Six teams, chosen from a field of 16,000 competitors, this week displayed their software programs designed to help preserve the environment at the Imagine Cup, Microsoft's annual innovation challenge. Worldwide, 185,000 university students from 100 countries registered to participate in this year's Imagine Cup. One team from each country will participate in the challenge in Paris in July. "It is our competition to generate passion in teens to use technology to change the world," says Microsoft's Chris Weber. Rochester Institute of Technology students took the U.S. championship with their low-cost combination of sensors and software that essentially allows home owners to monitor themselves and alerts them to energy waste. The RIT team says their invention is an affordable and advanced form of the "smart home" technology that could allow people to control their household systems through the Internet. RIT student Adam Risi says their device adds another layer to the smart home by allowing it to tell owners when there is a problem that could be fixed to conserve energy. This year Imagine Cup included categories for video games and photography. The winning video game was "Ecocism," in which players maneuver animated hovercrafts in a quest to reforest a barren Earth and fight off spider-like robots trying to destroy the trees. "The raw potential and creativity that these students show in their projects help me to feel extremely optimistic about our future," says Microsoft's Scott Davidson.
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