A weekend at the Google Science Fair
A team from Nat Geo returned to Google campus over the weekend for the 3rd annual Google Science Fair. As a partner on the science fair since it originated three years ago, we always look forward to meeting these young smart scientists, who help shape the future of exploration. All 15 of the cutting edge science projects wowed us. From innovation in magnets to a new anti-flu medicine, this global science fair shows how students rose to the challenge of finding ways to change the world.
Over the past few months, 15 final projects were narrowed down from thousands of submitted entries from more than 120 countries. All finalists were flown out to Google HQ in Mountain View, CA for a weekend of celebration and to learn who would win the grand prize, including a trip with National Geographic Expedition to the Galapagos.
National Geographic Explorers T.H. Culhane and Zeb Hogan joined the team of world-renown judges to narrow down the very tough decision. TH Culhane, a third year returning judge, reflects on his excitement from the fair:
Throughout the weekend we judges find ourselves marveling at the caliber of these teenaged contestants and you hear comments like ‘these kids are doing work on a par with Ph.D. students!’ Young scientists from around the world actually become our peers as judges each year, joining Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, inventors and leading professionals. I come to the Google Science Fair each to celebrate achievements and help young minds hone their skills to find common ground and synergies in service to highest principles. The greatest joy I’ve had is the youth who come to Google as finalists and build life long friendships with each other and the judges.
As fellow judge and Google X Team Leader Richard DeVaul said to the finalists at the awards gala (and to all who were watching around the world, young and old alike) “you are now officially moonshot makers. We need your help… to invent and launch moonshot technologies that will make the world a radically better place.”
So the winners are (as reported on Google Science Fair Official blog):
- 13-14 age category: Viney Kumar (Australia) — The PART (Police and Ambulances Regulating Traffic) Program. Viney’s project looked for new ways to to provide drivers with more notice when an emergency vehicle is approaching, so they can can take evasive action to get out of the emergency vehicle’s way.
- 15-16 age category: Ann Makosinski (Canada) — The Hollow Flashlight. Using Peltier tiles and the temperature difference between the palm of the hand and ambient air, Ann designed a flashlight that provides bright light without batteries or moving parts. (Read Nat Geo’s Great Energy Challenge blog on this project)
- 17-18 age category AND Grand Prize Winner: Eric Chen (USA) — Computer-aided Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Combat Flu Pandemic. Combining computer modeling and biological studies, Eric’s project looks at influenza endonuclease inhibitors as leads for a new type of anti-flu medicine, effective against all influenza viruses including pandemic strains.
Elif Bilgin, from Istanbul, Turkey, was also recognized during the event as the winner of the Science in Action Award and the winner of the Voter’s Choice award with her project creating plastic from banana peels.
The exhibit hall on the Google campus was jam-packed all morning, full of local students eager to meet the finalists and perhaps to get inspired to change the world themselves. They asked question after question ranging from how the finalists got the ideas for the projects to how they implemented them and what they will do next.
During the fair, the finalists’ chatter of protons and DNA moves seamlessly to guitar lessons and basketball in the science fair “crash pad.” After their projects are set up, these teenagers race on inflatable obstacle courses, go zorbing, and sumo wrestle. They enjoy their favorite foods and music from all over the world together. They participate in relay races where some of the judges are forced into a pie eating competition. They bring gifts from their home countries to share.
Congratulations to the Google Science Fair finalists and winners. We are eager to see how you, as the future generation of explorers, change the world!
See more on the Google Science Fair: