|Official Google Science Fair 2012 poster (http://www.google.com/intl/en/events/sciencefair/summary.html ())|
do cats purr?
can we turn garbage into energy?
robots change their mind?
everyone has a question, Google's question is, "What's your question?" And in 2011, the technology giant
struck out to find the answer by launching the first ever global online science
competition for students aged 13 - 18.
over 10,000 students hailing from 91 countries, 2011's finalists came down to 9
boys and 6 girls. The winners were three girls - my heroes, Lauren, Naomi and
Shree. What makes them heroes? Each of them reached for something
special, something that tested their determination and talent... something that could improve the lives of others.
|Lauren Hodge ((wired.com) ())|
Lauren Hodge was the
winner of the 13 - 14 age group. Her research studied the
effects of various marinades to carcinogens and other cancer-causing compounds
that are created when grilling meat.
idea came to her while reading about a lawsuit in her doctor's office - a suit
that involved fully disclosing dangerous ingredients - like carcinogens - in
food. One night, after observing
the grilled chicken her mother was making for dinner, Lauren noticed that the
edges of the chicken had turned white where it had been marinated. Lauren explained, "Later in biology
class I learned that this was due to a process called 'denaturing' which is
where the proteins will change shape and lose their ability to chemically
function." It got her to thinking
about how different marinades might affect the amount of carcinogens in grilled meat.
combined two ideas and came up with her hypothesis: "Could carcinogens be decreased due to a marinade? And could it be due to differences in
PH?" All of this is pretty heady
stuff for a 14 year-old, but the real challenge came when Lauren began to put
together her experiment. "My idea
was born and I had the project set up and a hypothesis, so what was my next
step?" As it turns out the
equipment she'd need wasn't available at her school. "I thought this (finding a lab and mentor to sponsor her)
would be easy, but I emailed about 200 different people within a five hour
radius of where I lived and I got one positive response that said they could
work with me."
prepared grilled chicken, using a variety of marinades and analyzed the amounts
of carcinogens in each. She found
that lemon juice reduced the number of carcinogens by nearly 98%. Saltwater and brown sugar marinades
decreased carcinogens by about 60% where soy sauce seemed to increase the
development of carcinogens. She
also found that the amount of carcinogens rapidly increases with cooking time,
so the best way to grill chicken is to use a lemon marinade without
overcooking. Thanks, Lauren. I'll remember that the next time I barbecue.
|Naomi Shah with her science fair project. (mashable.com ())|
the 15 - 16 age group, winner Naomi Shah studied the way that human lungs react
to air quality, especially those with asthma. She was taken aback when she learned that someone dies of
complications associated with asthma every 20 seconds. What's more, she learned that people spend
more than 90% of their lives indoors and that asthma's related health costs exceed
those of HIV and tuberculosis combined.
But what really hit home - literally - for Naomi was watching as her
father and her brother suffered from chronic allergies year-round. "It confused me," Naomi confesses. And it was this confusion that launched
the question that framed her award-winning project: "Why did these allergy symptoms persists well past the
this question in mind, Naomi started researching and found that indoor air
pollutants were to blame. With
this in mind, she began investigating the underlying relationship between four
types of indoor air pollutants and the lung health of asthmatic patients. Those pollutants are Particulate Matter, Total Volatile
Organic Compounds, Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide. At first she'd hoped to find which one of
these were most responsible for poor lung health but came to realize the need
for a more in-depth exploration of all four. Naomi ended up creating her own mathematical model to
quantify the effect of these environmental pollutants on lung health -
something that previously did not exist.
Through her research, she found that Volatile Organic Compounds exist in
almost all indoor environments but are not defined as an air pollutant by the
U.S. Clean Air Act. She found that
volatile organic compounds had, as she puts it, "a very large negative impact
on the lung-health of asthmatic patients, and thus, should be regulated."
her mathematical models and interactive computer software are intimidatingly
complex, her solutions stress a common-sense, everyday approach. "I want everyone . to re-imagine a
world where instead of prescribing steroids, inhalers and medication, the
doctor turns to (the patient) and says, 'Why don't you go home and clean out
your air filters, clean out the
air ducts in your home, in your workplace, in your school. Stop the use of
incense and candles and, if you're remodeling your house, take out all the
carpeting and put in hard-wood flooring. because these solutions are natural,
these solutions are sustainable and these solutions are long-term investments."
|Shree Bose during an interview. (shreebose.com ())|
Prize winner 17 year-old Shree Bose from Fort Worth won for her project researching
ways to better treat women with ovarian cancer who develop a resistance to the
drug cisplatin. A veteran of a number of science fair projects, Shree's earlier
science fair projects include studying the effects of color on children's
desire to eat vegetables (an experiment that involved blue spinach) and another
that featured a remote control garbage can. But this one was personal. As Shree talked about it at the TEDxWomen conference last
year, her smiling exuberance was made solemn as she recounted her story, "Then came the summer after my freshman
year when my Grandfather died due to cancer. And I remember watching my family go through that and
thinking that I never wanted another family to feel that kind of loss. So, armed with all the wisdom of
freshman year biology, I decided I wanted to do cancer research at 15. Good plan."
it turns out, it was just that kind of boldness that led to her
breakthrough. Shree decided to
look into ovarian cancer, the 5th leading cause of cancer in woman and
among the deadliest. She learned
that many women whose cancer relapsed after successfully undergoing
chemotherapy, would find upon resuming treatment, that they'd become resistant
to the drug. With her science
project, she showed that by using a protein blocker, these same patients could
have success with a chemotherapy they'd otherwise be resistant to. "And that's huge for chemotherapy effectiveness -
possibly for many different types of cancer." What's more, Shree's identifying
the role this particular protein plays in chemotherapy resistance has
interesting possibilities as researchers learn more about it.
most achievers, Shree confessed that her award-winning journey to become the
first ever Grand Prize winner of the Google Science Fair was about more than
research and results. "It was
about finding my passion and it was about making my own opportunities when I
didn't even know what I was doing.
It was about inspiration and determination and never giving up on my
interests in science and learning and growing."
|From left to right: Lauren, Shree and Naomi (http://www.google.com/intl/en/events/sciencefair/summary.html ())|
Inspiration. Determination. Never giving up. These are three challenges that await
all who apply to take part in the Google Science Fair - and they are traits
shared by my heroes: Lauren Hodge,
Naomi Shah and Shree Bose.
Page created on 1/26/2012 7:59:33 PM
Last edited 1/26/2012 7:59:33 PM
Google Science Fair 2012
- For rules, due-dates and ideas for The Google Science Fair 2012
- Science Fair Project Ideas, Answers & Tools.
How to Smile
- For a large collection of hands-on activities that are searchable by material costs, age range, subject matter, and prep time.
The MY HERO Project
- For the heroic story of Gina Gallant, science fair winner and inventor.
All entries for the 2012 Google Science Fair must be submitted by April 1st, 2012. Get up and running by visiting http://www.google.com/intl/en/events/sciencefair/index.html registering today.