Google has just narrowed its Science Fair 2012 finalists down from 90 to 15 ahead of the final decision on July 23rd at its Mountain View HQ. These clever kids are in the running to win trips to the Galapagos Islands, scholarships and (breathe) personalised Lego sets from their ever-encouraging granddaddy Google. Here's five genius projects to make you feel like an under-achiever, whatever your age.
3-Dimensional Display, by Melvin Zammit aged 18 (Malta)
Melvin's project might just convince us that 3D has an exciting future after all. He's built three different prototypes of a new kind of display showing 'real' 3D images which don't need the stereoscopic tech you'd find in your average TV. Instead he uses layers of transparent LED 'lattices' to make the 3D picture and this avoids the unnatural feeling of two different depth measurements (from different optical points of focus) we get with current 3D screens. We had a similar idea but then we got distracted by Avengers Assemble.
Design and Evaluation of a Cell-phone Compatible Telemedicine System, by Catherine Wong aged 16 (USA)
Catherine's ECG-in-a-phone prototype is a gadget-friendly solution to world healthcare problems: billions of people don't have access to the right doctors and equipment but chances are many of those have a mobile phone or can get their hands on one. Catherine's Bluetooth-enabled phone can read cardiac electrical activity – like a big, expensive ECG machine would – and turn the reading into an image that can be sent over mobile networks to central hospitals for remote examination and diagnosis. And we thought Jawbone's UP wristband was as futuristic as health gadgets got.
Good Vibrations by Jonah Kohn aged 14 (USA)
Jonah wants to extend the number of people who can enjoy The Beatles – and maybe The Beach Boys – by helping anyone with hearing loss and a cochlear implant/hearing aid hear music. Getting the idea from tapping his teeth on his guitar and hearing it more clearly, his device breaks up the sound spectrum and is then attached to various optimum parts of the user's body to provide 'tactile sound' enhancement with pretty impressive success. Cool kid.
Unique Simplied Hydroponic Methods by Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Mahlalela, aged 14 (Swaziland)
These two boys from Swaziland have won the Scientific American Science in Action prize already for their new method of food production that could help limit food shortages there. Hydroponics means growing plants using mineral nutrients and water, usually in soil – Sakhiwe and Bonke have simplied this farming method and brought the cost down by using sawdust and organic waste instead of soil with waste cartons as garden containers and chicken manure for the nutrients. Clever stuff – and there's more life-saving ideas on the 15-strong Science Fair shortlist.
Can You Beat Bob? by Martin Schneider and Joshua Li, aged 14 (USA)
Teen programming-loving students Martin and Joshua came up with a simple idea to get kids more excited about maths, since combat and rivalries in video games are so much fun. They created a cartoon called Bob who would compete with the students in computer-based exercises – amazingly they found Bob spurred the sprogs on to spend more time on the problems and answer more questions. No luck improving performance just yet but Martin and Joshua reckon with more testing, they might see results.