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UCR Team Makes Finals of Microsoft Test

UC Riverside Students Named Finalists in Microsoft "Imagine Cup"

The designation earns them a trip to Microsoft’s campus in Seattle, Wash., in April 2011 to compete for the $8,000 grand prize.

(November 30, 2010)

Students John Sullivan, Jaleesa Conner, Vanessa Soria and Charlie Thach Enlarge

Students John Sullivan, Jaleesa Conner, Vanessa Soria and Charlie Thach

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- A team from UC Riverside has been named one of three finalists from the United States in Microsoft's Imagine Cup Solve This mobile game design competition, earning them a trip to Microsoft’s campus in Seattle in April to compete for the $8,000 grand prize.

Calling themselves "Team Inspiration," the four won for their design of Trash Boy, a game designed for mobile phones that allows players to protect fish by preventing trash from entering the ocean.

Students John Sullivan, Jaleesa Conner, Vanessa Soria and Charlie Thach learned about the competition from Iulian Neamtiu, assistant professor of computer science, and Jun Wang, professional development officer in UCR's Bourns College of Engineering.

“Team Inspiration spent many hours in the lab creating this project and prototype," said Felicia Lopez, a computer science major who is the president of the student chapter of Association for Computing Machinery.

Vanessa Soria, a team member, said the team initially started on a role-playing game, but four days before the deadline they switched to the Trash Boy concept for mobile devices. "We then did some high-velocity, high-octane programming," she said. "We probably spent a good 40-50 hours on the project in those four days. The mobile platform was perfect for the game we wanted to create. Trying to flick trash into the boat with the mouse or with an Xbox controller wouldn't be nearly as intuitive as using the touch screen.”

The team chose a game with an environmental theme because the Imagine Cup theme is about solving the world's problems through crowd-sourcing.

“I think this accomplishment is a testament to the outstanding quality of our undergraduate student body and the academic support they receive,” Neamtiu said.

ACM is the premier organization for computer scientists and computer professionals. The ACM chapter at UCR is dedicated to advancing students’ understanding of computer science and its applications, and preparing students in computing and related fields for successful careers.

Now in its ninth year, the Imagine Cup has grown to become a global competition with more than 325,000 students representing 100 countries and regions entering the competition last year. After the national event in April, The Imagine Cup 2011 Worldwide Finals will be held in New York City July 8–13 — the first time the United States will host the final stage of the competition.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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