Imagine Cup Earth is a new contest for students ages 6-18 in which you’ll use computer programming to create a game, simulation, or story inspired by the kinds of earth science that NASA and other researchers do every day. 18 winning students will win prizes totaling $36,000! You can read the official rules here.
Do I need to know coding?
We have two skill level brackets so you can compete in the one that’s right for you:
Beginner: No coding experience necessary! You can learn to code with free online coding kits from Microsoft Imagine and make your first game, app, or science project in about half an hour using our free learn-to-code tools Kodu Game Lab, Microsoft Touch Develop, or Project Spark. After doing a couple of those coding kits, you should be ready to start thinking about your project for Imagine Cup Earth.
Here are some suggestions to get you started on your coding journey:
- If you’re interested in making a game, try using Kodu Game Lab on your Windows PC and our KoduMan coding kit to build your first game. If you’re not on a Windows PC, try using Microsoft Touch Develop which is a website that works on any computer or touchscreen device like a phone or tablet; the Brick Breaker coding kit is a great place to start.
- If you want to try coding an app you can use on your phone or tablet, try Microsoft Touch Develop and our Magic Ball coding kit.
- If coding a story intrigues you, you could try using Project Spark on your Xbox One or Windows 8 or 10 PC with our Lunchtime Blues coding kit.
What should my project be about?
Thanks to our partnership with NASA, we have some great inspirational material for you to start with.
Projects for Beginner Coders
If you’re competing in our Beginner skill bracket, please take a look at these four articles from NASA’s Earthdata website and choose one as the inspiration for your project. For each article we have provided some project ideas. You can use one of our ideas or make up your own! But you must pick one of these four articles for your project.
Zebras without borders: Zebras who have been unable to migrate for generations started doing so. How did they know where to go and when was the right time to leave?
- Make a game about animals finding a new migration route
- Create a simulation where you adjust temperature and rainfall until you successfully trigger an animal migration
- Tell a story about how you imagine animals might find new migration routes
Shadowing the tuna boats: Fishing boat captains have recorded data on fish harvests for hundreds of years and scientists use it to study the depletion of tuna. Scientists are taking that data and applying it to a simulation of how captains make decisions about when and where to fish.
- Make a game about directing fishing boats to only catch mature tuna and not young ones
- Create a simulation where you set quotas on how many tuna fishing boats are allowed to catch and see how the tuna population changes year to year based on your quotas
- Tell a story about being a fishing boat captain who wants to keep the tuna population healthy
Prosperity shining: Satellites have measured the amount of light generated by cities since the 1970s. Scientists can correlate light levels with prosperity – the richer the city, the brighter the lights.
- Make a game where you add more and more lights to a town before the satellite passes overhead
- Create a simulation where you adjust the prosperity levels of cities and see how their brightness changes
- Tell a story about how a small town grows larger and the townspeople keep adding more lights to their buildings
Pedestrians of Eddy Avenue: Eddying currents in the ocean near Australia help create vibrant ecosystems.
- Make a game where you move invasive species out of an eddy area to protect the local wildlife and plants
- Create a simulation where you adjust the location and speed of eddies and see the result on the ecosystem
- Tell a story about a family of hungry sea urchins who eat too much kelp, making it hard for other wildlife to survive
Projects for Intermediate Coders
For this skill bracket, you will create a web app that uses real scientific data showing algae levels in Earth’s oceans measured by a satellite detecting Chlorophyll-A in the water. This data is used by scientists to detect unusually large blooms of phytoplankton algae, often caused by excess nitrogen from farm fertilizer runoff, which in turn can deplete an area of water of oxygen and kill the fish living there. But they also use the satellite data showing Chlorophyll-A to measure other things, such as the movement of ocean currents, jets, and plumes. Once you can see something, you can measure it and use it in all kinds of ways.
Here’s the NASA Earthdata article you can start with: Cleaner water from space.
What you do with that data is up to you! Here are some suggestions:
- Find another data source for average daily temperature at a particular point in an ocean. (Or one for pollution levels, or proximity to agricultural areas, or anything else.) Write code that connects the two data sets and produce a web app that lets the user examine possible relationships. Does temperature affect phytoplankton development? Does it grow more heavily along major cargo shipping lanes? Is there more of it near major cities? You can explore any of these topics by connecting two data sets and coding an interface that lets the user examine and experiment with these connections.
- Scientists in Sweden are harvesting excess algae growth and turning it into biogas. Create a game where the player identifies large algae blooms and collects the excess algae to preserve fish stocks. Use the scientific data in your gameplay so the player can zoom to real dates and locations where algae blooms happened and attempt to harvest the algae before it kills too many fish.
- Find a particularly large algae bloom in the data set. Code a web app that tells the story of that bloom – where it happened, what might have caused it. Give the user the ability to explore the story interactively, tracking the growth of the bloom over time or digging into linked online resources that can shed more light on the story.
Read more articles about algae blooms, fish kills, and chlorophyll levels here:
- Nitrogen & Phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay
- Cleaning up algal blooms
- In new system, algae cleans water, then transforms it into organic fertilizer
What do I submit?
For both skill brackets, your entry will consist of the following:
- Project Summary: Include a short description of your submission and how it applies to the topic
- Project URL: This is a link to your actual software project.
If you use Kodu Game Lab, you will share your project to the Kodu community site:https://worlds.kodugamelab.com/browse
If you use Microsoft Touch Develop, you’ll share it at the Touch Develop community site:
If you use Project Spark, you’ll share it at the Spark community site:
If you build a web app and host it online, provide the URL for your web app.
If you build a web app and want to submit it as a .zip file containing everything needed to run it locally in a web browser, please upload the .zip file to a cloud storage service such as Microsoft OneDrive, make the file public, and provide the URL to download the file.
- Project Video URL: Record a video of no more than 3 minutes showing your project while you explain what you’ve done. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – just use a smartphone or webcam to record the video so you can tell our judges about your project. When you’re done, upload your video to any website or to a cloud storage service such as Microsoft OneDrive, and then provide the URL to view your video.
- Project Screenshots: Take 3 screenshots of your project in action and upload them to our site.
- Consent Form: If you’re 13 or younger, you’ll need to download the Consent Form and have your parent or guardian complete it.
How do I get started?
Register now for Imagine Cup Earth! You’ll need to create a Microsoft Account first if you don’t already have one, and if you’re 13 years old or younger you’ll need your parents’ help. Then sign up for the contest and visit your Dashboard where you’ll find the submission form for your entry.