Google Science Fair is one of the biggest science fairs in the world, with a $50,000 scholarship grand prize. For the third year in a row, the winner is a girl: Kiara Nirghin from South Africa! This is also the first year that the majority of finalists were girls. Read on to learn about Kiara, and how you can win, too!
ABOUT THIS YEAR’S WINNER
Kiara lives in South Africa, where farmers are dealing with the worst drought in 30 years. Crops are failing due to lack of water, which creates a food shortage. Kiara’s father encouraged her to help those who can’t help themselves by telling her, “You can get as many A’s in School and University but what matters most is what you do for the man that cannot do for themselves.”
Kiara wanted to help the farmers so started to explore SAPs (Super Absorbent Polymers), which hold water better than regular earth. She found that they all shared a chain molecule called polysaccharide. She discovered that orange peels are composed of 64% polysaccharide. She mixed it with avocado peel, which has oil, and left it in the sun. She found it made an absorbent material kind of like a sponge. When put in the earth near trees and other crops, it would allow the farmers to use less water. The material keeps water in the earth instead of letting it evaporate.
HOW YOU CAN DO IT!
Science fairs are a great addition to your high school transcripts. If you can win a major award like Google Science Fair or Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, you can practically take your pick of colleges, not to mention the scholarship awards!
Google Science Fair vs Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
Are you charismatic and a good public speaker? Do you live near a local fair location, or can you travel there? You may want to enter the Intel competition, where you must submit a project at these actual physical locations, and then move up to a regional competition in Los Angeles, Phoenix, or Pittsburgh.
If you prefer to do things electronically, Google Science Fair might be a better fit for you, which allows you to submit your entire project online.
Tips for a Winning Project
- Start early! Girls should start researching in the summer, or early fall, for projects that are due in the spring
- Find a new idea or concept. The winning projects are not projects that have already been proven. If you find your idea in a book called A+ Science Fair Projects, you’re not going to win. Look at the world around you, look for unsolved problems and think of new ideas.
- Find a mentor: Many winners have parents who are engineers or scientists, but you don’t need that. If you ask a college professor or scientist, they are usually excited to take on a mentor role. You can contact your local science museum or college science department and tell them about your idea, and see if they are willing to look at your work and offer advice. If you tell them that you are motivated and doing this on your own and without help from parents, they may be even more willing to help.