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The Suburbanite
  • Lesnak advances to Microsoft Imagine Cup worldwide finals

  • Matt Lesnak, a North Canton Hoover High School graduate, has advanced to the worldwide finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup technology design competition.

    He and his two other teammates (gaming software designers) will travel to Sydney, Australia in early July to compete against game software teams from eight other countries.

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  • Matt Lesnak, a North Canton Hoover High School graduate, has advanced to the worldwide finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup technology design competition.
    He and his two other teammates (gaming software designers) will travel to Sydney, Australia in early July to compete against game software teams from eight other countries.
    Lesnak's team won the national finals held in Redmond, WA in April. That win propelled the group into the worldwide finals.  All team members attended Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa. The winning game the trio developed helps elementary school students, primarily students in fourth and seventh grades, reinforce their math skills using a Microsoft Mobile Phone.
    The game is called MathDash. The program was specifically developed for the Microsoft Windows phone for the competition. They do plan to release a version after the worldwide competition for the Android and IOS Apple smart phones. The team wanted to create a game that made learning math fun and that is aesthetically pleasing.
    It's been a busy year for Lesnak. He won the national finals in April, interviewed with Microsoft for a job and graduated from Drexel June 15 with a bachelor's in computer science. Now, he is planning for his trip to Australia and getting ready to move to Washington for his new job at Microsoft.
    After his job interview, he was offered an associate producer's position that he has decided to accept. He will be working in the game studio at Microsoft as a project manager leading developers, artists and designers for various game titles. 
    Before he could think about all of those important events in his life, he is hoping that the national competition experience will help prepare him for the worldwide event.
    “At the nationals, there were panels of four judges that included reporters, critics, developers,” Lesnak said.
    “The day started with a showcase open to the public. Then there were several speakers before the final awards program. It was a bit nerve-racking because they kept drawing out making the announcements. The feedback from judges was all very positive. There were also industry professionals that reviewed the game and two out of the four professionals said that they started playing our game and played it a lot longer than they intended because they didn't want to put it down,” he said.
    Each winner received a trophy, a certificate and a cash prize along with a cash donation to the university they were attending. Lesnak and his team members each received $2,000 and Drexel received a $10,000 donation. For the worldwide competition winners, team members will receive over $8,000 each and the university will receive $10,000 for the computer science department.
    Lesnak said he started creating gaming programs when he was in grade school. As he got closer to graduating high school, he knew he wanted to attend a college offering good programs in both computer science and in music. In the  spring of 2011, he got involved with a student organization called the Drexel Development Group and began competing in the gaming software world with his teammates.
    Page 2 of 2 - Participants compete in one of three categories: software design, game design or IT challenge. Four of the major elements that makes Lesnak's game stand out include, the time limits built into the program, the way the math problems are presented, the music and sound effects used and the screen colors.
    Lesnak's team is the only team from the U.S. participating in the game division of the worldwide competition. This is the first time he will be visiting Australia. He and the team, including Keith Ayers and Nicholas (Taylor) Mullen, both students at Drexel University, will be traveling with school mentors and a representative from Microsoft, an academic development evangelist (ADE).
    Some of the countries they will be competing against include Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Iceland, Japan, Thailand and the Ukraine. Lesnak said he thought his team had the only educational game in the competition. Regardless of whether the team wins in Australia, the adventure has offered Lesnak a great year and has opened doors for an exciting career

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