This year, the first Google Science Fair in partnership with Scientific American, CERN, LEGO and National Geographic drew more than 10,000 students from 91 countries. As the chief judge and master of ceremonies for the awards event on July 11 at Google's Mountain View, Calif., campus, I was delighted to meet and hear directly about the work of the 15 impressive young scientists, aged 13 to 18, who were finalists. The three students who ultimately won, one in each of three age categories, were honored for their work in determining which marinades produce fewer carcinogens in grilled food (Lauren Hodge, 14), helping people with asthma (Naomi Shaw, 16) and improving ovarian cancer treatment for people who have built up resistance to a common type of chemotherapy drugs (Shree Bose, 17). Now they've also been feted at the White House, where they met President Obama, who, in his State of the Union address earlier this year had said that winners of science fairs should be celebrated, not just winners of the Super Bowl.
I wanted to share this note I received from Samantha Peter of Google about that visit:
"It has been a phenomenal two days for the Google Science Fair winners who were in Washington DC at the invitation of the White House.
• Spending time with President Obama in the Oval office where they chatted about their research and their aspirations for the future.
… it wasn’t just that we got to see him and shake hands with him, he knew our projects, he actually knew our names, what we did, and we actually had a conversation with him … he seemed really excited about meeting us!” - Lauren Hodge, 14
• Meeting Dr. John Holdren, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing where they discussed the importance of their research and it’s future applications.
• Meeting Lisa Jackson, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Naomi Shah (15 - 16 winner) had written to Ms. Jackson after winning the Google Science Fair to highlight her research as one day she would like to see it impact policy, the DC trip gave her the opportunity to start this conversation in earnest.
… I was able to make connections that I otherwise would not have had an opportunity to make that was something really powerful to me and will be a powerful tool in my future … - Naomi Shah, 16
• Meeting several Directors of the NIH and touring the labs where they were able to interact with inspiring scientists who were doing groundbreaking research. The connections made there will help them forward their research and develop their ideas.
The one thing I have taken away from this trip is inspiration … we met people really impacting the world around them and this is something really incredible for us as young scientists to see and aspire to be - Shree Bose, 17
"They also had a behind the scenes tour of the Capitol including access to the floor at the House of Representatives, meetings with several Science Committee staffers, a radio interview at the US Department of Agriculture and dinner with powerful and influential women in Washington.
"This was a once in a lifetime experience for our three winners and one which will not only help them in the future but stay with them for the rest of their lives. Let’s make more heroes out of young scientists when we launch the Google Science Fair in 2012!"