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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.


Name: Pranav Sivakumar

Home: Illinois, USA

Age Category: 13-15

Project title: Automated search for gravitationally lensed quasars


Pranav’s shown interest in astronomy since looking up at the night sky at age 4. He later became interested in physics and worked in a lab focused on quasar research. Certain quasars (massive and extremely remote celestial objects, emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy ) cause an effect called gravitational lensing, which magnifies the light of distant galaxies that would otherwise be too faint to see. Compiling existing data from over 450,000 quasars, Pranav developed two algorithms to automatically find gravitationally lensed quasars and improve the accuracy and reliability of candidates identified for follow-up observations. Pranav’s most excited that his project and results might confirm the expansion of the universe, helping us determine our eventual fate. 

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

When I attended lectures at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, I repeatedly heard the phrases “dark matter,” “dark energy” and “future of the universe.” Curious by nature, I asked questions about these topics and eventually learned that very little is known about these two phenomena; in fact, the term “dark” literally describes our limited knowledge of them. I learned that gravitational lensing, which is caused by massive astronomical objects bending light and which results in multiple images of an astronomical light source, is an effective way to study these constituents of the universe. In particular, studying gravitational lensing of quasars, some of the brightest and most distant objects in the universe, may hold the key to understanding our future.

I was also inspired by research carried out by other researchers as part of the SDSS Quasar Lens Search (SQLS). Using an earlier version of the data set I utilized in this project, the SQLS researchers significantly increased the number of known lensed quasars. The success of the SQLS approach inspired me to develop my own method for identifying lensed quasars.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

In the age of the Internet, it’s perhaps ironic that my interest in science started with a book. At the age of seven, I found a book called “Great Physicists” in my house; I picked up the book and found it fascinating.

As my interest in physics grew, I began reading books more focused on astrophysics and cosmology by Michio Kaku. When you see a book at the library titled “Physics of the Impossible,” it’s difficult to ignore!

The lectures at Fermilab were formative in crystallizing my interest in science. Though I understood only one or two words of the science being discussed in the talks, what stayed with me was the energy and excitement of scientists challenging each other in the room.

Science feeds my curiosity by allowing me to ask complex questions, challenge assumptions and explore interesting topics without worrying about assignments or tests. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle; there’s a great amount of satisfaction when the pieces start fitting together.

The “Aha” moment is priceless – just ask Archimedes!

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

I learned from experience that starting small and building up to complex questions works best for young scientists. Feel confident about connecting with professionals – initially, it may be scary, but their willingness to help and their mentorship are worth much more than those few moments of anxiety.

When I ran into a technical roadblock, I contacted the primary researcher on the SQLS team in Japan; within 24 hours, he responded with valuable suggestions that I’m still pursuing to this day.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.






Name: Alexey Tarasov (Алексей Тарасов)

Home: Moscow, Russia

Age Category: 13-15

Project title: Using ternary logic on current electronics








Alexey had always been a computer science fan, but it was fixing a computer that really sparked his curiosity. He wondered why all modern day computers ran on binary logic, and if there might be a benefit to using ternary logic. Once he found out that a vintage USSR computer did, in fact, rely on ternary logic, he knew he wanted to test this logic on current electronics. Alexey’s model successfully used ternary logic, and he’s excited to create new ternary logic elements for integrated circuits and computer systems. 

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

I was inspired by the old Soviet project called "Setun."

When and why did you become interested in science? 

All my life I was interested in engineering. I was very interested in the structure of different devices and desired to create. This is what pushed me to study technologies.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

It's not enough to just discover something new. You need to make it useful for mankind. Good luck!

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.



Name: Eliott Sarrey

Home: Lorraine, France

Age Category: 13-15

Project: Bot2Karot: gardening through a smartphone-activated robot





Eliott loved the idea of gardens, but not the time commitment needed to tend them. He wondered whether he could apply his knowledge and passion for video games and video programming towards growing vegetables. With help from his father, he built a rolling robot controlled by a smartphone app he created. Since the manufactured Bot2Karot can use its manufactured arms and tool holders to hoe, water and transplant, Elliot’s extremely excited about the possibilities with his own robot. He believes he can broaden his initial aim to help people with limited mobility and access. 


What was the inspiration behind your project?

People I know spend a lot of time on gardening simulators (games). On the other hand, my family’s actual garden requires a lot of real work and attention. After careful observation, I wondered whether I could mix the idea of the gardening game with the fun of having real vegetables to eat. What if we could create a robot to take on cumbersome gardening tasks using our smartphones, so that gardening becomes a smartphone game?

When and why did you become interested in science? 

When I was quite young, I spent a lot of time in my father’s small workshop. I also liked to play Legos, and with this experience, I could dig into subjects like mechanics and physics. Three years ago, together with friends, I created a computer science club and a robotic club at my high school. That’s where I learned how to program. At home, I created small robots and robotic arms, which became the real inspiration for my project.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?

First of all, be curious! That’s how you come up with ideas. Seek solutions and always ask yourself how to improve on them. Once you have found your idea, do some research, persevere, investigate other solutions and keep optimizing your solution.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.


Name: Calvin Rieder

Home: Ontario, Canada

Age Category: 16-18

Project title: Extracting clean water from air: solar-powered solution for providing potable water


Calvin once saw a camping trick that transformed air into water. The power of that simple trick stuck with him, and then he realized it just might save lives. He decided to use that model to help provide safe drinking water to the billions around the world with limited access to clean water. Without a lab, Calvin built a model at home (powered by the sun) to extract water from the air without external energy or mechanical assistance. Calvin was extremely excited to see that his condensation model produced water for 12.5 hours per night. He looks forward to the impact his model could make for those in need of our most necessary natural resource.


What was the inspiration behind your project? 

