February 27, 2015 1:33 pm

Gone are the days of science fairs packed to the brim with baking soda volcanoes and wilting bean sprouts. With technology at their fingertips, kids are creating more innovative science fair projects. Some of these children are even dedicated enough to pursue their project outside of the classroom and put in the research and resources to bring their idea to life.

Lego Braille Printer

Shubham Banerjee wanted to create an affordable printer for the blind. He found with a price tag difference of more than $2000, Braille-compatible printers are not as accessible as standard printers. Banerjee went to work using a Lego robotics kit that cost $350 and created the first model in a month. He wanted the printer to be available to the public, so he shared the plans online. After receiving fan mail from parents of blind children who wanted a printer they could buy from a store, Banerjee built another model, compatible with WiFi and Bluetooth. With the help of Intel, he created a startup business to manufacture the Braille printers. Banerjee’s generosity and hard work has gained him notoriety in the science community.

Algae Biofuel

In eighth grade, Evie Sobczak was inspired to grow algae and turn it into biofuel. She worked on her dream for four years, and entered the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona. Although there were many impressive gadgets and experiments at the competition, Evie was confident because she knew her innovation could be used in the real world. Her project, officially titled Algae to Oil via Photoautotrophic Cultivation and Osmotic Sonication, took first place and best in category. By taking a naturally occurring organism and converting it into fuel which society is so dependent on, Sobczak has made a great contribution to science.

Affordable Space Travel

Rocket fuel is a very limiting factor for space travel. At hundreds of dollars per gallon and a low fuel economy, it is cost prohibitive to explore space without breaking the bank. Erika DeBenedictis discovered a passion for space exploration when she went on a family vacation to Cape Canaveral. Knowing that space travel is limited by fuel, she developed a strategy for more affordable space exploration. DeBenedictis suggested space ships use gravitational fields and the movement of planets to travel though space at a lesser cost. This would be similar to sailboats and rafts using wind and currents to propel themselves. She has since pursued a career in computer science and continues to have a passion for space exploration.

High-Tech Science Fairs

How do kids get involved in these hyper-competitive science fairs? Two of the biggest science fairs are the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), founded in 1950 by the Society for Science & the Public, and the Google Science Fair, which started in 2011. ISEF gives away $5 million dollars in awards and scholarships annually and Google awards winners both cash prizes and scientific experiences to last a lifetime. Both science fairs are incredibly prestigious and many winners and honorable mentions have gone on to pursue engaging scientific careers and make important discoveries. Seven alumni of ISEF have gone on to win Nobel Prizes. ISEF is held annually in May in various United States cities and contestants are selected from regional, district, and state ISEF-affiliated science fairs. Google Science Fair takes place entirely online, with contestants submitting papers, videos, and prototypes for consideration. These science fairs are prestigious and competitive, but can be a catalyst for budding young scientists.

Technology and innovation have given youth a chance to make an impact on the world. Science fairs such as ISEF and Google Science Fair have given brilliant young minds the opportunity to pursue their dreams and delve deep into the world of science.

Categorized in: