Sparks will Fly 2009 Challenge


The who, what, where and why of the Windows Embedded community offering.

This was the official website for the Sparks will Fly 2009 Challenge.
The content below is taken from the site's 2009 archived pages.


2008 Microsoft Confidential POST:

Windows Embedded team, not to be outdone by the .NET Micro Framework marketing hacks with their Dare to Dream Different challenge, have their own challenge. At least they’ve been sensible enough to admit it is a contest.

It’s call the Sparks will Fly 2009 Challenge, and it involves

  • Submitting a 3 page paper with your idea
  • Building a working prototype (and providing a 3 minute video)
  • Demonstrating it (if one of the 3 finalists)

As usual there’s a stack of cash ($15K) and a trip to TechEd 2009 (which they seem to include in all their competitions these days since it makes to the total $50K prize value seems so much bigger!)

Yet another example of Microsoft trying to drum up interest in their products in entirely the wrong way. But this is just the beginning. Expect more and more ‘challenges’ from Microsoft in the coming months as it tries desperately to get the cool kids involved. Good luck with that one.

Entries are taken from now until January 9, 2009.


It is inevitable. The home of the future will generate the waste of the future.

Recycling is fast becoming a vital part of modern living. Unfortunately, recycling is neither easy nor cool, so people will avoid it unless there are good incentives to do it.

Binn-E proposes a way to assist the future home owner to sort, process and recycle domestic waste in a way that’s environmentally responsible and dare I say it, even fun.


Sparks will Fly 2009 Challenge

Show us your “home of the future” and win $15,000, plus a trip to TechEd 2009!

We know you've got great ideas – and we want to see them in action. So go to your quiet place, think big and enter the Sparks Will Fly 2009 Challenge. Here’s how the contest works:

Round 1

Submit a 1-3-page paper that outlines an embedded project that will help realize the home of the future. Maybe you envision a thermostat that sets itself according to the latest weather forecast, or a refrigerator that re-orders groceries. Be creative, but make sure it’s an embedded device that you could actually build.

Deadline: January 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time (GMT -8)

On January 9, 2009, we’ll announce the 50 participants who will advance to round two.

 Round 2

It’s time to put your skills to the test. All 50 finalists will receive a free SPARK Your Imagination kit, based on the VIA Artigo Pico-ITX board. Build a working prototype of your idea and submit a 4-8-page paper that describes your solution. You’ll also need to create a 2-minute video that summarizes your project.

Deadline: March 11, 2009 at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time (GMT -8)

Round 3

On March 13, 2009, we’ll reveal the top 3 finalists. Each of the 3 finalists will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a flight to ESC Silicon Valley, where they’ll demonstrate their project during the Microsoft keynote.

The winner will be announced at the end of the keynote, and will receive an additional cash prize of $15,000 and a trip to TechEd 2009 in Los Angeles.


Take advantage of a comprehensive set of powerful embedded development tools, technologies, and resources. Microsoft’s partnership with several of the world’s premier hardware vendors gives hobbyists access to the same enterprise-class tools used by professionals – at an attractive price. It’s just one of the ways Microsoft is nurturing its vision to grow and support this important developer community.

SPARK Your Imagination offers a kit that combines Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2, Visual Studio 2005 Professional, and an embedded device. Backed by Microsoft and a large, active community of embedded developers, Windows Embedded CE provides you with industry-leading tools to help you build an endless variety of embedded solutions.

Whether you’re a student who dabbled in Windows Embedded at school, a hobbyist who likes to test the latest technology in your spare time, or a casual developer who wants to see what you can create with the right tools, SPARK Your Imagination and start building your vision today. Master the skills that professionals around the globe use to build smart, connected, and service-oriented devices.




Common terms used in these rules:

These are the official rules that govern how the Microsoft SPARK YOUR IMAGINATION contest promotion will operate. This promotion will be simply referred to as the “Contest” throughout the rest of these rules. 

In these rules, “we,” “our,” and “us” refer to Microsoft Corporation, the sponsor of the Contest. “You,” “yourself” refers to an eligible Contest entrant.  


This is a skill-based Contest and chance plays no part in the determination of the winner(s). The object of this Contest is to provide a forum for Windows Embedded CE enthusiasts to showcase their skills, help Build the Windows Embedded community and drive awareness of the SPARK Your Imagination program. 

