MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA - When Celestine Wenardy, a 16-year-old teenager from Indonesia, learned that diabetes was a “silent killer” in her country, she wondered how to make it easier for people to test their blood glucose levels.
She entered her idea into the Google Science Fair, an annual competition that attracts teens from around the world. Celestine ended up winning the Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award for her project that involved using heat on skin to test the glucose level.
Twenty teams of students were on Google’s campus this week for the search giant’s annual science fair. They came from 14 countries, bringing novel approaches to solving problems in health, environment and sustainability.
Celestine plans to continue with her research.
“I need to make sure it’s absolutely accurate, because people’s health is in your hands,” she said.
Turning sign language into speech
Daniel Kazantsev from Russia used sensors to measure arm and hand movements such as sign language, turning the measurements into actual speech. He won the Lego Education Award.
Students from Saudi Arabia came up with an exoskeleton glove to fit on an injured hand to help teach it how to move.
Harvesting the energy from tree movements
Some of the students’ projects focused on environmental challenges.
Tuan Dolmen from Turkey pursued the idea of harvesting energy produced from the movement of tree branches. That energy can then be used by farmers to power devices in the field for things such as air quality or humidity measurements. He won the Scientific American Innovator Award.
“I’m a bit shocked, actually,” he said about the award. “I feel really proud that someone has appreciated my work. It has been a pleasure, and it has been an honor.”
The winner of the Google Grand Prize, which comes with $50,000, was Fionn Ferreira from Ireland, who created a new method to remove microplastics from the water using magnets. The judges said Ferreira embodied the spirit of exploration.
He lives in a rural community, he said, and makes many of his supplies and measurement devices, such as a spectrometer, himself.
Whatever he or the other students do next, the event organizers said they expect all the students’ spirit of exploration to take them to uncharted territories in science, health and other fields.