The winners of the 2014 Google Science Fair have been announced! This is a prestigious international science fair, featuring the work of students ages 13 to 18. Though “science fair” generally makes people think of making a battery with a potato or growing cultures to find the dirtiest surface of the school, the Google Science Fair attracts teens who are working on some truly amazing projects.
The Grand Prize went to a team of three 16-year-old girls from Ireland: Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey, and Sophie Healy-Thow. Their project, “Combating The Global Food Crisis: Diazotroph Bacteria As A Cereal Crop Growth Promoter,” explored different bacterial strains that could shorten the germination time of cereal crops like oats and barley. Growing food is becoming monumentally important, as climate change threatens food crops, and the increasing global population is becoming incredibly demanding.
For winning the prize, the girls will spend 10 days in the Galapagos Islands from National Geographic Expeditions, receive a $50,000 scholarship, a behind-the-scenes tour of Virgin Galactic Spaceport, a prize pack from LEGO, and one of three experiences offered by LEGO, NatGeo, and Google. The winner’s school will receive $10,000 for computers or lab equipment as well as one year access to Scientific American.
Mihir Garimella, a 14-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, won the 13 to 14 age group with “Flybot: Mimicking Fruit Fly Response Patterns For Threat Evasion.” He replicated the visual system of fruit flies, which allows them to deftly avoid obstacles with fighter jet-like maneuverability. This technology could help develop drones that can be used to better avoid obstacles in search and rescue missions.
Hayley Todesco, a 17-year-old from Alberta, Canada, took the top prize in the 17 to 18 age group for “Waste To Water: Biodegrading Naphthenic Acids Using Novel Sand Bioreactors.” This system uses sand to filter out Naphthenic acid, which is a byproduct generated from processing oil sands and held in tailing ponds. This toxin is not readily biodegradable, and Hayley’s sand filter is able to reduce its presence by 90%. Her system could clean every tailing pond in the world 14 times faster than the method currently in use. This project also won the Local Prize, as it addresses a problem within her community. She was given $1000 in funding to develop and implement her idea.
For taking the top prize within their respective age groups, Mihir and Hayley will each receive a $25,000 scholarship, a prize pack from LEGO, and one of three experiences offered by LEGO, NatGeo, and Google. Their respective schools will also get a year of access to Scientific American.
[All images via Google Science Fair]