Google Science Fair 2014: Showcasing the next generation of world changers

Yesterday, the Google Science Fair announced the winners of its 4th edition of the competition. Congratulations to all the participants and a particular “bravo” to the 3 Grand Prize winners (all 16 years-old): Ciara Judge, Emer Kickey and Sophie Healy-Thow for their discovery of a bacteria strain that can increase the growth rate of crops by up to 50%

Never heard of the competition? It is pretty fantastic. Along with partners Lego, Virgin Galactic, National Geographic and the magazine Scientific American, Google gives young students (between the ages of 13-18) the opportunity to showcase their creativity, empathy and knowledge through an online science competition. And, to be perfectly honest, the projects these students implement are absolutely incredible.

Just to give you an idea of the level of impact these kids are having, let’s take a look at a few past winners:

In 2011, Shree Bose (17 at the time) won the grand prize for her remarkable research on the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, which is commonly used to treat ovarian cancer, and how cancer cells grow resistant to this drug over time.

The 2012 grand prize winner was Brittany Wenger (17 at the time), recognized for her “Global Neural Network Cloud Service for Breast Cancer”, which noninvasively diagnoses malignant cancerous tumors.

In 2013, Ann Makosinski, a Canadian native, won the 15- 16 age category for her innovated Hollow Flashlight. How does it work? It is powered by the heat of the human hand (no batteries necessary), which is particularly useful for a friend of Makoniski’s in the Philippines, who had previously been unable to study at night since she didn’t have any access to electricity.

And these are only a few of the incredibly inventions and projects these students (also known as generation Z) are coming up with!

We took a look at the 15 finalists of the 2014 competition and were pretty blown away with their projects. Not only are they innovative and extremely creative, but many of them propose solutions to wide-spread environmental and/or social problems we are faced with today. The projects these young students have developed demonstrate a global awareness that is inspiring to see, and makes us excited to see what these up-and-coming scientists will do in the future! Although it was difficult to decide, DiscovHER has chosen our favorite from each of the three categories to share with you:

Mark Drobnich (age category 13-14; Ukraine)

What do we do when there aren’t enough school resources for all students to be able to study and learn? Mark identified a problem in many Ukrainian school districts that he wanted to fix: the lack of microscopes in biology classrooms. He developed a microscope that is remote-controlled, which allows users to quickly and easily sharpen an image (which saves a large amount of time when one microscope must be shared between many students). The image can also be transferred on the Android platform and shared through Google Hangouts with other schools or classrooms that do not have their own microscopes.

Kenneth Shinozuka (age category 15-16; USA)

On the Google Science Fair website, Kenneth states “Caring for my grandfather, who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, has caused our family significant stress, particularly when he wanders out of bed at night and suffers accidents. My grandfather is one of the 5.2 million Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S., 65% of whom wander.”

So, he set out to figure out a way to solve this problem. Kenneth developed a device which senses when the Alzheimer patient stands up and puts weight on their foot. The device can then send a message to a Smartphone to alert the family member or caregiver. In a 6 month trial that Kenneth conducted, his system detected 100% of the known cases that his grandfather got out of bed, without issuing any false positives.

Cynthia Sin Nga Lam (age category 17-18; Australia)

Cynthia asked the question “Is it possible to create a portable device that purifies wastewater while generating electricity sustainably and affordably?”

She invented a device that only requires titania and light to purify and sterilize wastewater, while generating electricity at the same time, using the hydrogen that is produced. She calls her device “H2PRO”. Although there is still work to be done on her model to stabilize the electricity generation, she has paved the way for an affordable and practical solution for people living in rural and developing countries!

We want to emphasize that these are only a few of the amazing projects that the 2014 Google Science Fair students have created. Each of these projects represents the core values that DiscovHER stands for: the importance of education, even when resources can be scarce, how science can be used to help those in need, and the importance of confronting environmental challenges we are currently faced with, and developing sustainable solutions. 

For Women in Science

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