For purpose of this Contest, the proposal and supporting materials that you create and submit in the Contest will be called an “entry.” All eligible entries received will be judged using the criteria described below to determine winners.  


The Contest starts at 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time (“PST”) on October 27th, 2008, and ends on  March 29th,  2009 (“Entry Period”).  The Entry Period consists of the three (3) Rounds described below.   You must enter by the close of Round 1 to be eligible for subsequent Rounds. All required entry materials must be received within the designated Round in order to be eligible for judging.  At the end of Round 1, up to 50 of the top entrants will be selected to advance to Round 2.



(all times 9:00 PM PST)


(all times 5:00 PM PST)

Round 1

October 27th, 2008

January 7th, 2009

Round 2

 January 15th, 2009

March 11th, 2009

 Finals Round

ESC Silicon Valley

March 29th, 2009


You are eligible to enter this Contest if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are a Internet technology enthusiast or specialist and are at least 18 years of age or older at the time of entry; and
  • You are NOT a resident of Cuba, Iran, North Korea or Sudan and
  • You are NOT an employee of Microsoft Corporation or an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary; and
  • You are NOT involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Contest; and


You are NOT an immediate family (parent, sibling, spouse, child) or household member of a Microsoft employee, an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary, or a person involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Contest.

This Contest is void in the Province of Quebec, Canada; and wherever else prohibited by law.


Round 1:

You’ll be asked to submit a 1 to 3 page report detailing your idea for an embedded project that will help realize the home of the future. Entries must be submitted as an electronic file in the .doc, .docx, .pdf or .txt format, and report should address the following Project Vision:

  • What problem are you trying to solve? 
  • What is your proposed solution to the problem?
  • Why would the solution be best implemented as an embedded solution?

Judges will review all eligible entries based on the criteria described in section 5 below and select up to 50 entries to move on to Round 2.

Round 2:
Each Entrant who agrees to compete in Round 2 will receive a VIA Artigo embedded platform device to be used to implement their idea. 

You must create and upload a 4 to 8 page report and a 2- minute video each detailing the implementation of your project. Entry materials must meet the following content and technical requirements.

You must build the Embedded Solution using the hardware tools and software tools described below:

Hardware Tools

VIA Artigo embedded platform device provided by Microsoft

Software Tools

Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 Windows Embedded CE Platform Builder

At the conclusion of the Round 2 Entry Period, all eligible entries received will be reviewed by a panel (or panels) of qualified judges based on the judging criteria set forth below to select up to 3 Entries (each, a “Finalist”) to compete in the live Finals event. 


Finals Round:


All three Finalists will be awarded a trip to ESC Silicon Valley in San Jose, California, USA to present their idea and demonstrate their project in a 3-minute Presentation to ESC SV attendees. 

A panel of experts will judge all presentations based on the criteria described below and announce 1 Grand Prize Winner. 

For all Rounds: All Entry materials must be submitted in English. For the Finals event an interpreter will be provided for non-English speaking contestants. 


Limit one entry per person and e-mail address. We are not responsible for entries that we do not receive for any reason, or for entries that we receive but are not decipherable for any reason.

We will automatically disqualify:

(1)    Incomplete or illegible entries; and

(2)    Entries that we receive in excess of the entry limit described above.

In addition, by submitting your entry into this Contest you confirm that, to the best of your knowledge:  
  • your entry is your own original work; and
  • your entry only includes material (including music, video or images) that you own, or that you have permission from the copyright / trademark owner to use; and
  • you have obtained permission from any recognizable person (parent/guardian, if a minor) that appears in your entry to submit your entry in this Contest and to use their personal data in the entry for the purposes of the Contest (if applicable); and
  • your entry has not been selected as a prize winner in any other contest.



Round 1:

At the conclusion of the Round 1 Entry Period, all eligible entries received will be reviewed by a panel (or panels) of qualified judges based on the following judging criteria, and select up to 50 of the top Entries to advance to in Round 2.

Round 1 Judging Criteria

  • 25% Innovation: Originality and creativity
  • 25% Impact and Relevance of the Solution
  • 25% Feasibility and Adherence Theme
  • 25% Quality of the Project Vision

Round 2:

At the conclusion of the Round 2 Entry Period, all eligible entries received will be reviewed by a panel (or panels) of qualified judges based on the judging criteria set forth below to determine up to 3 Entries (each, a “Finalist”) to compete in the live Finals event. 