When deciding on my first science fair project, my main focus was to address a significant global challenge. I chose the global water crisis as my subject after learning that over 1 billion people lack access to sufficient clean water. I was also shocked that a child dies every minute from a water-related disease and that in some areas of the world women spend up to twelve hours a day walking to obtain water. I decided to try to create devices that could produce potable water from the atmosphere at low cost to improve water access for some of these people. Around that time, an earthquake struck Haiti, and I remember thinking that the devices I was developing, which did not require infrastructure, could also be useful in this type of disaster situation. In the majority of water shortages, those most affected are those who are impoverished and cannot afford water production systems with running costs. In addition, frequently these people live in areas without infrastructure. I also decided that any system I would create would have to have no negative impact on the environment, as I didn’t want to create new problems while solving an old one. For these reasons, I decided that the devices had to operate without an electrical power source or infrastructure. Finally, while my devices were attempting to address the problem of water scarcity, millions only have access to contaminated water, and 2.5 billion people live in areas with inadequate sanitation. I also wanted to address this huge problem, again without electrical assistance or a requirement for infrastructure. For this reason, I developed an efficient, new solar still which uses solar energy to convert contaminated water into potable water.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

I have always been interested in how things work, in constructing new things. From a young age, I loved kids’ science shows. When I was 6 years old, I became fascinated with marine biology, starting with sharks, and I’m still very passionate about this subject. In Grade 7, our school held a science fair that I found success in, and this experience motivated me to continually improve my work and participate in several successive science fairs. My interest and passion for science continues to increase with each fair that I participate in. I consider these amazing opportunities to learn and explore.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Work hard and persist, because when researching, things rarely happen overnight. So you get what you put into it. Also, don’t be afraid to think big and take on problems that seem beyond your ability to solve, because often small ideas can lead to significant new solutions. Finally, never become disheartened by failure or problems that arise in your work, as it’s all part of the process.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.



Name: Olivia Hallisey

Home: Connecticut, USA

Age Category: 16-18

Project title: Temperature-independent, inexpensive and rapid detection of Ebola

Olivia was shocked to learn about the Ebola epidemic spreading through Africa. She wondered how to get treatment delivered faster to the people that needed it and recalled her science lesson about silk storage. With it’s stabilizing properties, could silk allow Ebola antibodies to travel much longer without the need for refrigeration? After a few attempts, Olivia created the Ebola Assay card – her new antibody storage system that can be designed in 30 minutes anywhere in the world and can transport vaccines/antibodies for Ebola, HIV and other diseases for up to one week.


What was the inspiration behind your project? 

My decision to focus my project on the development of a novel temperature-independent, rapid, portable and inexpensive diagnostic test for the detection of the Ebola virus, was prompted by the devastating loss of life in Africa during the most recent 2014 Ebola outbreak. The consequences will be far-reaching with valuable applicability as an ELISA-based diagnostic for other diseases, including HIV, lyme disease, yellow fever, dengue fever and certain cancers. The concentration of fatalities in Ebola stricken areas has left many children orphaned, and the socioeconomic fabric of entire villages destroyed. School closures have impacted over five million children, risking permanent educational dislocation and high risk behaviors such as child labor. Early diagnosis and proper medical care are critical to containing and eliminating the spread of Ebola and any other contagious illnesses.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

I became interested in science as a young child because of my late grandfather, a doctor and medical researcher. He showed me the power of science and research to make new discoveries that could lead to breakthroughs that could give back hope and transform futures. He was passionate about science and medicine and cared deeply that his work would contribute towards a greater understanding and a cure for diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis and Alzheimers. I hope to be a doctor like my grandfather, and one day work for a global health organization, such as Doctors Without Borders.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Think globally. Reconsider existing solutions and always ask “Why not?” Don’t think that everything that can be done has been done. There’s always room for innovation and creative reconsideration. Everyone has a role in change.

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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

The tradition of ringing in each New Year with resolutions (whether we stick to them or not) is always an opportunity to reflect and start the year ahead on the right foot. As students and teachers around the world return to campuses and classrooms this fall, we’re embarking on a different kind of fresh start: a New (School) Year. And we want to help you make the most of it. So we’ve put together a few resolution ideas, plus tips to help you stick to them. We’ve also made a resolution of our own: to bring the best of Google technology to education.
The best of Google, for education
Like many resolutions, ours might sound familiar—and that’s because the Google for Education team has been working on it for a while. Over the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time with teachers and students, witnessing firsthand how technology is helping in the classroom and learning about challenges that are yet unsolved. With feedback from schools, we’ve improved products like Google Apps for Education and Docs, building in new features specifically useful for education. We’ve also created new learning experiences like Google Classroom—a sort of mission control for teachers and students, offering a single place to keep track of all class materials, eliminating paperwork and making it easy for teachers to collaborate with students, and students to collaborate with each other. 

So as part of our resolution this school year, we’re launching some new features in Google Classroom. Teachers can now easily ask students questions in Classroom, alongside all the other class materials in the stream. Teachers also told us that they want more ways for students to engage with each other, and flex their critical thinking muscles. So now students can comment on each other’s answers in Classroom and have open-ended discussions. In the next month, we'll also make it possible for teachers to add assignments, due dates and field trips to a shared calendar.

So what’s your resolution?
We’re sure you’ve already set some big goals for the year ahead—from acing AP Bio to landing that killer internship. Whatever your plans, it can be tough to stick with those goals once assignments and social commitments start to pile up. So we’ve collected 50+ tips from more than 15 Google products to help you follow through with your resolutions. Here are some ideas:
Resolution 1. Get (and stay) organized
When you’re bogged down by clutter, it can be tough to get stuff done. Make this your year to be more organized. Never miss another study group with help from Google Calendar. Use Google Sheets to keep all your classmates' info in one place, and better manage your inbox by emailing everyone at once with a Google group.

Resolution 2. Get (mentally) fit
Push yourself to take your studies to the next level. Teach yourself how to code with Made with Code. Make the most of language class by saving your most used words and phrases with Google Translate or magically translating webpages with Google Chrome.

Resolution 3. Get some worldly perspective
Not studying abroad this year? No problem. You can still unleash your inner explorer with Google Maps Treks and visit the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Barrier Reef without leaving your room. Or bring your art history class to life by seeing those masterpieces up close and in perfect detail with Cultural Institute.

We hope these give you new ideas for how you can make this school year your best yet. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing more tips and other updates—so follow along with #GoogleEdu and on Google+. We’ll be doing our homework to stick to our resolution, so we can hopefully give you what you need to do the same. Now go hit those books! 

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.



Name: Deepika Kurup

Home: New Hampshire, USA

Age Category: 16-18

Project title: Solar powered silver combating bacteria in drinking water




During her family summer visits to India, Deepika was troubled to see small children drinking polluted water from streams. She wondered how developing countries could best clean their water, and once returning to the U.S. tested different chemicals. She found that a solution mixed with silver and powered by the sun removed bacteria faster than current methods. With this finding, she hopes to provide cleaner drinking water to families in India and around the world. 

