Pros: Detailed design process and competition inspire kids to look for solutions to today’s challenges.
Cons: Some kids could find the lack of specific direction overwhelming.
Bottom Line: Google Science Fair has tools to help budding researchers across the globe, whether they choose to compete or not.
Teachers can best use Google Science Fair to support students interested in independent research. The time line for the Google Science Fair Competition is tight: Once the deadline is announced, students will only have three months to turn in their projects. You can sign up for email updates so you'll be the first to know about the next round of competition. Keep in mind that kids who have already started their research prior to that announcement are at a distinct advantage. Meanwhile, the site is still highly usable even without the global competition: Use the Idea Springboard to inspire kids for other local science-fair competitions or for classes where students engage in extended research assignments.
Editor's Note: Google Science Fair is no longer available.
Google Science Fair is a global online science competition for high schoolers. Winning entries have a chance to make an actual impact in the world, as with 16-year-old Olivia Hallisey, who discovered a less-expensive way to detect Ebola that doesn't require refrigeration. Looking for exemplars for your own local science fair? Google Science Fair showcases the projects of past finalists to inspire the next group of promising scientists. Struggling to find that great idea? Check out Google Science Fair's Idea Springboard tool.
Students who are innovative and passionate about science will love this opportunity to compete at the international level. Teachers will love that students are designing the investigations themselves. Google Science Fair also provides support tools to help kids get started, such as with the Idea Springboard: Students plug in topics of interest, then choose from a drop-down menu to apply those passions and strengths to a global challenge. From there, Google's search engine spits out some sources to get kids' creative juices flowing. One student typed in "I Love Robots; I'm Good at Building Things; I will try to help my Grandmother," and this led to a project wherein she invented an exoskeletal glove that helps people with arthritis grip things.
Other science-fair sites such as Science Buddies provide directions to science projects that students can adapt to their needs; Google Science Fair stands out because it provides resources to inspire but requires students to design the investigations themselves. Some kids could struggle with this lack of guidance; luckily, graphic organizers and teacher lesson plans are provided to help students learn how to make these connections. Also, keep in mind that the Idea Springboard might connect kids to online resources (such as journal articles from Nature) that cost money to view. Overall, this is an exceptional tool for getting kids actively, enthusiastically engaged in the work of doing science.