Round 2 Judging Criteria

  • 20%  Clear explanation of the problem and its solution
  • 20% Relevance of the problem to the Home of future theme
  • 20% Clear explanation of the Technology: components, purpose and connection/Communicate
  • 20% Is the solution a realistic, efficient and a good way to solve the problem?
  • 20% Demonstrated familiarity with Windows embedded CE 6.0, as measured by building an image.

Ties: In the event of a tie between any eligible entries, the tie will be broken by an additional judge who will the judge the tied entries based on the criteria listed above.

All Rounds: The decisions of these judges are final and binding. The Grand Prize winner will be announced at the Finals event in ESC Silicon Valley 2009. If we do not receive a sufficient number of entries meeting the entry requirements in any Round, we may, at our discretion based on the above criteria, select fewer than stated number of winners.


Other than what is set forth below, we are not claiming any ownership rights to your entry. However, by submitting your entry, you:

  • are granting us an irrevocable, worldwide right and license, for which you have received a sufficient remuneration, for the duration of the protection of the copyrights to: (i) reproduce, copy, modify or alter your entry with all known all later developed means; (ii) use, review, assess, test and otherwise analyze your entry and all its content in connection with this and any future contests sponsored by Microsoft; and (ii) feature your entry and all its content in connection with the promotion of this Contest in all media (now known or later developed); 
  • except where prohibited, hereby waive any and all so-called “moral rights” or any similar right that you may have or hereinafter acquire in the entry and all its content, and to the extent that you cannot, you hereby consent to us doing or omitting to do any act that would otherwise infringe such “moral rights” or any such similar rights;
  • agree to sign any necessary documentation that may be required for us and our designees to make use of the rights you granted above;
  • understand and acknowledge that Microsoft and other entrants  may have developed or commissioned materials similar or identical to your submission and you waive any claims you may have resulting from any similarities to your entry; 
  • understand that we cannot control the incoming information you will disclose to our representatives in the course of entering, or what our representatives will remember about your entry. You also understand that we will not restrict work assignments of representatives who have had access to your entry. By entering this Contest, you agree that use of information in our representatives’ unaided memories in the development or deployment of our products or services does not create liability for us under this agreement or copyright or trade secret law; 
  • understand that you will not receive any compensation or credit for use of your entry, other than what is described in these Official Rules.

Please note that following the end of this Contest your entry may be posted on a website selected by us for viewing by visitors to that website. We are not responsible for any unauthorized use of your entry by visitors to this website. While we reserve these rights, we are not obligated to use your entry for any purpose, even if it has been selected as a winning entry. 

If you do not want to grant us these rights to your entry, please do not enter this Contest. 


Round 1 Prize (50): Each entrant moving on to compete in Round 2 will win VIA Artigo embedded platform device (Estimated Retail Value US $400.00) 

Finalist Prize: (3) Each finalist will win a trip to the ESC Silicon Valley event to compete for the Grand Prize. Trip includes round trip coach airfare for one from major airport closest to winner's home to San Jose, CA., 5 night single occupancy hotel accommodations, and admission into the ESC Silicon Valley event  (Estimated Retail Value US $2,095.00)  Each of the three finalists will receive a $1,000 cash prize. 

Grand Prize (1): One winner will be selected to win US $15,000 cash, plus a trip to the Tech∙Ed North America event. Trip includes round trip coach airfare for one from major airport closest to winner's home to Los Angeles, California, USA, 4 night’s single occupancy hotel accommodations, and admission into the Microsoft Tech∙Ed North America 2009 event.  (Estimated Retail Value US $2,000.00)

Travel prize winners are responsible for providing all required travel documents, including, but not limited to required Visa, passport etc.If winner lives within 100 miles of travel destination, Sponsor reserves the right to provide alternative transportation.

If the ESC Silicon Valley or Microsoft Tech∙Ed North America events are cancelled for any reason, Sponsor shall have no further obligation to the winner other than to provide the travel portion of the prize minus the opportunity to attend the cancelled event.

Actual value depends on date/time/destination, and difference between actual value and stated value will not be awarded. 

Travel subject to availability and must be completed on dates specified by the Sponsor or prize will be forfeited and awarded to an alternate winner.  Some restrictions may apply. No cancellation of reservation, or transfer of reservation to another date after reservation has been made.

