Young minds shine at Google science competition

July 24, 2012 9:03:33 PM PDT
Some of the world's brightest young minds are in the Bay Area after competing in an international science competition at Google's Mountain View headquarters.

Jonah Kohn is not just any eighth grader. He's a prize-winning scientist -- at the age of 14. His trophy, made of Legos, is for a device that helps people who are deaf or hard of hearing enjoy music through vibrations.

"In essence they said that it has given them the best perception of classical music that they've heard since they lost their hearing," Jonah said.

Jonah won his division in international Google Science Fair. The grand prize winner is 17-year-old Brittany Wenger.

"I'm so excited, it's such a big honor and I just can't even put it into words how much this means to me," Wenger said.

Wenger wrote a computer program that helps doctors diagnose breast cancer using the least invasive type of biopsy.

"If they could be used then it would lead to earlier detection and more people being able to get diagnosed," Wenger said.

It uses artificial intelligence that gets smarter as more doctors use it -- and it's already pretty smart.

"The testing has gone really well; it's deployed to the cloud, so it's accessible to every hospital, millions of hospitals can use it worldwide," Wenger said. "It's also 99.1 percent sensitive to malignancy right now."

The contest brought finalists to the Google campus from all over the world and the judges hope some of their winning innovations could have a worldwide impact.

"Ifelt in many ways like a student of the wonderful students that were here today," Scientific American Editor-In-Chief Mariette DiChristina said.

DiChristina isn't the only judge awed by what teenagers can do.

"Young people are wonderful because they're too young, too young to know you can't do that, so they do it," Google Vice President Vint Cerf said.

Cerf had some of the teens a bit star struck.

"I got to interact with Vint Cerf -- he's the father of the Internet and I'm a computer scientist," Wenger said.

But Cerf says the bright young students are the real stars.

"They are going to solve the problems and the messes that we older folk have left behind and it's a very good thing that they're going to do that because we're going to need help," Cerf said.


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