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

Every summer my family and I travel across the world to visit India. In America, I always had the privilege of having unlimited access to potable water; however, in India I saw children drink water that I felt was too dirty to touch. I wanted to find out why these people lacked access to safe water, a substance that’s essential for life. I learned that we’re facing a global water crisis. According to the World Health Organization, one-ninth of the global population lacks access to clean water. This unacceptable social injustice compelled me to find a solution to the world’s clean water problem.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

I’ve always been curious about the world around me. When I was younger, I’d constantly ask my parents questions about how the world works, and their explanations were often rooted in scientific concepts. As I grew, I began to notice that science is truly everywhere. After hearing about scientific discoveries on the news and reading stories of famous scientists in the past, I realized that science has the power to lead us to revolutionary new discoveries that can change the world. This passion for science, combined with my interest in solving global challenges, is what sparked my interest in research.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

I would strongly encourage other young scientists to continue to pursue their passions in science, technology, engineering and math. While scientific advancements are being made every day, our world still faces several grand challenges. We need young scientists to solve these grand challenges, as science has the power to help people find solutions to problems we never thought could be solved.

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As you gear up for the new school year, try the newest features in Google Classroom for more ways to save time, engage your students and keep everyone organized. Most of these features are rolling out this week; stay tuned in the next few weeks for more back-to-school goodies in Google Classroom, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, all designed to help you make this school year yours.

Keep students engaged with question-driven discussions 

Since Classroom launched last year, teachers have been using their class stream to host student debates, Q&A and discussions. Starting today, you’ll be able to do this in a more collaborative way. You can post questions to your class and allow students to have discussions by responding to each other’s answers (or not, depending on the setting you choose). For example, you could post a video and ask students to answer a question about it, or post an article and ask them to write a paragraph in response.

“Often, teachers want to do a quick check-in on what their students are learning. Now with this built in to Google Classroom, teachers can easily do this on the fly, any time,” said Michael Fricano II, who teaches at Iolani School in Honolulu. “Your class can have a really engaging, focused conversation.”

Reuse posts 

You know those lessons that worked so well last year that you want to use them again? Now you can reuse assignments, announcements or questions from any one of your classes — or any class you co-teach, whether it’s from last year or last week. Once you choose what you’d like to copy, you’ll also be able to make changes before you post or assign it.

“The reuse post feature gives teachers the gift of time. Making changes to something already created is way easier than starting from scratch,” said Heather Breedlove, Technology Integration Coordinator at Flagstaff Unified School District in Arizona. “It’s working smarter, not harder.”


Calendar Integration 

In the next month, Classroom will automatically create a calendar for each of your classes in Google Calendar. All assignments with a due date will be automatically added to your class calendar and kept up to date. You’ll be able to view your calendar from within Classroom or on Google Calendar, where you can manually add class events like field trips or guest speakers.



And a few more improvements you’ve asked for:

  • Bump a post: When you want to make sure an older item is easy for students to find, you can now move any post to the top of the stream. 
  • Due dates optional: For long-term projects or student-driven assignments, you’ll now have the option to create assignments that don’t have due dates. 
  • Attach a Google Form to a post: Many teachers have been using Google Forms as an easy way to assign a test, quiz or survey to the class. Coming in the next few weeks, teachers and students will soon be able to attach Google Forms from Drive to posts and assignments, and get a link in Classroom to easily view the answers. 

In case you missed it 

We know YouTube is an important source of educational content for many schools. Because it also contains content that an organization or school might not consider acceptable, last month we launched advanced YouTube settings for all Google Apps domains as an Additional Service. These settings give Apps admins the ability to restrict the YouTube videos viewable for signed-in users, as well as signed-out users on networks managed by the admin. Learn more here.

All of us on the Classroom team have been deeply touched by the teachers in our lives, who inspire us in the work that we do. For me, that’s my brother Tuan, an English teacher at the Chinese International School in Hong Kong. We make these products for you. And we hope these new features will help you kick off another incredible year of teaching and learning.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.


Name: Zhilin Wang

Home: Singapore

Age Category: 16-18

Project title: Zinc air batteries for affordable, renewable energy storage 


Zhilin has used his large capacity for wonder to question everything since he was a young boy. This strong curiosity for not just what goes on around him but what happens in other countries led him to understand how developing countries access renewable energy. To speed up the slow chemical reaction produced by oxidizing zinc with oxygen from the air, Zhilin built an aerogel consisting of carbon nanotubes and graphene. His gel sped up the oxidation process, allowing faster storage of renewable energy. He looks forward to testing his aerogel in villages that don’t have electricity  rather than the multiple sources we rely on today. This system, with a little more development, could have expansive use in areas ranging from wearable computing to location-based applications, where an instant and accurate indoor 3D positioning system is in high demand.

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

Looking at the world around me, I can’t help but marvel at how far our search for novel materials has come to improve our everyday living. Nowadays, such materials are literally everywhere: in our smartphones, our clothes and even, for some of us, our bodies. Once in a while, when I find out about a novel material, I get really excited and dream about how it might shape our future.

Graphene aerogel is one such material. Think about this: you have a solution of graphene and a solvent, say water. If you can remove the solvent to leave behind only the graphene framework (or more illustratively, a graphene skeleton), you have yourself a graphene aerogel with some curious characteristics. It is super conductive, ultralight – reaching below the density of atmospheric air in some samples – and has a contact surface area matched by few. This means that it can potentially make astounding improvements in many of the things we use on a daily basis. I was eager to see if it can be applied to something that it had never been tested on before. So when a need for improving the efficiency of batteries came my way, I thought, “why not use graphene aerogel?”

With a stroke of luck, the graphene aerogel turned out to be suitable for the battery. Yet, I didn’t want to end my project there; I wanted to see if the improved battery could directly impact the lives of people. Having reflected upon some of the things I was grateful for, I realized that one of the most wonderful gifts I have received is a quality education. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to read my favorite books, learn so much about the world or even participate in this competition. Yet, many in underdeveloped regions do not receive basic education. Despite the promotion of global education, a great deal of children are forced out of school to support their families by working on farms or in factories. The only time they could spare for education is in the evenings but even then, the scarcity of reliable lighting means they’re unable to learn in the dark, as much as they want to. Can my battery be used to light up their nights? I didn’t know for sure, so I tried to find out.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

My love for science started around the time I was in primary school, when I found myself so curious about everything around me. You can say that every opportunity for me to discover something new was as irresistible as a candy laid before me. Of the many things I wanted to know, scientific demonstrations particularly piqued my interest. They seemed almost magical – water instantly freezing on a hard knock, violent fountains formed from Coca Cola and mints. But I wasn’t satisfied with merely marveling at them. I wanted to appreciate their inner beauty and understand how they actually worked. For me, science is about having a passion for the beauty of the world around us and understanding how and why things happen in it. Isn’t that much more interesting than simply accepting things as they are?

