The narrative and slideshow commentary are by Living Wisdom School science teacher Doug Andrews. See the slideshow below (28 slides).
We’ve visited the Google Science Fair for the last five years. By “we,” I mean the 4th through 8th graders, accompanied by our school principal, Helen, our middle-school teacher Gary McSweeney, 4th grade teacher Craig Kellogg, and an LWS parent and myself.
We love to take the children to the fair because it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to talk with people who are relatively close to their age, and who are doing remarkable things in science.
This year, some of the finalists’ entries were so far advanced that I feared it might intimidate our young students. Some of the contestants were doing university-level math, although they were still in their early teens. So I pointed out that a goodly number of the entries were actually quite low-tech, but no less creative and intelligent.
For example, one young woman from India created a water-purification system from available materials, which happened to be corn cobs. It was a fine example of an experiment that used approachable technology.
Another finalist realized that there was a problem getting vaccines to rural populations. By the time the vaccines arrived where they were needed, they were no longer viable. The main issue was temperature. So he created a hand-drawn or bicycle-drawn cart where the movement of the wheels operates a refrigeration system.
The young girl who won first prize was just sixteen. Her teacher suggested that she do something interesting that was current and that would be a service. She created an inexpensive Ebola test that solved two major problems: the current testing kits are very expensive, at $1,000 per unit, and the contents degrade rapidly without refrigeration. I asked if she had patented it, and she said she was in the process. It’s not as if she had a huge laboratory, but she pulled it off brilliantly.
There’s definitely a fun aspect to the fair. When you visit the Google campus, you’re at one of the most creative places on earth, and the people, by and large, are quite young. Some of them look like they could be in high school, and Google doesn’t care about that, because they are much more interested in creativity and being very good at what you do. So we like to expose the kids to the culture at Google.