What is Microsoft Imagine Cup Junior?

Thanks to an enthusiastic body of adopters, Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools continue to grow in popularity. Nearly half of high school students are using AI tools in their learning and studies, according to a report from ACT. Like their learners, educators are also embracing AI. A Forbes’ study from December 2023 found that 60% of teachers are leveraging AI tools in their teaching.

The increasing prevalence of AI in the classroom empowers today’s young people to learn how AI can be used to benefit others, and further develop and practice modern and in-demand workplace skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Microsoft’s Imagine Cup Junior provides an excellent opportunity to expose learners to the world of AI and to offer valuable learning experiences to all skill levels.

What is Imagine Cup Junior?

Currently in its fifth year, the Microsoft Imagine Cup Junior (ICJ) is a global student competition for those ages 5-18. Through ICJ, participants will learn more about technology and how it can be used to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, while participating in a global competition. It’s a great introduction to technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and cybersecurity, and is suitable for all levels, especially beginners.

Competitors explain their ideas in a Microsoft PowerPoint template and record a video to illustrate their concept. No coding is required. The competition is open to any learner interested in learning more about AI, and learners can also build a prototype for their concept. Microsoft has provided information to access Azure for Students where Team Leaders (an educator, parent, or guardian over 18) can add students to collaborate and create a prototype of their concept.

Who can participate?

Imagine Cup Junior is available for competitors ages 5-18, with a Team Leader over 18 years of age. Interested learners ages 5-12 will participate in the Tech for Good Challenge track, and those ages 13-18 will participate in the AI for Good Challenge track. Participants don’t need to be AI or technology experts to get involved. Microsoft has made every aspect of Imagine Cup Junior accessible to beginner levels in bite-sized modules by technology area.

How can I prepare my students for Imagine Cup Junior?

Microsoft has built the Imagine Cup Junior Resource Pack to help educate and prepare your learners for the Imagine Cup Junior challenge. The Resource Pack includes:

  • Getting Started Kit: Here you’ll find six 45-minute lessons, a submission template, judging criteria, and the official competition rules- everything you need to lay the foundation before your competitors dive into their ideas.
  • Deep Learning Modules: This is your best option for those who want to learn more. These modules provide an in-depth overview of the six technology modules that supplement the Beginners Kit. The modules include Intro to AI, Machine Learning, Applications of AI, Deep Learning and Neural Networks, AI for Good, and Cybersecurity.
  • Team Leader Toolkit: Get learners excited to participate. The e-kit includes certificates, social templates, posters, t-shirt designs, and more to leverage throughout the challenge.
  • Judging Criteria and Rubric: There’s nothing worse than a project with unclear expectations. Review the judging criteria and rubric to discover how the judges will determine the winners.

All these resources are accessible to Team Leaders even before your competitors register.

How can my students participate?

Ready to dive in? Here are the steps to participating with your learners in this year’s Imagine Cup Junior event.

  1. Register at www.imaginecup.com/junior.
  2. Download the Imagine Cup Junior Resource Pack.
  3. Incorporate the resources into class curriculum and lesson plans.
  4. Form teams (anywhere from two to six students) and collaborate with them to develop their idea and build their concept in the PowerPoint submission template. Have teams create a video illustrating their idea. Encourage them to apply the lessons from the Resource Pack, and brainstorm concepts to help make a positive difference to the world. Concepts should be aligned to the Microsoft AI for Good Initiatives focused on Health, Cultural Heritage, Earth, Accessibility, and Humanitarian Action.
  5. Submit projects by May 8, 2024 via www.imaginecup.com/junior.
  6. Celebrate teams who are crowned global challenge winners, to be announced June 13, 2024 on the Microsoft Education Blog.

Looking for more information? Get all the details (plus the Resource Pack modules) here.

What’s Next?

Imagine Cup Junior is just the beginning! Help your competitors learn more about AI with the Microsoft Certified Fundamentals certification program. Students can also prepare for careers in big data, cloud computing, and security by earning a Microsoft Certified Fundamentals certification. See all the certifications available in the Microsoft Certified Fundamentals program here.