Mentoring University Of Houston On The Road To The Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition

The University of Houston’s design competition, which serves as the road to the Microsoft Imagine Cup, provides opportunities for students across the computer science discipline to team-up and use creativity, passion + knowledge of technology to create applications, games and integrated solutions that change the way we live, work and play.


As a judge of the competition, 900lbs collaborated with the teams to drive the innovation design process and inspire young minds to think differently about design and the human experience. Leveraging the arsenal of tools we engage within industry leading organizations, we had the incredible opportunity to educate the student population on how science drives design and provide advisory to each competing team on how to elevate the game based system.


The individual systems elicited a certain stylized experience that worked to ignite creativity and integrate solutions to advance the way we live, work, and play. The educational model employed within the Computer Science competition allows the student population to apply learning in a visual format that ignites play as a tool to engage the audience.


As an example, a group of students have designed a game that immerses you in a reminiscent Nintendo style format and subtly leverages engagement as a powerful tool. As you begin the experience, you find yourself facing the character, standing on a rocky L shaped mountainside with a single layer of grass resting atop the rocky stage. Incorporating an intuitively basic level of UI/UX, the subtle prompts help the user learn how to navigate through the game, while leveling-up the user [literally]….


As the user begins to navigate around the grassy platform and maneuver throughout the forest, dopamine levels spike and you begin to transition from cute tiny character into navy seal minded gymnast, as you leap from log to log, in mid air. Unknowingly the system is organically activating a hyper-competitive layer through obstacle based engagement and you find yourself entranced by the experience, preparing to devote countless hours to reaching the seemingly basic goal of summiting the mountainous forest, no matter what the cost may be. Scientifically, what I found compelling is that the user transition from extrinsic based obligation to a deep intrinsic desire to do it for your childhood self, was a playful process that excited my inner most core.


The described experience is a fantastic example of how game mechanics, when designed with the user in mind, have the capacity to ignite the user experience, elicit the expected user response, and encourage the user to engage with the system. Collectively, the premise of the experience serves as a fantastic platform, upon which the designers can now build, with integrated feedback from the panel of judges to prepare for their summit to the Microsoft Imagine Cup.


The opportunity to experience what’s on the game design horizon and deliver insights through our methodologies and scientific process was a fantastic opportunity to support higher education and hopefully elevate game based system design. A big thank you to Microsoft’s Imagine Cup and the University of Houston for inviting us tor participate.