Google announced the finalists for its 2013 Science Fair today: 18 teens from eight countries, including Canada, Russia, Singapore, India, Greece, Australia, and Turkey.

And, of course, the USA.

The 18 finalists have been whittled down from thousands of submissions from more than 120 countries, Google said, and represent 15 projects — and nine of these are from girls. All of the students will present their projects at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., on Sept. 23, and the grand prize winners will earn a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic.

And $50,000 in scholarships.

Here’s a brief overview of the 15 teams and their projects, all of whom are just absolutely amazing – it’s almost incredible what smart, motivated kids can do in the fields of science, health, ecology, prosthetics, and programming.

Age 13-14

Alex Spiride (USA): Squid-Jet: Bioinspired Propulsion System for Underwater Vehicles

Venkat Sankar (USA): Ecology or Economy: Managing the Impact of Infrastructure Projects on Endangered Species

The goal of my project is to identify and validate a computer simulation based approach to assess and manage this impact. Using the Panoche Valley Solar Farm project in California and its impact on the endangered giant kangaroo rat population as a real-world case study example, I have been able to validate simulation modeling as a feasible and cost-effective approach to this class of problems.

Kavita Selva (USA): Superconductor Tapes: A Solution to the Rare Earth Shortage Crisis

China, which controls 97 percent of rare-earth production, recently restricted their export to rare-earths. So, there is a world-wide incentive to develop strong magnets containing no or very small amounts of rare-earth materials. I thought of a solution to this problem: Superconductors. Superconductor tapes are made by coating a thin film of superconductor on a metal tape. Only 2% of the tape contains the actual superconductor, and hence a very small amount of rare-earth …

Liza Sosnova and Tina Kabir (Russia): Lyytinen — Universal hydrostatic densitometer

This team worked to solve the problem of designing an easy to use universal instrument which can measure the mass of a body and the density of liquids, bulk solids, and solids.

Viney Kumar (Australia): The PART (Police and Ambulances Regulating Traffic) Program

Age 15-16

Elif Bilgin (Turkey): Going Bananas! Using Banana Peels in the Production of Bioplastic as a Replacement of the Traditional Petroleum Based Plastic

Ann Makosinski (Canada): The Hollow Flashlight

My objective in my project was to create a flashlight that runs solely on the heat of the human hand. Using four Peltier tiles and the temperature difference between the palm of the hand and ambient air, I designed a flashlight that provides bright light without batteries or moving parts. My design is ergonomic, thermodynamically efficient, and only needs a 5 degree temperature difference to work and produce up to 5.4 mW at 5-foot candles of brightness.

Yi Xi Kang, Kwok Ling Yi, and Tricia Lim (Singapore): Efficacy of Estrogens and Progesterone in Hepatic Fibrosuppression

quantum_dot_designValerie Ding (USA): Rapid Quantum Dot Solar Cell Optimization: Integrating Quantum Mechanical Modeling and Novel Solar Absorption Algorithm

This is the first time that anyone has actively combined the physics of quantum mechanical modeling and the earth science of the solar irradiance spectrum on Earth’s surface to develop a novel research method for QDs in solar cell applications. Experimentalists can highly benefit from this work, in that they can now utilize my model to preoptimize QD configurations for best results prior to time-consuming and costly experimentation.

Shrishti Asthana (India): Solar Light Assisted nanoZnO Photo Catalytic Mineralization — The Green Technique for the Degradation of Detergents

Wastewater containing detergent from industrial and domestic source creates huge pollution in our cities. To treat this waste containing detergents is quite difficult since detergents are quite rugged and resistant to degrade. I wish to find out a potential green method to treat this polluted waste.

The advantages of my method are summarized as follows: fast reaction, short treatment time, less costs, less exposure for workers, complete reduction pathway to non-toxic end products is possible and less equipment.

Age 17-18

Charalampos Ioannou (Greece): An Exoskeleton Glove which Enhances and Supports the Movement of the Human Palm

Esha Maiti (USA): Stochastic Monte Carlo Simulations to Determine Breast Cancer Metastasis Rates from Patient Survival Data

The long-term survival chance of cancer patients critically depends on whether the primary tumor has metastasized to vital organs, Since metastasized tumors smaller than size ~10-15 mm cannot be seen with the current medical imaging techniques, I have developed a stochastic Monte Carlo simulation code with the aim of predicting the size and number distribution of metastasized tumors based just on the size of the primary tumor.

Elizabeth Zhao (USA): A Novel Implementation of Image Processing and Machine Learning for Early Diagnosis of Melanoma

Melanoma is one of the most deadly cancers, but when diagnosed early, it can be cured. The purpose of this project was to create an accurate system that allows for early diagnosis. My project utilizes computer-aided analysis of skin lesions based on the ABCD guidelines used by dermatologists. This project consists of the following sections: image capture, pre-processing, edge detection, image segmentation, feature extraction, statistical analysis, and machine learning.

Eric Chen (USA): Computer-aided Discovery of Novel Influenza Endonuclease Inhibitors to Combat Flu Pandemic

I discovered a number of new potent influenza endonuclease inhibitors with diverse structures representing at least five unique classes. Some of them are the most potent endonuclease inhibitors discovered so far, which have great potential to be developed into new anti-influenza drugs.

Vinay Iyengar (USA): Efficient Characteristic 3 Galois Field Operations for Elliptic Curve Cryptographic Applications

My research project was about developing more efficient polynomial arithmetic algorithms for Galois fields of characteristic 3. These mathematical groups are commonly used particularly for elliptic curve cryptography, and efficient polynomial arithmetic algorithms are crucial. Through my research, I was able to develop a new method for this arithmetic that was orders of magnitude faster than the best algorithms previously presented.

One of the finalists has already won a $50,000 scholarship, Google announced. Elif Bilgin, who created a way to make bioplastic from banana peels, has been awarded $50,000 and and a year’s worth of mentoring from Scientific American, which will help her developer her project.

In August, you’ll be able to help select who will win, as Google will open voting for the “Inspired Idea Award” on the Google Science Fair website for the entire month of August.

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