Google Science Fair 2014 Winners

Published September 25, 2014


By Nicholas Moen, NG Kid Reporter


Three Irish girls won the grand prize in the fourth annual Google Science Fair from a field of 50,000 kids from around the world who entered this year. The fair is the largest online science fair in the world. The top 15 projects from 18 kids ages 13-18, were presented at  Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California. “The Google Science Fair started when someone believed in something, and worked hard to make it so.” Regina Dugan, Vice President for Engineering, Advanced Technology and Products at Google stated when I interviewed her just before the grand prize winners were named on Monday.


Winners Emer Hickey, Ciara Judge, and Sophie Healy-Thow got their idea when they were gardening with Emer’s mom. They found natural bacteria that were connected to the roots of peas and legumes. Their project tested if Diazotroph bacteria would positively affect the growth of cereal crops. The prize includes scholarship money for college, money for their current school, an experience at the Virgin Galactic Spaceport, and a trip to the Galapagos, courtesy of National Geographic! “When we got to the final 15, we thought, treasure it, because this is as far as we are going. So winning the grand prize was incredible,” said Ciara after the awards ceremony.


All the finalists had amazing inventions and ideas, and all of them could make a difference in the world today.  Projects ranged from solving world hunger, to preventing cyberbullying, to cleaning up oil spills. “I just think it’s great that we have kids here from all over the world,” said Kenneth Shinozuka, 15, from New York City.


Some finalists had worked for more than two years on their project, but the event was a chance for some fun and to hang out together.  Google really took time to celebrate the kids. Not only did they have their own lounge with plenty of fun stuff to do, but they also arranged a relay race with the judges to loosen up at the start of the event.  As part of the race, there was egg and spoon balancing, writing down words that began with the letter “G,” and a whipped cream eating contest!


Google didn’t run the Science Fair all by themselves. LEGO Education, Scientific American, and Virgin Galactic along with National Geographic are Google Science Fair partners. Each partner called in judges to help decide the winner. During the three-day event, the partners also came together to help educate students who came to see projects. Google estimated over 1,000 kids attended. “Each year, it gets better and better, because of all the partners working together.” said Michael Voss, Vice President, Business Development & Marketing at Scientific American.


Two National Geographic Explorers, TH Culhane, an urban planner, and Zeb Hogan, an ecologist, were chosen to be judges this year. TH was a judge for the first Google Science Fair, and has participated every year since. He knows that it’s a big responsibility. “We are determining the direction of young people’s lives,” said TH. “Our decisions can seriously change the destiny of the finalist.”


NG Kid Reporter Nicholas Moen reported from Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.

There were certain projects that caught my eye. One of the finalists, Mihir Garimella, 14, had a project which all of the students loved, because he had built and coded his own hovercraft. Mihir won the award for the 13-14 age group, and he also won the Computer Science Award. After the awards ceremony, he told me, “Everyone here is a winner. At this point, there are 15 projects that can really change the world.” The finalist who won the Voters' Choice Award was Arsh Dilbagi, with a device that can transfer breath into words for mute people. The code behind it was a type of Morse code, with dots and dashes, and certain letters would mean certain phrases. “I want to change things for the better,” Arsh said.


In addition, there were some inventions that were more for home use. For example, Guillaume Rolland, 17, of France, developed an alarm clock that used scents to wake you up. At a certain time, a fan would waft a scent like coffee or cinnamon out of the clock, and wake you up in under a minute. Talk about waking up to smell the roses!