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Expiring food, hanging gardens, the power of sepiolite, farmer software and plankton: Meet the Science in Action finalists, part 4

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On June 27, the winner of the second annual $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action Award, powered by the Google Science Fair, will be announced. In this blog series we ask the finalists to describe their projects and themselves. Meet these five teams of inspired students from Poland, the Russian Federation, Spain, India and Brazil. Project: What Lurks in Our Refrigerators? [caption id="attachment_1521" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Marcin Muszalski "][/caption] Name (Age): Kamil Danak (17), Marcin Muszalski (17), Wojciech Gr?del (17) Country: Poland Summary: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags on various food items combined with a microcontroller and software can monitor food consumption and waste. What does being recognized as a Science in Action Award finalist mean to you? Marcin: Being a finalist for the Science in Action Award has shown me that each of us can change the world. We don't need to wait until we finish high school, college, or wait until we become adults. Since we have the power to change the world, we are obliged to act. If you could have dinner with any three scientists throughout time, whom would you choose? [caption id="attachment_1523" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Kamil Danak "][/caption] Marcin: Nikola Tesla, Richard Feynman and Stanis?aw Ulan. Who are your scientific inspirations and why? Kamil: My grandparents because they sparked my curiosity in electronics. What is your favorite food? Kamil: Red borscht with dumplings. What is your favorite hobby? Wojciech: Electronics is awesome. I love to analyze circuits and I spend all my freetime building my own electronic systems. [caption id="attachment_1553" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Wojciech Gr?del"][/caption] What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years and why? Wojciech: Transistors are everywhere and have completely changed our lives. Project: "Hanging Gardens," Or an Effective Way to Remove Pollutants from Air Name (Age): Bekjan Djumakov (15), Bulat Karimov (17) Country: Russian Federation Summary: Layers of plants, growing medium, fabric, along with an automatic irrigation system, create air-cleaning, aesthetically pleasing roof gardens. [caption id="attachment_1537" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Bekjan Djumakov"][/caption] How does your project impact the community you grew up in? Bekjan: There are several global environmental problems nowadays. One of them is the state of contaminated air. This problem concerns everyone and is particularly a big issue in large cities. We are not content to do nothing about this and decided to help the world by offering a way to go green, which is very economical and efficient. Who are your scientific inspirations and why? Bekjan: My scientific heroes are all the scientists who work to improve the state of the world. I also admire teachers for their courage and prudence as well as their choice to pursue such a noble profession. What is your favorite food? Bekjan: I love Turkish cuisine. Project: Yield Study of Sepiolite in Arid Cultivation Name (Age): Emma Lorenzo Casas (14), Sof?a Antonia Justo Villar (15) [caption id="attachment_1539" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Emma Lorenzo Casas"][/caption] Country: Spain Summary: Adding sepiolite, a clay mineral found in many brands of cat litter, to soil that's been subject to forest fire helps it retain water and nutrients, improving performance Who are your scientific inspirations and why? Sofia: Dr. Jos? Bernardo Parra Soto inspired us to start this project. He motivated us to get concerned about environmental issues such as the abuse of natural resources. If you could travel in time, what invention or discovery would you like to introduce one hundred years ahead of schedule and why? Sofia: The discovery of Penicillin, as it would save many lives. [caption id="attachment_1541" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Sof?a Antonia Justo Villar "][/caption] What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years and why? What about in the past 10 years? Emma: In the past 100 years, the airplane because we can travel anywhere in the world in hours. In the past 10 years, the invention of social networks, because it allows us the ability to contact anyone in the world in real time. Do you have a favorite band or song? Emma: Coldplay's song "The Other Side" covered by Jason Derulo Project: Farmers' Help (Farmers' True Friend, Indeed) Name (Age): Smriti Bhaskar (17), Arunatpal Chanda (15), Sayak Mukherjee (16) Country: India Summary: Software analyzes such factors as soil's nutrient capacity and microbial health to provide farmers with information about how to maximize yields. [caption id="attachment_1543" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Smriti Bhaskar"][/caption] How does your project impact the community you grew up in? Smriti: In India many farmers are poor and lack modern equipment. Plus, only a few of them have the ability to read and write. Many become very depressed due to their failure to pay their never-ending debts. Our project provides a small help to these farmers. We have seen with our own eyes, the farmers benefitting from the project. That moment when we realized that science had helped us bring a smile to these poor people was heart warming. If you could have dinner with any three scientists throughout time, whom would you choose? Smriti: I would choose Darwin, Einstein and Marie Curie. Even 10 minutes with them would be awe-inspiring. Who are your scientific inspirations? Arunatpal: Darwin, Einstein and Fermat. Do you have a favorite band or song? Arunatpal: Maroon Five and Adele. If you could travel through time, what one invention or discovery would you want to introduce 100 years ahead of schedule and why? Smriti: It would be the discovery of stem cells. That discovery has led to many advances in treatments. I believe that the basic goal of science is to help mankind. What is the use of inventing or discovering so many things if it is not put to use? Name (Age): Nayara Martins Orsi (17), Flavia Faggi?o (16) Country: Brazil Project: Identification of Organisms in Coastal Phytoplankton Bioindicators in Paran? through Analysis of Correlative Biotic and Summary: Plankton sampled from a variety of locations along the Brazilian cost helps determine the health and diversity of life in marine ecosystems. If you could travel through time, what one invention or discovery would you want to introduce 100 years ahead of schedule and why? Flavia & Nayara: The discovery of the chemical structure of DNA by Watson and Crick. In just 60 years after that discovery, we are able to accomplish amazing things. Imagine what we will be able to do in another 40 years? We believe that many diseases will no longer exist. What do you think was the most revolutionary invention of the past 100 years and why? Flavia & Nayara: We believe that the creation and launch of the first satellite into space by the Soviet Union, Sputnik, represented a major breakthrough. It was a huge step in understanding space. What is your favorite hobby? Flavia: Watching movies and series, mostly Doctor Who. I also like to learn and read about topics related to biology. Nayara: I like to try different foods and be close with nature, especially the beach. I also like to travel and see different places and cultures. Do you have a favorite football team? Flavia: Like any good Brazilian, I'm passionate about football. I am a fanatic supporter of the Santos Football Club. I also cheer on the Brazilian team. Nayara: I'm not a football fan, but when Brazil enters the field, I always end up getting excited by the crowd.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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