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Never be afraid to ask questions concerning things you are curious about, for what lies ahead is either a path of discovery or at least the joy of learning something new.

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Editor's note: Ensuring the appropriateness, value, and impact of our efforts in the computer science education space first requires an understanding of the issues which broadly impact the discipline, its practitioners and its students. This article is part of our ongoing effort to explore those issues and share our learnings along the way, which you can find at g.co/csedu.

If you're a student in a U.S. middle or high school, it’s likely that you do not have access to a computer science (CS) class where you learn how to program. If you’re Hispanic, Black, or from a lower-income household, your chances of having access to computers or CS learning opportunities are even slimmer. Today, in collaboration with Gallup, we're releasing Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education, our landscape study of CS access and barriers in K-12 education.

We've known anecdotally that CS educational opportunities are lacking in our schools, but no recent study has provided a comprehensive look at what's happening on the ground with input from critical stakeholders including students, parents, and educators. More data and rigorous research on CS in schools was -- and still is -- needed to properly address these educational disparities.

Building on ideas from our 2014 study Women Who Choose Computer Science, we partnered with Gallup to conduct this comprehensive study of the state of CS education in the U.S. to both inform our K-12 education outreach efforts and enable equitable access to CS opportunities. Gallup surveyed nearly 16,000 respondents nationally, including 1,673 students, 1,685 parents, 1,013 teachers, 9,693 principals, and 1,865 superintendents. We asked these stakeholders about opportunities, limitations, awareness, and perceptions of CS education.

The full report Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education contains key findings that we hope will inform the ongoing work in the field and inspire others to take action. Here are a few highlights:

Technology & Learning: Many students lack access to CS education, and racial disparities in exposure to the subject matter exist.
  • 3 in 4 principals say their schools offer no CS programming/coding classes 
  • Of the schools that do offer CS classes, the curriculum is often lacking and only 21% offer Advanced Placement level CS 
  • Hispanic students are less likely than other groups to have access to computers with Internet at home and are less likely to use computers everyday at school; Black and low-income students are less likely than other groups to have access to CS at school; Girls are less likely than boys to have learned CS
Value of CS Education: Most students, parents, and educators highly value CS education.
  • Nine-in-ten parents see CS education as a good use of school resources, and two-thirds of parents think computer science should be required learning in schools, with parents in lower-income households even more likely to hold this view 
  • Over 80% of students think they will learn CS in the future
School Limitations: Parents want CS offered in schools, but administrators don’t perceive a high demand.
  • CS is not a high priority in most schools and districts, and a number of barriers make it difficult for schools to offer CS
  • 91% of parents want their child to learn CS, but less than 8% of administrators believe parent demand is high 
  • Less than 30% of educators say CS is a top priority in their school or district Administrators tell us that the need to devote time to courses related to testing and a lack of trained teachers are the top barriers to offering CS in their schools
There’s a critical need to address the lack of awareness about student and parent demand for computer science, lack of support for CS teachers, and competing priorities that prevent computer science education from being offered. Also, despite the value of and interest in CS among all populations surveyed, we still see a need to broaden access to CS and computer technology for all students, especially for Black, Hispanic, and low-income students -- for example by exploring a variety of paths to learn CS, providing teachers with resources to learn about and teach CS, and asking school administrators and school boards to prioritize and support CS in schools. You can find a longer list of Google’s recommendations on how to expand opportunities to learn CS here keep track of Google's CS research at g.co/cseduresearch.

Today’s report is the first of a series of studies with Gallup. Our next installment will explore perceptions about CS, including stereotypes and unconscious biases that might limit some students from pursuing CS. Given the critical nature of computer science education in training the next generation of technologists, this research also provides a call to action for parents, teachers and school districts as they think through integrating this into their curriculum.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.






Name: Wei-Tung, Chen (韋同 陳)

Home: Taipei City, Taiwan

Age Category: 16-18

Project title: Calculating the 3D position of an object from a single source




Weitung’s regular attendance at summer science camps has helped foster his love for inventing. He also recently found an interest in physics and calculating the position of objects using new methods. His project aims to accurately calculate the 3D position of an object using only one source  rather than the multiple sources we rely on today. This system, with a little more development, could have expansive use in areas ranging from wearable computing to location-based applications, where an instant and accurate indoor 3D positioning system is in high demand.

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

At first, I was interested in quad copters, and I did brief research on them. At that time, I saw a TED lecture about quad copters astonishing athletes. The lecturer said that the quad copters require a precise indoor positioning system to provide the positioning of the quads and navigate them. This inspired me to explore an indoor positioning system. I studied this topic in depth and began building up a magnetic positioning system. I met with my teacher numerous times and finally found a solution to achieve a precise indoor positioning system using only a source for referencing.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

When I was in grade 7, I entered the advanced math and science class, but that's not the reason why I became interested in science. After joining this class, I had a lot of opportunities to attend lectures and activities about science. The most inspirational lecture was the "Creativity, Innovation, and Design" class. This class was held every Sunday during the whole semester. I not only learned how to be innovative and creative and help solve problems in everyday life, but also to acknowledge the importance of teamwork, from coming up with ideas through brainstorming together to executing on the idea and building something together. I learned so much about design and invention during this time and became more enthusiastic about science and creating things using scientific knowledge. 

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Use your scientific abilities to help make the world better. No matter how small that the problem is, try to find a way to solve it. Be creative. You may find treasures throughout the process of finding solutions.

Posted:
Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.





Names: Monique (Yo) Hsu and
             Gina (Jing-Tong) Wang

Home: Taipei City, Taiwan

Age category: 13-15

Project: Knock on fuel: detecting impurities in gasoline with sound pattern analysis





At school, Monique and Gina learned that an underground gasoline market exists throughout the world. Offenders, most commonly in Asia, blend cheap solvents into gasoline and sell it to the public, cheating people of high quality fuel. Monique and Jing-Tong decided that the public needed to know the difference between pure gasoline and a mixed solvent. By analyzing sound patterns, they found that it was possible to use sound (knocking) to identify different types of liquids and distinguish pure gasoline from a mixed solvent – saving the public the headaches and cost of purchasing fake gasoline.


