Editor's note: This year, we're celebrating 25 innovative Community Impact student projects across the globe that solve community and health resource challenges with science. While we're featuring the European finalists below, you can read more about all the finalists' projects on the Google EDU blog.
Through the Google Science Fair, we've invited today's brightest young minds to answer an important question: how can they make the world better through science, math, and engineering? We received thousands of extremely impressive answers to this question from over 107 countries this year, and we can’t wait to announce the winners later in September. Before that happens, though, we want to recognize the projects that aim to solve tough community challenges like providing clean drinking water, keeping people safe from natural disasters, and fighting droughts. This year, we'll be giving not just one, but five regional Community Impact Awards: one for each top project that focuses on fixing a difficult resource problem across North America, Latin America, the Middle East & Africa, Asia & the Pacific Islands, and Europe. Please join us and our partners — LEGO Education, Scientific American, National Geographic and Virgin Galactic — in celebrating the European Community Impact Award finalists below:
Ilya (16) began exploring engineering and robotics at a young age in his home city of Moscow, Russia. When he saw a gap in affordable tools for people who are visually-impaired, he began creating a wearable 'radar' accessory that can identify nearby obstacles through vibration signals. After receiving feedback on his initial design from people who were blind or visually-impaired in his community, he created a second, lighter prototype that is even easier to wear. Embedded into a common baseball cap, this system alerts wearers to the specific direction of obstacles within 3.5m using gentle vibrations. This gives the wearer plenty of time to adjust their direction of movement, so they can safely reach their destination. Given its low production cost, Ilya hopes to see his device improve the quality of life for the visually-impaired in his community.
Tarik (17) and Amor (16), of Sarajevo, Bosnia, have seen first hand how massive floods throughout Bosnia in May 2014 caused harmful lead contamination in local soil and drinking water. Eager to find a cost-effective way to create clean water for growing crops using a cheaper material that's also close at hand, the pair discovered that the white mustard plant, which is native to Bosnia and Herzegovina, is especially talented at absorbing lead. The plant is also of course biodegradable, creating a simple and very accessible way for their community to make local water safe again.
A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Esra (13) was concerned about how difficult it can be for locals and visitors to access clean drinking water without worrying about lead contamination in highly industrialized areas. Most visitors are advised to drink bottled water, and to avoid getting tap water in their mouths when taking showers or brushing their teeth! Inspired to create a new filtering solution that can help people avoid this problem, Esra investigated the use of mussel shells as a filtering device. His work showed that mussel shells are ideally suited to absorbing lead from soil and water and plentiful. Luckily, they also cost very little. Esra hopes to introduce this filtering option to his local community to create clean water for everyone.
Alex (18) lives in Athens, Greece. Fascinated by the intersection between robotics, software design, and the internet, he wanted to create the ultimate solution to solving health problems "in the cloud." In thinking about who needs health care the most, he realized that many people can't afford to visit a hospital or are physically too far away to access quality health care. Particularly for critical situations where a patient needs surgical care urgently, Alex wondered: wouldn't the world be a better place if a surgeon could treat their patient safely from thousands of miles away? To solve this, Alex built a robot and manually coded software that could control the robot remotely from any internet-enabled device. Through software and mechanical engineerings, Alex has created a platform that enables medical professionals to help patients wherever they are in the world, at any time.
İlayda (15) and Ezgi (15) live in İzmir, Turkey. The 7.1 earthquake that hit Turkey in 2011 claimed over 600 lives, and local scientists predict that the next decade could bring even more damage as tension continues to build along the North Anatolian Fault line. Given that many of Turkey's buildings are older, scientists have appealed to officials to help the country retrofit its buildings and train city workers to handle a potential earthquake disaster that could claim thousands of lives. Inspired to help, İlayda and Ezgi sought an affordable way to retrofit local buildings in their community with an easily available material: aluminium cans. The pair designed a solution that can be used to fill traditional concrete walls, increasing their ability to absorb impact damage from 32% to 61%. The students look forward to helping their community stay safe should an earthquake happen in the future.
Tune into the Google Science Fair website on July 18th to find out which five young scientists will win their regional Community Impact Award! With the generous support of our partners, winners will receive mentors and scholarships to help them further their education and inspiring projects. To keep an eye on the competition, visit the Google Science Fair site, and follow along on Google+ and Twitter.