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Student Challenge on Handwriting Data Collection

Beijing, China
October 17 to December 11, 2008

Organized by the Microsoft Student Technology Club, the first Microsoft Student Challenge on Handwriting Data Collection netted more than 14 million pieces of handwriting data, including Simplified Chinese characters, English letters, and chemistry symbols. More than 3,536 students participated in the contest, which resulted in one of the world's largest handwriting recognition databases. The database is an important part of the open research platform for handwriting recognition researchers and significantly reduced the entry threshold for this field.

Microsoft Technology Club is a student community program that promotes advanced technology through education, practice, and innovation. There are currently 30 technology clubs in China's top 30 universities, full of students who are passionate about technology. The club organized this contest not only for technical students but also for students in other areas who demonstrated leadership and creative thinking. More than 105 teams registered in the contest, and the 51 selected teams demonstrated team spirit, perseverance, and efficiency.

After 63 days of intense competition, the winning teams are:


Team Name


First Prize

Rock Turtles

Tongji University

Second Prize


Sichuan University


Tianjin University

Third Prize

Dream Team

Sichuan University


Harbin Institute of Technology


Hunan University

Best Support Club

Sichuan University Club

Sichuan University

Harbin Institute of Technology Club

Harbin Institute of Technology


With help from local Microsoft Student Technology Club members, the competing teams organized a variety of creative activities to collect handwriting data. One team organized a speed writing contest in which they raced to see who the fastest writer was; another team arranged a road show to try out digital ink technology and collect data at the same time.

participants in the student challenge

Maintaining a high level of energy for every team during the contest was crucial. The “weekly star” award helped by providing any team the opportunity to win a game each week. The separate Chemistry Symbol track during weeks 4 to 7 encouraged the teams who fell behind to stay motivated.

weekly data tracking

comparison of top six teams

“It is our best chance to show what we are capable of,” remarked a student from the Sichuan University Club. Throughout the competition it was clear that the Microsoft Student Technology Club is a close community of students who love to work and learn together. The competition sparked the interest of several participating students to conduct further exploration in the field of digital ink technology and handwriting data collection.

The Student Challenge will continue as a brand contest for the Microsoft Student Technology Club. The club, meanwhile, continues to help more students develop technical skills and realize their potential, and club activities will also help research and technology evangelization.