“As any adult knows, there’s one thing that any kid can do better than any grown up: ask questions. In fact, many studies have actually shown how kids are born scientists. If you don’t believe me, watch a baby first accidentally knock something off her high chair and onto the floor. She’ll look at it with interest and you can see her ask: What happens with other things? And she’ll run the experiment with different objects until she finds out. So you kids are great at asking questions. And you have great fresh viewpoints–you look at things in new ways. You have the energy to learn, the passion to learn, the drive to learn. And one of the best ways we adults can help you learn is to help you find the answers by mentoring you and enabling you to do some real laboratory science.”

I said those words to an audience of teens (and adults) at the launch of the first Google Science Fair in New York City last January. (You can see the whole launch event here.) Some 7,000 students aged 13 to 18 entered last year, from more than 90 countries. Scientific American was a partner and I was chief judge.

Now the 2012 Google Science Fair is here–a whole new opportunity for kids to ask those questions and use science to search for answers.

This year, Scientific American also is delighted to help expand the Google Science Fair honors by sponsoring a $50,000 Science in Action award for a project that addresses a social, environmental or health issue to make a practical difference in the lives of a group or community. Volunteer mentors also will help foster the continued development of that winning project for a year.

Hope you’re feeling inspired to enter! Here’s a video to get those ideas flowing.

And here’s information on how to enter. Good luck!