What was the inspiration behind your project?

Monique: There have been a lot of incidents caused by adulterated gasoline and liquor. And we wanted to change that, so we started thinking of a way that’s easy, cheap and useful for uncovering gasoline impurities. Then we came up with a crazy but usable idea: use the knocking sounds to analyze the different liquids.

Gina: More and more food safety problems are troubling Taiwanese people and people all over the world. There has also been a lot of corruption with gasoline impurity in the world recently. That inspired us to find methods to uncover adulterated goods. That's the reason why we did our project.

When and why did you become interested in science?

Monique: Because my dad is a science teacher, I’ve had a lot of exposure to science from a young age. I have the fortune of access to a lot more science books than other classmates have, and I can ask my dad science questions whenever I want. This has fed my natural love for science, and the more books I read and research I do online, the more I want to probe to use science to probe and discover. So now, I'm really good at science, and I love it, too. Thanks, Dad!

Gina: When I was a child, somewhere around kindergarten, I was curious about the composition of things and really wanted to know things like how a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly. I love meditation. When I was in third grade we did an Independent Study called "ming-shui time." I loved being able to do many little experiments on my own. The experiments, whether independently or at school, are the seeds of scientific discovery.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?

Monique: Be curious. Use your smart brain to improve the world, and enjoy doing so of course.

Gina: If you get an idea, just try to test it out. If you have an interest in science, apply it to figure things out.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.




Name: Isabella O'Brien

Age Category: 13-15

Home: Ontario, Canada

Project: Recycling shell waste to reduce ocean acidification



Isabella became fascinated with finding out how to preserve natural resources when she encountered a sea of dead coral during a diving trip in Mexico. She researched ocean acidification and seashell waste and discovered that she could create an alkaline buffer by recycling the shell waste and adding it back to the ocean. Her project proves that we can drastically reduce ocean acidification and keep organisms happy and alive in their habitats by recycling shells.

What was the inspiration behind your project?

The inspiration behind my project came after a diving holiday in Mexico, where I observed a lot of dead coral. After doing some research, I discovered that humans production of carbon dioxide (CO2) is modifying ocean chemistry through a process known as ocean acidification, a contributing factor to coral loss. Oceans are becoming more acidic, lowering the pH levels and depleting carbonate ions, which are needed for building seashells and coral skeletons. This is forcing organisms to work harder to build their shells, making them vulnerable to predators, and therefore putting the entire marine ecosystem at risk. I also learned that millions of metric tons of shell waste is produced each year worldwide by the seafood industry and that these shells were made up of 95% calcium carbonate. It was this information that made me wonder what would happen if these shells were returned to the ocean and what impact it would have on the problem of ocean acidification.

When and why did you become interested in science?

I had a fantastic science teacher (Mr. Gordon) in grades 1, 2 and 3, who made learning science both fun and exciting. He would often show us videos of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which were great. Also, I was very lucky to be at a school (St Augustine) that held an annual science fair. Students were eligible to enter starting in grade 4. I couldn't wait to do my first science fair project in grade 4, and I’ve loved science and working on science fair projects ever since.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?

My advice to other young scientists would be to be curious, ask questions and work on any subject you find interesting. Sometimes it will be difficult, and sometimes things go wrong and you may have to start again, but do not give up. Have fun and help change the world!

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.



Name: Tanay Tandon

Age Category: 16-18

Home: US

Project: Delivering rapid, portable and automated blood morphology tests





Tanay loved hearing his grandfather’s stories of serving patients as a doctor in rural India, but he couldn’t believe that people had to wait in long lines for tests that were easily available in more developed countries. He was inspired to take action after reading a book on informational theory. He sent the authors several emails before receiving a response from a grad student who agreed to work with him. Tanay then wrote an algorithm and created a computer vision model. He attached a low-cost lens imaging system in order to algorithmically classify and count cells in a blood sample. This tool can now provide a rapid, portable and automated blood morphology test in the most rural regions. 

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

My grandfather was a doctor in rural India and owned his own clinic. Over the years, my mother told me stories of villagers who would line up to get blood biopsies at his clinic, often showing up incredibly early in the morning. This helped me realize the disparity in rural diagnostic conditions (especially for complex internal conditions) and the need for a portable, automated means to analyze blood, especially in areas where trained microbiologists and expensive equipment are scarce. Thus, this project has been a long term goal of mine, and as I have conducted separate research in hematology, machine learning and computer vision, my skills and experience have culminated in this one piece representing my work in the fields of AI and biology.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

My interest in science has always stemmed from a love of reading. Some of my earliest memories are sitting with my father and pouring over a book about constellations and astronomy. The concept of finding patterns in seemingly endless swathes of stars was how I got started in the scientific process. Eventually, I abstracted that love for pattern-finding to other fields like math, computer science and artificial intelligence. In my opinion, that in itself is a succinct summary of science – looking at some chaotic system and deciphering meaning through the skills at hand. Whether one does that with a microscope, a computer program or a pencil and paper, the process is essentially the same – a different means to an end, but a very similar end overall.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Research is all about building a palette of interests and mixing and matching the colors to create something new. Nearly all of my project ideas originate at the confluence of two or more fields – microbiology and artificial intelligence (this project), engineering and chemistry (my portable water treatment project a few years ago). I'd encourage young scientists to diversify their interests, build a love for several fields and then see what beautiful things come from their confluence.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.




Name: Matthew Reid

Age Category: 13-15

Home: Sussex, UK

Project: The ArduOrbiter: a lightweight, open source satellite





When Matthew learned in science class that 2,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth, he was eager to understand the effect of such a large quantity of satellites. He set out to develop a new lightweight, open source satellite that is under 5 centimeters in size, so that he could observe the earth without overcrowding orbital space. With the money he received from his 14th birthday, he built the ArduOrbiter using existing Arduino technology and aluminum. The ArduOrbiter-1 can communicate effectively and has a long battery life. Matthew looks forward to launching his satellite and using a cluster of them to build an alternative global communications system in the future.