The odds of winning will depend on the number of eligible entries received and the level of skill of each entrant.

If for any reason the advertised prize is unavailable, unless to do so would be prohibited by law, we reserve the right to substitute a prize(s) of equal or greater value, as permitted. We will only award one (1) prize per person. If you are selected as a potential winner of this Contest:

(1)    You may not exchange your prize for cash or any other merchandise or services.

(2)    You may not designate someone else as the winner. If you are unable or unwilling to accept your prize, we will award it to an alternate potential winner.

(3)    If you accept a prize, you will be solely responsible for all applicable taxes related to accepting the prize.

(4)    If you are a minor in your place of residence, we may award the prize to your parent/legal guardian on your behalf and your parent/legal guardian shall be designated as the winner.


If you are a potential winner, we will notify you by sending a message to the e-mail address, the phone number, or mailing address (if any) listed on your entry within seven (7) days following the determination of winners. If the notification that we send is returned as undeliverable, or you are otherwise unreachable for any reason, we may award the prize to an alternate winner. However, if the potential winner is a resident of Portugal, no alternate winner will be chosen and the prize will revert to the charitable institution designated by the Civil Governor, as required under Portuguese law.

If there is a dispute as to who is the potential winner, we will consider the potential winner to be the authorized account holder of the e-mail address used to enter the Contest.

If you are a potential winner, we may require you to sign a declaration of eligibility, use, indemnity and liability/publicity release. If you are a potential winner and are a minor in your place of residence, and we require that your parent or legal guardian shall be designated as the winner pursuant to clause 8(4) above, we may require that they sign a declaration of eligibility, use, indemnity and liability/publicity release on your behalf. If you, (or your parent/legal guardian if applicable), do not sign and return these required forms within the time period listed on the winner notification message, we may disqualify you (or the designated parent/legal guardian) and select an alternate selected winner.


By entering this Contest you agree: 

(1.)         To abide by these Official Rules;

(2.)         To the extent allowable under applicable law, to release and hold harmless Microsoft, their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, employees and agents from any and all liability or any injury, loss, damage, right, claim or action of any kind arising from or in connection with this Contest or any prize won save for residents of the United Kingdom, Chile, Korea, Greece, Brazil, Turkey, Hong Kong, France and Germany with respect to claims resulting from death or personal injury arising from Microsoft’s negligence, for residents of the United Kingdom with respect to claims resulting from the tort of deceit or any other liabilities that may not be excluded by law, and for residents of Australia in respect of any implied condition or warranty the exclusion of which from these Official Rules would contravene any statute or cause any part of these Official Rules to be void;

(3.)         That Microsoft’s decisions will be final and binding on all matters related to this Contest; and

(4.)         That by accepting a prize, Microsoft may use your name and place of residence online and in print, or in any other media, in connection with this Contest, without payment or compensation to you. The declaration of eligibility, use, indemnity and liability/publicity release provided to the potential winner (pursuant to clause 9 above) will make reference to obtaining his/her free consent to use his/her name and place of residence. In any case, the lack of such consent does not prevent the winner from receiving the prize.

This Contest will be governed by the laws of the State of Washington, and you consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the courts of the State of Washington for any disputes arising out of this Contest.                                       


If someone cheats, or a virus, bug, catastrophic event, or any other unforeseen or unexpected event that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled, (also referred to as force majeure)affects the fairness and / or integrity of this Contest, we reserve the right to cancel, change or suspend this Contest. This right is reserved whether the event is due to human or technical error. If a solution cannot be found to restore the integrity of the Contest, we reserve the right to select winners based on the criteria specified above from among all eligible entries received before we had to cancel, change or suspend the Contest.  Computer “hacking” is unlawful. If you attempt to compromise the integrity or the legitimate operation of this Contest by hacking or by cheating or committing fraud in ANY way, we may seek damages from you to the fullest extent permitted by law. Further, we may ban you from participating in any of our future Contests, so please play fairly.


We will post the names of confirmed winners online afterMarch 29th 2009 at This list will remain posted until May 30th 2009.


Microsoft Corporation is the sponsor of this Contest.
Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way Redmond, WA 98052


Microsoft’s Privacy Policy will apply to this Contest and to all information that we receive from your entry. Please read the Privacy Policy on the Contest entry page before accepting the Official Rules and submitting your entry. Please note that by accepting the Official Rules you are also accepting the terms of the Privacy Policy.