Google announced this week the winners of its 2015 Science Fair, an annual online science and technology competition open to all students aged 13 to 18. In its fifth year now, the competition invites students to basically perform a hypothesis-based experiment that can really be on almost any kind of area or subject. The resulting projects can range from new technology for underwater propulsion, to stopping cyberbullying among children and adolescents, to inventing a new kind of robotic system.
And at stake is $50,000 in scholarship funding (not to mention having your name attached to Google).
The common thread connecting the finalists and the winners this year was the search for low-cost solutions to big problems. Without anything like state-of-the-art resources at their disposal, all the students who entered had to make due with cheap materials that could be used in intense urban communities and near-empty rural regions alike.
What we end up seeing are easy-to-design techniques for accomplishing tasks as grand as space exploration and disease testing, to more local (but still critical) fixes for cleaning up waters and easing logistical problems in classrooms.
Below are the eight winners of the science fair. We’d all do well to keep an eye on what these future geniuses start working on next.
Olivia Hallisey, 16, United States
One of the biggest issues with fighting against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa the past two years has been the lack of resources and technology to test for the disease out in rural communities. So Hallisey developed a rapid field detection system for Ebola that’s fast, inexpensive, and confirms the presence of the virus within 30 minutes.
Lego Education Builder Award
Anurudh Ganesan, 15, United States
Getting vaccines to rural communities means transporting them over long distances, and unless you have the proper technology that will keep them cool for long, those vaccines won’t last the trip. Meet the Vaxxwagon, Ganesan’s environmentally-safe refrigeration system that doesn’t use ice or electricity, yet keeps vaccines at a safe 2 to 8 degrees Celsius temperature range.
Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award
Pranav Sivakumar, 15, United States
Not very many 15-year-olds know what quasars are, let alone how to look for them. Sivakumar is not one of them. He developed an automated method (i.e. algorithm) that was able to identify 56 lensed quasars in observational data gathered in the section of the space known as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
Eliott Sarrey, 14, France
Robots will be part of the future of farming, and this kid is already on the forefront of developing the technology future farmers will need. Bot2Karot is what you might call a “smart garden,” managed by your smartphone and cultivated by a robot designed to employ measures to save space, water, and energy.
Scientific American Innovator Award
Krtin Nithiyananadam, 14, United Kingdom
Alzheimer’s Disease afflicts more than 5 million Americans. Current diagnostic tools basically rely on gauging symptoms, making it harder for a patient and their family to prepare for the later stages of the disease. Nithiyananadam developed a molecular-based technique for diagnosing Alzheimer’s earlier, while being minimally invasive. You can peruse through his entire presentation here.
Google Technologist Award
Girish Kumar, 17, Singapore
Teachers are saints, but the miracles they pull are always without ever having enough time. RevUp is a program that automatically generates multiple questions from online texts.
Community Impact Award
Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, 13, India
Aquatic ecosystems around the world are being pummeled by toxic pollutants. This new, low-cost, corn-based bio-adsorbent aims to change that, especially in Third World countries, by capturing contaminants and filtering water that flows from industrial environments back into natural and man-made reservoirs.
National Geographic Explorer Award
Deepika Kurup, 17, United States
Another project that aims to clean up toxic waters, but this time through a light-activated oxidation process. Read more about it here.
Watch the entire awards ceremony, held on Monday, September 21: