Google Science Fair

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A professor assisting a student on his laptop

Google Science Fair: The Nation’s Top Math and Science Talent

The number of applications that Ivy League colleges receive increases exponentially every year. For the class of 2021, the total number of applications that Harvard College received stood at 39,494 as compared to 37,300 in 2019. Back in 2013, this number was around 29,100. Around 33,000 applications were submitted to Yale University seeking admissions, as on 26th January 2020, which is a 5% increase from the previous year. This manifold surge in the influx of applications has left-top of the league colleges, today, facing an important question – how to skim the creme-de-la-creme from the vast pool?

In pursuit of selecting the best talent, these elite colleges continue to raise the bar by making the selection process more and more stringent. To say that competition is tough would be an understatement. Even though a vast majority of those applying have an excellent academic track record only a handful get selected. Undoubtedly, the Ivy League is not for everyone. However, the Google Science Fair can improve your chances of getting into one.

It’s natural that if you are academically bright, you’d pin your hopes on getting through the college of your choice. A word of caution – don’t be overly reliant on SAT scores to get you the seat. Ivy League colleges are looking for a lot more than academic performance in their future graduates, and are becoming extremely selective in their application acceptance procedure. The candidate’s overall personality, problem-solving capability, leadership skills, preparedness, and performance in extracurricular activities – everything counts.

If, for example, you are keen to get admission for a science course, your performance in Google Science Fair could strengthen your application. Of course, your standalone Google Science Fair ranking won’t make any difference. But, if you have scored well in your SAT test, and have been amongst the top three in the science fair, and your essay manages to intrigue the League, your chances of making it through are very high.

So, if you are someone who dreams day in and out about pursuing higher studies from an elite Ivy League college, we suggest that you start now on making yourself a well-rounded person. There is a lot that needs to be done, and of course, you can’t champion extracurriculars in a week or even a month. And, you might find yourself overwhelmed and confused about where to begin. We suggest, start by preparing for a prestigious science competition like the Google Science Fair.

A woman thinking while looking at her laptop

What is the Google Science Fair and why should you care?

Founded in 2011, the Google Science Fair is an online competition sponsored by prominent names like National Geographic, Virgin Galactic, Lego, Scientific American, together with Google.

Held online every year, this Science Fair is open for  13- to 18-year-old students, from all across the globe. All you need to enter this science fair or competition is an internet connection and a brilliant idea.

So, why should you bother participating in it?

A woman holding a document and thinking

A key accessor of your problem-solving skills

The prizes awarded to the winners of this science fair by Google are grand. The winner walks away with a $50,000 scholarship. That’s enough to pay a year’s tuition fee for any Ivy League college.

Prizes and scholarships aside, this science fair is the right stage for science students who want to portray their logical thinking and problem-solving skills. And, as we’ve mentioned before, an aspirant’s meaningful involvement with the course he/she is inclined to pursue is a key criterion in the selection process for some of the most elite colleges.

Shree Bose, a 17-year-old student from Fort Worth, Texas, won the top rank in the science fair held by Google. She bagged the $50,000 for her impressive research on how to improve the condition of ovarian cancer patients who became resistant to common chemotherapy. Bose, thereafter, made it to Harvard University. Her passion and deep knowledge of her research area enabled her to study at one of the most prestigious colleges in the world.

If just like Bose, you too are committed to making a mark in science as your course for higher studies, the Google Science Fair, is your chance to prove to the accredited names in the industry that you are really cut out for it.

Feel like giving it a go? This complete guide will give you a complete overview of how you can prepare and what to expect as a Google Science Fair entrant. Let’s take a step-wise approach to get started.

Preparing for the fair – Understand the rules

The ground rules for this competition are simple – define the problem you want to work on and propose a solution for it. Your entry will be judged on eight key criteria including your problem/question, hypothesis, research, experiment, data, observation, conclusion, and presentation skills.

On the surface, it may appear simple but your  ‘idea’ and ‘approach’ will decide your place in the competition. However, before we get to that, let’s take a look at some basic guidelines given by the organizers that you need to follow.

