The online search engine Google is searching the real world for talented young scientists, engineers and inventors. This week, the company announced the launch of a global competition open to students between the ages of 14 and 18 from anywhere around the world.
In what may become the 21st century model of competition, contestants in the Google Science Fair do not have to be physically in the same place to compete with each other.
"All you need to participate is access to the Internet and imagination," said Entrepreneur Dean Kamen, who's best known as the inventor of the Segway. "You go to google.com/sciencefair. You find the template that tells you how to register. It gives you all the categories that you can compete in. They are very broad; physics, biology, the environment and loads of other ones. Then, you design and build your experiment. You document it in any way you want, including, for instance, YouTube videos. You get it done on line for the judges. "
Those judges will announce the grand prize winner and the top experiments in several age categories on July 11. Kamen says the winners will receive some exciting prizes.
"How about this for prizes: a trip to the Galapagos Islands, a trip to the CERN High Energy Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland? How about Google is supplying $100,000 in scholarships and others are supplying internships? This is a really big deal," he added.
Kamen will help select the winners, along with leading scientific thinkers and Nobel laureates.
"What are the judges looking for? What’s going to discern and discriminate the ones that they pick for these final awards? I suppose mostly it’s going to be about imagination and tenacity and effort that really distinguishes a few of these kids. But, I would also point out that every kid that participates is going to be a winner because they learn, they get inspired, they meet other kids," added Kamen.
Kamen says there are two reasons he is encouraging students to participate in the Google Science Fair.
"One is for their own sake, because so many of the jobs of the future that are exciting, so many of the careers of the future that these kids are going to want access to ,are going to require that you have expertise and comfort with science and technology. But the world is also going to win if more kids get involved because we’re facing global environmental issues, global energy issues, sustainability issues, medical issues. We’ve got to create - in the future, through technology - solutions to global problems that are getting bigger everyday."
Kamen is optimistic that today’s young talents will be able to solve tomorrow’s problems. He points out they have more knowledge and better tools than his generation had.
"Sadly, when I was a kid, there was no Internet and there certainly was no Google," noted Kamen. "I was lucky though, I started tinkering with technology on my own and I started realizing how powerful technology can be at solving real problems. I think kids today are living in a very, very exciting time. There was a time when if you really wanted access all the great information out there, you had to walk to a place and see the stuff, and walk to a place and talk to the experts, but now the Internet makes all that information, all that knowledge, all those people available to everybody."
Registration for the Google Science Fair is open until April 4. Inventor Dean Kamen says he can’t wait to meet the winners, tomorrow’s science champions, who he predicts will make the world a better place.