U students win Microsoft contest

Courtney Lewis

Saeed Akhter and Moe Khosravy put their creative energy toward a common goal: winning the Microsoft .NET Best Student Awards contest, the second year in a row the University has taken first place.

Akhter, a computer science senior, and Khosravy, a neuroscience junior, developed an engine to render high-resolution 3-D images and animations and transmit them from one application to another.

Incorporating many different technologies, such as UDDI, Direct3D, C#, Maya and C++, the two winners developed a new XML Web service able to transmit the images.

Users can access the software through the Internet to transmit images into their computers, cell phones or personal digital assistants, such as an iPAQ.

Once Akhter and Khosravy learned about the contest from a Microsoft representative, they began brainstorming and decided to advance an idea that hasn’t been used before in Web service.

“We wanted to take advantage of wireless technology and create something new,” Akhter said. “It’s for any system that is connected, whether it’s wireless or through a cable connection.”

As first-place winners, Akhter and Khosravy were awarded $15,000, a Microsoft Xbox and $450 worth of video games. The University also received a $15,000 donation.

The students’ competition included participants from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and other high-ranking computer science programs.

“There was some pretty steep competition,” Akhter said.

Khosravy said some of the graduate students they spoke with were impressed with their software and the time frame they had to finalize the technology.

“(The graduate students) wondered how undergrads could possibly beat them,” Khosravy said.

University President Mark Yudof said this recognition is not only good for the Akhter and Khosravy, but also for the University by showing the nation the “wonderful, talented students here.

“The purpose of the University is to give students the tools to create,” Yudof said. “It’s supposed to be a magnet for bright people.”

As Yudof and the Board of Regents push to expand the computer science program’s staff, student creativity and recognition from corporations such as Microsoft help encourage expansion of the major.

“We’re very excited for the students and their families,” Yudof said.

After a three-month decision process, Microsoft contest officials narrowed the competitors to 100 semifinalists. The contestants, many of whom are graduate and professional students, were treated to an all-expenses paid trip to New Orleans.

All participants spent the week sightseeing and attended a private concert featuring Blues Traveler after the final awards ceremony.

“We worked so hard,” said Khosravy, who estimated 120 hours of work on the project. “I would’ve been disappointed if we didn’t win.”

Akhter and Khosravy said they’d like to license the technology and develop it further in the future. The students also said they’ve discussed starting their own business.

“There are definitely plans,” Khosravy said.

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]