Bliink is a web design competition by Microsoft which opens for registration on the 5th of January. It’s nationwide, so expect some good competition. Qualified competitors get a free copy of Microsoft Expression web-design suite (>$100) for the competition (read: for free).
To enter you must be a US citizen and a student between 13 and 19 years old, working on a team of 2-4 people. And you need an ‘educator’ as a mentor; a teacher to oversee things. That’s it.
According to their website:
Web sites will be evaluated on the following criteria by a panel of judges: Creativity/Original Ideas (25%), Communication (20%), Organization/Navigation (20%), and Visual Presentation/Design (35%).
Points will be taken away for non-functioning aspects and copyright violations.
To get the Microsoft Expression suite for the contest, have your teacher email email@example.com to register your school for the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDN AA). Once your school is registered, you can also download whatever you want from Dreamspark. As a competing student, you should install all of this stuff on a school computer. But the Bliink website explicitly says that you’ll be allowed to install all of this on your home computer as well, and for free.
This is a pretty legit contest. Microsoft basically wants you to make a real website. You’re allowed to use third-party content (stuff you didn’t make) as long as you get permission and don’t violate any copyright/intellectual-property laws. That means cite everything properly.
The only downside I can find is that you have to use the Expression suite to make the website. Coupled with the fact that one of the conditions of the contest is 100% ownership of the website you submit, this probably means the benefit to Microsoft is that they’ll use the winning websites to say, “look what a bunch of awesome high school students did with Expression; buy our software so you can do it too.” But that’s not a big deal.
Talk to your guardians, your friends, and your teachers about getting the ball rolling. Expect updates in just under a month.