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

I have always been interested in space, and after playing the computer game "Kerbal Space Program," I became particularly interested in the mechanics of space flight. This led me to study orbital mechanics and develop an orbital mechanics computer program. I wondered how cool it would be to have my own satellite and remembered Elon Musk’s quote, “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.” I started seriously researching the subject. Through this, I discovered CubeSats, which are four-inch cubes filled with electronics and sent into orbit. However, whilst these were cheaper than regular satellites, they still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and deploy. Then I came across the relatively undeveloped satellite concept of PocketQubes. Although being much smaller than CubeSats (being only 2 inch cubes), they still appeared to cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce. I started to wonder why these satellites were so expensive, since all they had to do was provide power for their payloads and communicate with a ground station. The costs seemed unreasonable, so I decided to build my own PocketQube satellite for a fraction of the cost of traditional PocketQube satellites.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

As long as I can remember, I have been interested in science.

 On New Year’s Eve 2008, when I was eight, I remember my oldest cousin teaching me the basics of atomic theory with chopped tomatoes and cucumber. My cousin went on to get a Master’s Degree in Physics and played a significant role in developing my interest in science, physics in particular.

 Although my project may be viewed primarily as an engineering project, engineering is the practical implementation of science. My initial interest in engineering came from when, at age nine, I got a “LEGO Mindstorms” set for Christmas. This not only taught me the fundamentals of programming, but also created an interest in developing practical applications for programming which, in turn, has led to my current Space Satellite project. 

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Google and YouTube allowed me to access all I needed to know and learn about building my own space satellite – these are essential tools for all scientists and engineers in the twenty-first century and should be utilised as much as possible. Throughout the development of my project, I was amazed by the amount of free help people from around the world were willing to give me. Be polite, take the advice, check it, use it, work hard. And if you want to do it, do it.

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(Cross-posted on the Google Research blog.)

When we last updated Course Builder in April, we said that its skill mapping capabilities were just the beginning. Today’s 1.9 release greatly expands the applicability of these skill maps for you and your students. We’ve also significantly revamped the instructor’s user interface, making it easier for you to get the job done while staying out of your way while you create your online courses.

First, a quick update on project hosting. Course Builder has joined many other Google open source projects on GitHub (download it here). Later this year, we’ll consolidate all of the Course Builder documentation, but for now, get started at Google Open Online Education.

Now, about those features:

  • Measuring competence with skill maps In addition to defining skills and prerequisites for each lesson, you can now apply skills to each question in your courses’ assessments. By completing the assessments and activities, learners will be able to measure their level of competence for each skill. For instance, here’s what a student taking Power Searching with Google might see:
This information can help guide them on which sections of the course to revisit. Or, if a pre-test is given, students can focus on the lessons addressing their skill gaps.

To determine how successful the content is at teaching the desired skills across all students, an instructor can review students’ competencies on a new page in the analytics section of the dashboard.

  • Improving usability when creating a course Course Builder has a rich set of capabilities, giving you control over every aspect of your course -- but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard to use. Our goal is to help you spend less time setting up your course and more time educating your students. We’ve completely reorganized the dashboard, reducing the number of tabs and making the settings you need clearer and easier to find.
We also added in-place previewing, so you can quickly edit your content and immediately see how it will look without needing to reload any pages.
For a full list of the other features added in this release (including the ability for students to delete their data upon unenrollment and removal of the old Files API), see the release notes. As always, please let us know how you use these new features and what you’d like to see in Course Builder next to help make your online course even better.

In the meantime, take a look at a couple recent online courses that we’re pretty excited about: Sesame Street’s Make Believe with Math and our very own Computational Thinking for Educators.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.



Name: Krtin Nithiyanandam Surrey

Age Category: 13-15

Home: United Kingdon

Project: Improving diagnosis and treatment for Alzheimer’s with new molecular “Trojan Horse”






Krtin benefitted from the power of medical science as a young child who underwent a successful procedure to restore his hearing. He was curious to see if that same power could cure another ailment he learned of on television – Alzheimer's disease. He found that the Aβ oligomers biomarker is present in high concentrations in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and also appeared during the earliest stage of the disease. Current diagnostic tools identify certain brain activity only present during the later stages of the disease, making it extremely difficult to diagnose the disease early. Krtin’s new molecular 'Trojan Horse' can potentially be used to diagnose Alzheimer's at a much earlier stage, leading to better treatments for patients.


What was the inspiration behind your project? 

I was always fascinated by neuroscience, but the inspiration for this project came from when I was reading various journal articles on cancer immunotherapy. Cancer immunotherapy works by using antibodies to alert the immune system to cancer. I wanted to extend the use of antibodies to other diseases, so my project has a slightly similar concept to immunotherapy, but a completely different principle. I also chose Alzheimer's because in Britain, we have a growing aging population and dementia is becoming extremely relevant. Also, Alzheimer's disease is considered to be one of the greatest medical challenges of the 21st century, with the fight against dementia becoming an international effort, so I felt that Alzheimer's disease would be a very relevant topic to focus my project on.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

I would say there were multiple moments that triggered my interest in science. I first started to take an interest in medicine after I had a series of operations and a transplant to restore my hearing. I truly admired how doctors and medicine could make a difference in people's lives and I wanted to be able to do the same for others. I also learned in school detail to the applications of science. My teachers were able to extend science out of the classroom and made it more interesting for me.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Don't be afraid of making mistakes; every great scientist has made mistakes. What made them great was that they persevered regardless of what happened, and they never stopped asking “Why?” That's how they were able to change the world.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words. 



Name: Laura Steponavičiūtė

Age category: 16-18

Home: Vilnius, Lithuania

Project: Detecting the environmental dangers of nanomaterials





Encouraged to read books about the world from a young age by her mother, who’s a science teacher, Laura learned that nanoparticles are in everything from sunscreen to socks. She wondered about their effect on living organisms and used bean sprouts and freshwater to do some testing. She discovered that nanoparticles can lead to higher chemical levels in environments, could potentially force species from their natural habitats and may even lead to extinction. She hopes this research leads to new precautions for nanoparticles and increased awareness about biological effects of chemicals. 

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

The greatest inspiration for my project is ecology. I’m concerned about keeping our planet and its organisms safe. Nanotechnologies is part of a widely expanded research field and various life changing inventions were created by using them. Though in my opinion, science has to be developed comprehensively, it has to be beneficial for humanity and not harmful for nature. While reading about nanotechnologies I had to face the fact that there’s little information about toxicity of nanomaterials. I’ve started thinking about how I could examine the harmful impact of nanoparticles on organisms, for example plants. My teacher encouraged me to try to study the effects to growth processes.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

Nature and science fascinated me since I can remember. I loved taking huge science atlases from the bookshelves and flipping through pages looking for illustrations. When I learned to read, I used to search the pages from atlases I liked the most and read them. If I didn’t know what something meant, I would take the book and go to my mother. She explained what I couldn’t understand. She also took me to her classroom, where there were various models and devices for demonstrative experiments. I remember my sister and I playing with these devices and our mother explaining to us why the devices were created. Then in school, I started learning things by myself, and could explore deeper the laws of nature. I want to know answers to the questions that pop in my head while reading articles or discussing various topics. I want to help to improve our environment and help people. I see science as a way to do that.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?

