Google is taking science fairs out of high school gyms and onto the Internet.
Entries for the search giant's first science fair competition were due Monday, but instead of spending hours explaining a three-sided poster, scientists ages 13-18 submitted their research using Google-owned products like YouTube, Google Docs, and website-building software Google Sites.
Google accepted entries in 11 scientific disciplines, including science fair standbys like food science and physics, as well as energy and space, inventions and innovation, and behavioral sciences, among others. A spokesperson for the company said tens of thousands of students from more than 160 countries have entered.
Winners will get more than a blue ribbon or a place in a countywide competition. Like similar competitions by Intel Corp. and Siemens AG, major prizes are at stake. The winner will take a trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic and receive a $50,000 scholarship, along with a trip to either the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, Google's Zurich research office, Scientific American's New York office, or an online internship with Lego. Runners-up will win scholarships, trips, and Google swag.
Google asked high school teachers to encourage their students to enter the competition. Students could retool projects already submitted for class or enter independently. Like traditional science fairs, entries will be judged based on the project's real-world relevance and innovation, sound research, and experiment technique. But with the virtual nature of the competition, multimedia presentation and website-building skills will also be considered.
It's a way for Google to make the world's brightest young people use its products as the company, which built its empire upon the success of its search engine, tries to compete with software giants like Microsoft.
Finalists will be posted online starting May 9, when a round of public voting for a "People's Choice" prize starts.