Participants between 13-18 years old may register for one project as an individual or as a member of a team of up to three people. To enroll, you’ll need to register for a Google account and seek parental consent. On signing up for the competition you will need to select the main topic for your research. The entire list that you can select your topic for research has been given below.

  • Robotics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Flora & Fauna
  • Food Science
  • Electricity & Electronics
  • Behavioral & Social Sciences
  • Energy & Space
  • Astrophysics
  • Computer Science & Math
  • Earth & Environmental Sciences
  • Inventions & Innovation

Alongside this, you will also need to pick two sub-topics.

You would also need to fill an entry form, and you must carefully fill out every field. You may also be required to submit a Youtube video explaining your submission. Or, a Google slideshow if the judges ask for.

The organizers of the fair or a mentor would guide you so that your research design is on-point, and provide you with the necessary equipment like lab space to run your experiment.

Submissions can be made in English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Polish, Japanese, Russian, Turkish, Portuguese, Korean, or Chinese.

Preparing for the win – Ideating and coming up with a relevant solution

Now that you are familiar with the guidelines for participating in the science fair, the next step is to start preparing. Be absolutely sure about ‘what’ problem you wish to develop a solution for, ‘why’ is it important in today’s context, and ‘how’ are you going to solve it. Take the following step-by-step approach to help you come up with your idea.

Read science magazines and publications

Coming up with a project idea overnight is not possible unless you are doing your research and reading a lot about what’s happening in the world of computer science. Look up the internet for interesting research that’s happening in the field of biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, or even artificial intelligence. Publications like Quanta Magazine, Discover, American Scientist, and Science News, are really popular amongst aspirants and should be on the top of your reading list. When reading articles and research papers, make it a point to list any ideas that fascinate you. This simple daily exercise could go a long way in helping you come up with an idea worth winning the Google Science Fair.

A male student looking at his laptop and pondering

Go through the past project entries for the fair

Ideas are aplenty. They could range from technology that detects skin cancer using deep learning models to designing earthquake-proof buildings to proposing reinforcement of the ozone layer. Impressive ideas, however, are those that address the current real-world challenges.

The more relevant and pressing the problem/idea the higher chances of it being recognized. The more accurate and practical the solution you propose, the closer you are to winning yourself a high position in the competition.

To find out what Google is exactly looking for when it comes to deciding the winners, read about the past entries, and try to analyze their line of thought. We’ve listed two-three winning project ideas for you to take a cue from, below:

Robots to target Fruit Fly invasions

Presented by 14-year old Mihir Garimella of Pittsburgh. The inspiration behind the idea (arriving at the problem):

When Garimella was on a summer vacation in India with his parents, he realized that the bananas that they forgot to throw out had filled their room with fruit flies. It was impossible to swat them and get rid of them. Problem realization – He figured out that it was extremely tough to get rid of those flies because of their speed. A fire fly’s visual system, despite the tiny size of its brain, operates extremely quickly. Coming up with a combat solution – Infrared rays can match up the speed of a fire fly’s visual system, Garimella thought. Experiment – The 14-yo designed a mini flying robot that utilized infrared distance sensors, Arduino programming, and a quadrotor. The machine with four propellers could take off rapidly and target objects approaching from different directions with rays.

An additional proposed use case for the machine – Garimella proposed that this simple machine can be deployed to survey disaster zones. It could successfully fight and evade falling debris.

Bacteria fight World Hunger

Proposed by three friends, Emer Hickey, Ciara Judge, and Sophie Healy–Thow, all aged 16. The inspiration behind the idea (arriving at the problem): During their three-year mission to solve the world food crisis, the three friends made an interesting finding. They observed warts on a pea pod and learned that the wart-like nodules hold rhizobia that produce ammonia. Problem realization – The three friends learned about the world food crisis in their geography class.

Coming up with the solution – They realized that rhizobia that produce ammonia and other compounds can speed up the growth of plants. They became really intrigued about how these bacteria can be used in solving food crises.

Experiment – The three friends found out that microbes can increase seed germination rates by 50%. Over the course of three years, they have tested nearly 13,000 seeds and have also successfully set up a field site with another 3,600 seeds in their hometown.

Additional proposed use case – One of the three friends, Hickey, says the bacteria could reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

Other than the entries we’ve explained in detail above, other past submissions have included:

Start brainstorming the idea

Start ideating by looking at the problems in your immediate environment. You could pick cues from the kind of problems your parents or grandparents faced, which worry you. Or, you could sit down and list some of the concerns close to your heart. These could be issues like – helping an elder person get rid of the smoking habit, removing waterlogging that may cause too many mosquitoes to bread, providing access to clean food – something that you wish to do for the community.

It also makes sense to look at the present problems faced by g the world at large. Take, for example, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

What could you do using science and technology to help people deal with the current times better? Could you develop an AI-based scanner that people can use at home for detecting COVID-19, eliminating the need for painful swab testing? Or, could you create an app that can accurately tell you about the kind of viral infection you have caught, using your symptom and geographical data?

Ask around for help and guidance

Once you’ve identified the problem that you wish to work on, discuss it with your mentor, science teachers, parents, siblings, and friends.

You might get fresh perspectives on the problem or idea that you are proposing. They will also be keen to give you tips on the approach that you should take towards solving it. Or, if you have a broad idea they might help you to narrow it down, into a concrete problem statement. For example, if you wish to do something about those who are allergic to pollen but don’t know how to present it into a problem statement. Your parents might propose that you could talk about how those allergic to pollen are unable to go for a pleasant walk in the community garden.

Work towards developing feasible solutions for the problem/idea

Ideating is just half the job done. The other half part of your project is going to be working out a solution to your proposed problem.

For the Google Science Fair, you will need to come up with a solution that utilizes either scientific or computational thinking methodology. Once again, you can seek help from your teachers and parents.

For example, you may need help coming up with a solution for pollen allergic people. Your teachers might suggest that you should propose making allergen-friendly green spaces for such people who can’t go to the local park. These green spaces shouldn’t have male trees that emit pollen emitters and rate high on the allergy scale.

While the project, largely, should be done by you individually (or as a team), there are no rules against how you do your research, collect resources and date, and how you go about arriving at the solution.

Prepare. But, prepare to handle failure well too

Your first few entries for the science fair may get rejected. Be prepared for the heartache. But, don’t give up. Each failed attempt gives you deep insights and learning into what doesn’t qualify as the best entry. This learning should inspire you to work even harder, and with more clarity.

Remember those genius discoveries were made out of a series of trials and errors. Even Elif Bilgin, who won the 2013 award-winner had ten failed experiments before he cracked a winning idea. Plus, it took Bilgin 12 to try to get to her final submission to the science fair.

Failing will test your passion and perseverance. You should not give up once you’ve decided to participate in the fair.

Make your submission and continue to hone your skills

You’ve done your best and now it is time to make your submission. To submit your final entry, you need to fill the online form. It will help you have a formal paper written that has details about your project. Carefully review the research paper for writing clarity, grammar, and language. While submitting the online form you can use this research paper as your point of reference. You can also cut and paste sections from it to fill your entry form.

Having made the entry, sit back and relax. It’s time for the judges to do their job. Each entry is assessed on the following basis:

  • It’s the ability to Inspire
  • It’s the capability to make an impact
  • The participant’s passion for the subject/idea
  • Excellence and feasibility of the problem-solving method
  • Communication or presentation of the entry

If your project is shortlisted as one of the highest-scorers then it is further reviewed in detail. The top 100 Regional finalist projects are chosen from those high-scoring projects. In the next round, the judges select 20 Global finalist projects that have been submitted from around the world. The category winners and Grand Prize winner are announced amongst these 20 Global finalists.

A group of students sharing their works

A final word

A grand $50,000 scholarship awaits the winner of the Google Science Fair. Special prize category winners are awarded $15,000 scholarships. Winning entries also get some exciting prizes like a Virgin Galactic’s facilities tour.

However, for Ivy League college aspirants, this competition means much more than a platform for winning prize money. It serves as their launchpad to the college of their dreams. Want your entry to make it to the winning list on the Google Science Fair so that your Ivy League admission is within your reach? Give us a shout out and our specialist consultants will be happy to help you prepare.




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