Every time you are able to learn from a difficult situation, you win. You create your own opportunities. Do not be afraid to dream because what is life without crazy ideas?

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.



Name: Anurudh Ganesan

Home: Clarksburg, Maryland, US

Age Category: 13-15

Project: VAXXWAGON: a reliable way to store and transport vaccines




As an infant in India, Anurudh’s grandparents carried him 10 miles for a vaccine, only to find that the vaccinations were no longer viable due to a lack of refrigeration. He knew that story well, and decided that one day he’d find a better and more reliable way to transport vaccines to remote locations. He brainstormed with a few local professors to come up with the idea for a "no ice, no electric" vaccine transportation system. Based on intensive test results in the lab, he created a simple vapor compression refrigeration system easily powered by humans or even animals. This model can successfully deliver vaccines without compromising the integrity of the antibodies, serving more people who urgently need intact and effective vaccinations. 

What was the inspiration behind your project? 

When I was an infant, my grandparents walked me 10 miles to a remote clinic in India in order to receive a vaccination. When we arrived, the vaccines were ineffective due to the high temperatures and lack of refrigeration. Eventually, I got the vaccination. I was fortunate but others are not. I later found out that according to UNICEF, 1.5 million children die as a result of not getting the safe and effective vaccines that they so desperately need. Also, I discovered that vaccines can become frozen because of ice-packs, also rendering them ineffective. This inspired me to explore a better method of refrigerating vaccines in the last-leg, particularly in developing countries. So, my ultimate goal is to develop a refrigeration system for last-leg vaccine transportation taking a “no ice, no electric” approach. By considering the current demand and utilization of water and electricity, VAXXWAGON can effectively transport vaccines in the last-leg, without the use of ice and electricity, which would save thousands of lives throughout the world.

When and why did you become interested in science? 

When I was five, my dad and I were refueling our car at a nearby gas station. I asked my dad then, “can we invent a self powered vehicle that doesn't need gas?” My dad never forgot that conversation and inspired me to learn everything I could about self-generating power. I’ve participated in several science fairs, starting from second grade until now, researching diversified topics from self-generating power to biometrics and public health. Science allows me to dream, imagine, explore and question unknown things. This creative freedom allows me to be limitless in my thinking!

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists? 

Young scientists shouldn't worry about failing and shouldn't be discouraged about their passions, even when they face big challenges. We can choose to focus on ideas for solving urgent and life threatening global issues in this ever-changing world. I also believe most importantly, that the results of these young scientist’s discoveries should be a solution that helps and creates opportunities for a better quality of life worldwide.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.






Name: Girish Kumar
Home: Singapore
Age category: 16-18
Project: RevUp: improving learning through auto-generated study questions




Between receiving his first computer as a gift from his father and eight years of Robotic Club membership, Girish can’t remember a time when he wasn’t driven by science or building. As a student, he frequently relies on online texts to supplement classroom materials, but he doesn’t feel like they prepare him enough to learn relevant concepts. So Girish recruited help from local professors to code a tool that automatically generates questions spurred by manually inserted and relevant text. RevUp helps students study and provides an extremely efficient way for teachers to stop crafting their own review materials and start relying on automation.

What was the inspiration behind your project?
Last year, my entire class was obsessed with QuizUP, a mobile game where users could challenge friends to trivia questions. However, the more we played, the more repetitive questions started to become, taking the challenge and adrenaline rush away. This was because actual people were drafting questions, which limited the number of questions. That got me thinking: if there was way that questions could be automatically generated, players could get a much greater variety of questions. And of course, a more exciting game experience! I got hooked.

Soon after, my friend joked that if QuizUp was used in lessons, he would ace biology with great ease. Biology is an extremely knowledge-driven and content-driven subject in my school and quizzing often helps reinforce key concepts. That comment struck me, and I decided to “pivot” my idea to one that suited education.

When and why did you become interested in science?
Unlike most teenage programmers, I wasn’t fascinated with my first computer. I was disappointed.

As a kid, I used to watch countless TV shows that often depicted computers as intelligent, intelligent enough to engage in conversations. And obviously, the first computer my family bought was not able to do that. I was pretty disappointed. And that’s where and when my interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) really took flight.

Things naturally progressed after that. I joined my elementary school’s robotics team, got into programming and took online courses on Machine Learning and AI in high school. I worked on exciting machine learning projects, dealing with topics such as gesture recognition and indoor localisation, as an intern at local laboratories. I felt a need to leverage A.I. to empower people. That’s why I’m continuing to work on RevUP: to put it in the hands of students and teachers worldwide.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?

  1. Do not waste time overthinking or over planning. Get your hands dirty and just start building/experimenting.
  2. For engineers especially: Iterate fast. Build. Fail. Improve. Repeat.
  3. Failure often paves way for insightful and surprising discoveries.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.





Names: Anela Arifi, Ilda Ismaili
Home: Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Age category: 16-18
Project: A system for alternative fuel production and storage using chicken feathers and fat





Anela and Ilda have been interested in science their entire lives. A science lesson about Rosalind Franklin inspired them to apply their passion to address a big challenge facing their country. They questioned how they could use waste material for alternative fuel production and storage to address the rapid rate of urbanization and increased demand for fuel in their country. Using local laboratory furnaces, the two tested the large amount of poultry waste in in their town and found that the chicken feathers could store hydrogen, while the fat produced fuel. Anela and Ilda’s ingenious system could restore the environment, while providing jobs to rural community members.


What was the inspiration behind your project?
Anela: Today, people have huge problems maintaining enough energy for their normal needs. I saw a need to invent new fuels and find acceptable storage for those fuels. What most inspires me is solving problems that we face. Just knowing that a formula, design or experiment that we come up with can solve big problems amazes. But everything has to be well organized. So, the first thing I did was set four aims: 1. achieve energy-efficiency 2. aim for the cost-effectiveness 3. make a good quality product 4. don’t pollute the environment with it. We wanted to find one material from which both a fuel and a material for storing fuel could be made. Using Google search, we discovered that both of the products can be produced by using chicken feathers. After looking into the statistics of chicken-feather waste in our country and in the world, we came to the conclusion that using chicken feathers would be a great environmentally-friendly solution. We tested the feathers in the laboratory and read many science articles and discovered that biodiesel (fuel) and material for storing hydrogen (storing fuel) could be produced by using chicken feathers. And since I’m a great fan of designing devices and inventing, Ilda and I designed a two-reactor system that would produce both by using the same process energy. We solved a problem by thinking of changing the world, maintaining a commodity in our everyday lives, reusing materials, inventing and experimenting.

