WESC: Finals Judging

Posted by: Sue Loh

We just completed the final competition of the Windows Embedded Student ChallengE. Congratulations to all of our contestants.  Once again, the creativity and the quality of your work were truly amazing and inspiring.  I hope that you all realize what a great job you did.  I really enjoyed meeting you and seeing your projects.

Yet again, I am inspired to write up information a little too late for the people involved.  (My previous post on WESC was also too late to be really useful.)  But I suppose it is much easier to say and remember now that it is fresh on my mind from this competition.  I hope that it will be useful next year.

WESC: Finals Judging.

There are three really critical aspects of your project at finals.

  • Innovation and creativity.   You don't have to cure cancer.  You don't have to build your entire project by hand; use prebuilt components as appropriate.  But if you came up with new features no product has, showcase them!  If you encountered problems and came up with simple, elegant solutions, then show them off!  Get the judges excited about something new you built.  If your project doesn't do anything very new, then it could still be good work, but it won't win.  Please forgive the frankness but that is the truth of it.  Judges want to see new features or elegant solutions to existing problems.
  • Feasibility; commercial and technical.   Your project must be a believable product.  It must be clear that people will be willing to pay for it.  It's okay if it would be sold to governments or humanitarian organizations instead of normal consumers, but the benefit must clearly justify the cost.  Explain the costs very clearly, including cost over time (recurring or maintenance costs).  Your project must also work properly.  Judges want to believe that your technical issues are worked out and that it will realistically deliver on your goals.  The judges will notice if you attempt a very difficult project, but if it is too incomplete then it won't be feasible.  Also think about the requirements of your scenario: accuracy, power, security, privacy, safety, scalability, etc.  Show us how you achieve your goals, with real data from your devices as much as possible.
  • The demonstration must work.   On the first day of judging at finals, a large part of the score is based on your demonstration.  The less you show, the harder it is to give you full credit.  If the location prevents some piece of the project from working (for example, if the US cellular networks cannot support your phone hardware) the judges will forgive some missing functionality, but be ready to show a working project.  Be creative in solving demonstration limitations, to show as much functionality as you can.

There are other less important details that students often overlook, which can strengthen your project if you address them.

  • Talk to customers: the companies, users or the government who would buy your product.  Show us that you understand their needs and requirements.  Get their opinions on the technical and economic feasibility of your project.
  • Do a market analysis if possible.
  • Tell us about existing products and how your project is different from those.
  • Tell us what went wrong during your project development and how you overcame it.  This will not hurt your presentation.  It will show us that you figured out how to solve problems.
  • Present your work flow, schedule, and testing methods.
  • Have real users (customers) try using your project if possible.  Test in a real target environment (eg. in a forest or city) if possible.
  • Explain what happens if part of the system fails:  If a sensor, control system, communications connection or the Windows CE device itself malfunctions or loses power.
  • Some projects have weak explanations for setup and deployment.  How much cost/work is required, and how complicated or inconvenient is it?  Can large scale projects be phased in gradually?
  • A demonstration is not required on the second day of finals, but if your demonstration is good then it can strengthen your presentation.  On the second day, don't attempt a demonstration if it is not going to work well or be very visible to the judges.

Again, good work everyone, it was truly a pleasure.

Good luck!