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2011 Google Science Fair Announced

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The science nerds in middle and high school were an inscrutable bunch. They were the first to figure out how cool it was to mix certain chemical compounds together to lead to a minor explosion. They actually enjoyed dissecting and re-constructing the frogs in biology and after a tough day in the computer lab, they blew off a little steam with a spirited game of Dungeons and Dragons. Most of all they would always “represent” at the annual science fair.

These scientific celebrations of Bacchanalian proportions were usually held in the school gymnasium, National Guard Armory or one of those multi-use buildings that could have been named by a science nerd – the cafetorium (the school cafeteria and auditorium, combined. Yes!). In their wildest imaginations, none of these budding scientists and engineers ever conceived of an online science fair that was open to the entire world. It took the resources and imagination of the founders of Google to formulate this experiment.

Old School Science Fairs

Participants in these traditional science fairs offered a veritable Cornucopia of useless and semi-useless experiments along with displays of gadgetry and natural phenomenon. There were erupting volcanoes (aided by household cleaning solvents) and so many Tyrannosaurs Rex’s and Pterodactyls that it was impossible to keep track of all of them. Plus, the inevitable display of the solar system and what happens when the sun finally runs out of hydrogen was on display (hint: If around when this occurs, grab a nice, warm coat because it’s going to get very cold!).

One could always count on many complicated contraptions that even Rube Goldberg might question.  However, sometime, with a rare flash of brilliance, some brainiac would came up with an idea that had everyone from the PTA to the FFA mesmerized by its blinding light and this would make the science fair interesting and even important.

For all of their pedantic know-it-all attitudes and innumerable fashion faux pas, the science nerds and computer geeks have pretty much gotten the last laugh on everyone who ever disrespected them. Geeks such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs now rule the world.

Two other guys, who were no doubt seen as science nerds back in school, became engineers and came up with the crazy idea that all of the information on the Internet could be categorized and with one or two key words could be retrieved from the enormous repository by anyone with a computer and a browser.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin were extremely young guys when they came up with the algorithms that make Google work and now they are extremely rich guys who want to encourage some other kids who love science

The 2011 Google Science Fair

In reporting the 2011 Google Science Fair online technology blog TechCrunch noted, “Many of you may have gone through the rite of passage in grade school called the science fair. For any one who is interested in science and technology, the annual Science Fair is actually a fun (and educational) experience for young kids. Today, Google is launching a really interesting new venture —an online science fair for young adults.”

The contest/fair is open to students around the world who are between the ages of 13-18. The science projects can be conceived individually or in teams of three and contestants can build and submit a project (via photos and videos), hypothesis, as well as written observations online using Google Sites. More information about the contest can be found at

The Partners and Judges for the Contest are Stellar

Partners for the Google Science Fair include CERN, The LEGO Group, National Geographic and Scientific American. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research based in Switzerland, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. The LEGO Group, based in Billund, Denmark is one of the world's leading manufacturers of play materials for children. The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations and its mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. Scientific American is the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S. and the leading authoritative publication for science in the general media.

The smart kids who win the Google Science Fair can win prizes that any budding scientist would enjoy. They include a trip to the Galapagos Islands with a National Geographic Explorer, scholarships and real-life work opportunities such as a 5-day trip to CERN in Switzerland.

Google will post semi-finalist selections online and the public will be encouraged to vote for their favorite project. The 15 finalists will be invited to Google headquarters in mid-July 2011 to present their projects to a panel of judges who, given their credentials and success in science, were very likely science fair kids themselves.

This panel of judges includes: Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway), Vint Cerf (one of the fathers or the Internet and Google VP), Spencer Wells (Explorer-in-residence at National Geographic), Kary Mullis (Nobel Prize winning biochemist), Marion Nestle (Professor and nutrition expert), and Peter Norvig (Director of Research for Google and artificial intelligence expert). Talk about your excellent networking opportunity for future scientists. These are the people you want on your resume!

There is also no doubt that the two Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, will be involved in the judging of the contests and as TechCrunch noted, they are “living proof that the world’s best ideas can come from young students.” The Google Science Fair is a great way for the founders and staff of Google to give something back to the scientific community that helped them build a foundation for one of the most successful companies in history. It’s also a great way for them to discover some unknown talent and potential employees!

More about this author: Art Young

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