The entrepreneur bug bites early these days — just look at these amazing female finalists from Microsoft’s annual tech competition for students.

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

As the acquisition by Yahoo! of Summly, a startup whose founder had reached the ripe old age of 17 at the time of the deal, makes clear, the entrepreneurship bug bites early these days, and it doesn’t just bite boys.

A quick look at the finalists from Microsoft’s U.S. Imagine Cup competitions for students makes this abundantly clear. Finalists recently presented at a demo day at the company’s Mountain View campus and plenty of impressive female founders were on show (Help Me Help took top honors).

If you’re not familiar with the contest, competition manager John Scott Tynes summed up its essence recently for Geek Dad: “It’s always been about inspiring students around the world to dream big and do awesome stuff. We’re not giving them a test or an algorithm or a problem to solve. Have an idea, execute it, and show us what you’ve got.” What young women took up the challenge to wow the judges? Meet some of them below:

hopeHope Bretischer (University of Chicago)
Bretischer is part of the team Project Sam, which developed a tool allows health clinics in developing countries to digitize their inventory via text, in the absence of computers and internet. Cindy Sui also participated.


Sixue (Mira) ChenSixue (Mira) Chen (Rice University)
Chen is one of three computer engineers who developed SwagFace, an innovative facial recognition game for Windows Phone 8 where players mimic faces using their smartphone and win points. The team also included Lam Yuk Wong.


michelleMichelle Enfinger (University of Central Arkansas)
Enfinger and her team, Bears, Unlimited, will soon head to Russia for the Worldwide Imagine Cup Finals.Their Bear Claw System uses a motion glove and smartphone to assist physical and occupational therapy patients.


parbatiParbati Sangel (Winona State University)
Sangel’s team, The Miracle Workers, designed a baby monitor that simultaneously monitors infant’s vital signs and sends the data to a smartphone or a PC. Want to know more? Fast Company wrote all about it.


teresaTeresa Scaife (University of Arkansas)
Scaife’s team, Verbatim Signers, created a device that utilizes the Kinect to interpret American Sign Language and translate it into written and spoken text.


laurenLauren Truong (University of Houston)
Lost Spectrum describes themselves as a team of young gamers, creators, and mad scientists. They developed Chroma Tales, a game where players try to restore color to the world.

Women 2.0 readers: Do we need more competitions like these to encourage young women to pursue tech careers?

jessicaJessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.