I Was a Teenage Genius

BY Christian Sager / POSTED February 17, 2014
Hammerbrook - City can this really be true?
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Google Science Fair Finalists 2013 Google Science Fair Finalists 2013. Photo courtesy Google.

The hidden gem in the launch of Google’s 2014 Science Fair registration is its “Idea Springboard” search tool, which helps students narrow their submissions through a  combination of selecting what they love, what they’re good at and what they want to explore. Let’s give it a spin.

I currently love watching “True Detective,” I’m decent at “inventions and innovations,” and feel like exploring “emotional insecurity” for the fun of it. Google’s engine generated articles by my HowStuffWorks colleagues on futurist predictions and types of jealousy, as well as a “Scientific American” article on true crimes and a patent for governing the transfer of physiological and emotional user data. With such a variety of results, if you like falling down the rabbit hole of internet research, this is the tool for you.

I wish this existed when I was still teaching, trying to help students come up with ideas for presentations. Surely it will inspire the young geniuses Google’s targeting out there, those kids looking to get involved with the Science Fair. It could be anyone who makes their list of finalists. Last year, the top 15 projects came from thousands of entries, submitted from more than 120 countries around the world. The competition is only closed to you if you’re in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Myanmar/Burma, Syria, Zimbabwe or any other U.S. sanctioned country.

As long you’re not from those countries and you meet Google’s age requirements, registration is open until May 12, 2014. With sponsors like Lego, National Geographic, Scientific American and Virgin, there are some amazing prizes to be had. Beyond the grand prize there are some variations, but they include a 10 day trip to the Galapagos Island, a $50,000 scholarship, a visit to the Virgin Galactic Spaceport in New Mexico, a $10,000 grant to support your school and more.

The real reward is the recognition of your original ideas and a chance to share them on a global scale with both your peers and heroes. As we covered last year, the judges Google gets for the Science Fair are experienced intellectuals from a variety of backgrounds. All of them work toward world progress, using their media savvy to approach science in new ways. This year Google’s got some new thinkers on the judges panel, including an aerospace engineer, a zero gravity flight director and a robotics pioneer. Eric Chen — last year’s grand prize winner — will be there too, after furthering developing the anti-flu drugs he invented at the age of 17.

Whether you’re a young intellectual with big ideas, or you’re the teacher or parent of one, the Google Science Fair is a great opportunity to encourage the next generation of genius. Even if only for the Idea Springboard, it’s worth checking out. It’s already led me to excellent content connecting my favorite topics to the latest innovations in science.

Lots More Information

  • Weiss, T.R. “Google Names Its 2013 Science Fair Winners.” Eweek. Vol. 3. 2013
  • “Global Online Science Fair.” Physics Today. Vol. 64. no. 3. Pages 33-34. 2011.
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