reaffirmed Kenya and Africa’s immense potential to create solutions that directly address socio-economic needs within industries such as the agricultural sector,” says Kendi Nderitu, Country Manager for Microsoft in Kenya.

Held in virtual format this year in light of the health safety recommendations, World Finalists pitched their projects during Microsoft Build’s inaugural digital event. This year the event was judged by innovation experts spanning a variety of technology, diversity, and social change-centered experiences that align to the core of Imagine Cup’s mission.  Across her extensive career as a tech innovator and leader Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO of Reboot Representation, has worked to empower underrepresented groups in technology. The CyberCode Twins, America and Penelope Lopez, are young innovators who’ve participated in tech competitions across the world and hope to introduce other students to opportunities in the field. Finally, Microsoft president Brad Smith leads work on a wide range of issues involving the intersection of technology and society, including ethics and AI, human rights, and environmental sustainability.

Kicking off the event with a short pitch of their projects in the lightning round, the judges selected Team Hollo from Hong Kong along with Team Syrinx from Japan and Team Tremor Vision from the United States to advance to the second and final round of the competition. Each of the top three teams then gave an in-depth presentation of their solutions, which were assessed for their diversity, originality, and innovative design.

Judges selected Team Hollo as the winners. The team, from the University of Hong Kong, won the grand prize for their mental health companion web app leveraging Azure analytics and AI services to advance youth therapy practices. The grand prize included 100,000 USD, a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and 50,000 USD in Azure grants. Making to top six position was a Team RedWalls  from Tunisia National Institute of Applied Science and Technology with their I-Remember mobile application designed for the well-being of both the Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

“We are thrilled for Team Hollo and look forward to future updates surrounding their winning solution. At the same time, we are also encouraged by the sheer talent of all this year’s finalists who clearly put a lot of thought behind their unique tech innovations.  As we continue to navigate through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly in such uncertain times, I am confident we will continue to see innovations from young bright minds not only in Africa, but the world over,” concludes Nderitu.

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