Ilda: As Niel Armstrong said: "This is a small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind." That was my inspiration to do this. To be a part of that small step for man, and hope that someday it'll become a part of amazing discoveries and projects that helped to change the world. That way of thinking made me do this. Why this topic? We rely on fossil fuels, but we’re not aware that they’re slowly disappearing. I know that many researchers claim that we’ll run out of fossil fuels in 40 years or so, but I don't think that's true. They will be around longer than that, but what we’re not aware of is that we’re killing our own planet by using them. So Anela and I decided to focus on alternative fuels that could help solve problems of today like, pollution and economy struggles. And of course, one day, let's say 200 years from now when we run out of fossil fuels, we hope that our project and our idea could be one of many good things that will help save our planet earth. And THAT is a giant leap for mankind.

When and why did you become interested in science?
Anela: I remember being a small girl (my mother says I was four) and asking my mom; "Why is the sky blue?" My mom answered my question the best she could, but I kept asking “why?” I wondered whether there’s more to it than I could see and understand. My wondering and thinking about the complexity of everything came in handy when I started competing in national math, physics and chemistry competitions. I just loved the feeling of getting the right solution after thinking and rethinking. So, I could say that I was interested in science throughout my entire life actually. In high school I started applying my knowledge towards solving the problems on paper and in practice too, so I managed to make some successful science projects also. So when it comes down to it, I can say that my interest in science began when I was four years old holding my mother’s hand, wondering.

Ilda: I've been interested in science as long as I can remember. Even as a little girl, I was fascinated by plant growing, wondering how cars work, finding out why and how we laugh and sleep. I didn't realize back then that all of that was tied to science. While attending elementary school, I competed in many science competitions, such as science fairs and physics, chemistry and biology competitions. My favourite subject is biology, and you’ll see that biology plays a big part in our project. When I got to high school, I was introduced to more serious science competitions, that made me incorporate my own ideas. I could come up with an idea and present it to the rest of the world. It was then that I realized how beautiful science is. It has no rules or restrictions or boundaries. It's the same in every country. That's why I started to be interested in science. And I love it.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?
Anela: Never stop wondering. Think and rethink until you understand. And even if you have troubles with your research, wondering, thinking and rethinking will make it work.

Ilda: The best advice I ever got is that knowledge is power and to keep reading and learning. That's what I'll tell my fellow scientists. An idea you have may not work the first time, or the third or even the hundredth time, but it will eventually. Mine did. So keep on trying.

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Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist Series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.






Name: Adriel Sumathipala
Home: Virginia, USA
Age category: 16-18
Project: Creating a simple diagnostic tool for earlier detection of cardiac disease






Adriel met his grandfather through stories and grainy photos. In those stories, he also learned about the cardiac disease that caused his grandfather’s fatal heart attack when Adriel’s father was just 16. Wanting to prevent cardiac disease for future generations, Adriel worked with his favorite biology professor to research faster ways to detect heart illness. As a university student, he found a new biomarker for cardiac issues, allowing him to create a new affordable and simple diagnostic tool to detect cardiac disease much earlier than current tools in the market.


What was the inspiration behind your project?
I met my grandfather through my dad’s (often exaggerated and fantastical) stories; he died in his sleep from a stroke when my father was 16 years old. The odd thing about his death was that no one knew my grandfather had cardiac disease. In an underdeveloped country like Sri Lanka, troubled more by malaria than chronic diseases, who would test for cardiac disease?

When I was 14 years old, I was identified as being at risk for cardiac disease, based upon my precariously high cholesterol levels. Having already lost a family member to this disease, I began to follow a strict regimen of exercise and closely watched what I ate. However, after a few months, I failed to monitor my diet and exercise because I felt in the dark about my disease.

Was monitoring my diet closely and exercising regularly reducing my perilously high risk for cardiac disease?

Current diagnostics are tucked away in labs, expensive, and slow to report results, making it challenging for at-risk patients like myself to assess the effectiveness of their prescribed regimen. I just knew a better diagnostic could be made, so I began work on making my own.

I made my diagnostic for my family, for my older brother, younger sister, and dad who are all at risk for heart disease. I realized that we all needed a device that could easily track our risk for cardiac disease. So, I tried to make something simple, fast, and accurate to do just that for my family.

There’s a different kind of inspiration that comes from helping the people you love most. It doesn’t come in a moment of cerebral realization or with the flickering of an imaginary light bulb. It’s a continuous and unlimited inspiration. The kind of inspiration that pushed me through late nights in the lab, kept me going after innumerable failures, and stopped me from giving up my work.

When and why did you become interested in science?
While I can’t point to a pivotal moment that forever changed my interests, I can tell you why I love science.

Perhaps it started with my curiosity. I’m sure all parents and kids with younger siblings are aware of the incessantly inquisitive nature of young children; it starts just about when they learn to speak, and gradually fades away as the child grows older.

Unfortunately for my parents, that last bit didn’t happen and I never quite stopped asking them questions. In a world of questions, a universe of unknowns, science manifests itself as a brilliant arbitrator of reason. Sure, there’s no denying the incredible benefits science has brought unto humanity, but at its most fundamental level, science interests me because it explains the world around me, constantly fueling my curiosity. It’s the power of science to reveal truth and give meaning to existence that truly fascinated me.

As I grew older, I came to see science as more than just a means of explaining the unexplainable; I began to see it as a means to an end. An end that leaves a healthy, just and sustainable planet and that will ensure that my children will live long and happy lives.

This is the promise of science in the 21st century and the promise that lured me to science research. Its a simple promise of a better world. And it’s been worth every minute of my time to work towards this aim.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?
When you think about giving up, remember why and for whom you started your research.

Don’t compare your work to that of others; you’re the world’s foremost expert on your own research.

Find a balance between following established protocols and discovering your own methods; no genuine research is a radical departure from previous work, and humanity has, and always will, advance through small and incremental successes