To Innovate

by Sherry Cui googleBack in September, Google announced the winners for the 2013 Google Science Fair. Let’s review a few of the really cool projects that came out of this year’s Science Fair.  These outstanding examples show that age is just a number, that the brains of young scientists are capable of so much. Eric Chen of San Diego Calif., the Global finalist for the 17-18 age group and winner of the Google Science Fair, discovered novel influenza endonuclease inhibitors, compounds which can be used to develop new flu vaccines.  To achieve this, Chen combined computational research with biological assays to screen for potential compounds from a large compound library. Because current influenza vaccines typically target viral structural proteins that have a high mutation rate, resulting in rapid drug-resistance, Chen targeted the PA endonuclease, an enzyme that is highly conserved across influenza strains and is critical for viral propagation.  By inhibiting the PA endonuclease, growth of the virus can also be inhibited.  Furthermore, because the PA endonuclease is found only in viruses, the inhibitors will cause fewer side effects to humans. Ana Mokosinski from Victoria BC, is the Global Finalist from age group 15-16.  She created a flashlight with no moving parts and powered only by the heat from a person’s palm.  The flashlights she constructed were 25mm in diameter and 125 mm long, made up of Peltier tiles mounted on aluminum tubing and placed inside a PVC pipe.  She then mounted a circuit and an LED.  The entire PVC pipe was then wrapped with insulating foam. Essentially, her flashlight only needs a five-degree of temperature differential between the hand and the Peltier tiles to generate 4 to 5 footcandles that lasts over 20-min. Viney Kumar of Australia was visiting India recently when he saw an ambulance stuck in traffic.  This made him worry about the lives that could be lost due to slow emergency response and prompted him to create an early warning system called Police and Ambulances Regulating Traffic (PART).  He learned that sirens are only audible within 100 m or less and that only 26% of the people who hear the sirens can correctly locate which direction the vehicle is coming from.  Kumar theorized that if people could hear the sirens earlier, from a longer distance, they will have more time to react and stay out of the way when emergency vehicles come through.  His solution was to create an Android-GPS wireless application that receives an early-warning and voice signal on a cell phone 800 m ahead.  The application also displays the location of the emergency vehicle and its destination.  For his invention, Kumar was selected as the Global Finalist for his age group 13-14. Elif Bilgin lives in Istanbul, Turkey.  She was chosen as the Global Finalist for the 15-16-year-old category for creating bio-plastics, plastics made from banana peels instead of the traditional petroleum-based plastics. Bilgin learned that the bio-plastic industry commonly uses starch and cellulose, two ingredients found in banana peels.  By placing the banana peels in 0.5% Na2S2Osolution and different concentrations of HCl and NaOH, Bilgin created different quality of plastics. Her work demonstrates that such an easy-to-obtain product has the potential to replace petroleum-based plastics. I hope that these stories have inspired you to create something for your loved ones for Christmas. Invent the perfect tool to help with chores around the house. There’s always a reason to innovate. Check out more amazing projects at

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