Human Journey

Winners of the 2012 Google Science Fair

The annual Google Science Fair has ended, and the future of innovation has begun.

Far from the stereotypical visions that many people have of standard science fair projects, this contest brings out some of the most creative and forward-thinking projects being undertaken today, by young or old alike.

National Geographic was honored to participate with three Explorers serving as judges: engineer Albert Lin, ocean explorer and conservationist Sylvia Earle, and renewable energy innovator T.H. Culhane all lent their expertise to evaluating the merits of the 15 finalists in this year’s competition. In addition, the grand prize winner will join National Geographic on a journey to the Galápagos Islands. Other prizes include opportunities to work hands-on at CERN, LEGO, and Google, a $50,000 scholarship and more.

The winners themselves tackled a range of issues facing the world today with an inspirational diversity of tactics.

Jonah Kohn, the winner of the 13-14 age group looked not at a global problem, but a very personal one. As a lover of music, he wanted to help enhance the experience of music by people with hearing loss. He did this through designing and building a device which attaches to different parts of a person’s body and translates different frequencies of sound to different degrees of tactile stimulation. With Jonah’s invention people with or without hearing have an entirely new way to experience sound, and to enjoy the creativity and beauty presented by works of music.

In the 15-16 age group, Iván Hervías Rodríguez, Marcos Ochoa, and Sergio Pascual all from Logroño, Spain teamed up to use microscopy to reveal the many creatures that make up “The Hidden Life of Water.” Their goal was to show the many ways these tiny but complex organisms drive entire aquatic ecosystems and how “in an invisible way, their activity and presence in the water also affects our lives.”

Finally, the grand prize winner Brittany Wenger turned her attention to saving lives. Her Global Neural Network Cloud Service for Breast Cancer “successfully detects 99.11% of malignant breast tumors.” Using complex information technology inspired by the way brain cells themselves process data, she’s developed a way to make the least invasive form of testing one of the most accurate.

Grand Prize Winner Brittany Wenger with her commemorative oversized National Geographic Magazine cover.Photo by Emma Conboy.

Back in January, the Google Science Fair kicked off with a simple statement: “Everyone has a question. What’s yours?” Faced with this challenge, Brittany and the other winners, as well as hundreds of other contestants thought hard, asked diverse and interesting questions, and then came up with ingenious ways to solve them. Take a look at the Google Science Fair site and learn about more of them, and don’t let the end of the contest be the end of the bigger quest. Find your question and ask it!







Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.

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