Of all the science conferences and think tanks I've attended or presented in around the world, the one I've enjoyed and look forward to most each year is the Google Science Fair. Only here do I really truly get the sense that global scientific cooperation and "moonshot thinking" is not only alive and well -- that human beings really are capable of solving and are willing to cooperatively solve the immense challenges of our century -- but imminently and permanently possible, because only here do we find capacious, dedicated minds convening not just from almost every culture and nation but from almost every AGE GROUP.
At Google Science Fair youth and adults come together to share and celebrate and further solutions of by and for the people.
Only at Google Science Fair, which I have had the honor to judge and attend since its beginning three years ago, do we find this coming together -- a gathering in the service of all humanity and with a focus on the big ideas -- that is without the age bias exclusions that hollow the usual claims we adults make that we are helping to "create a desirable for our children".
At the Google Science Fair we have the privilege to work on creating that future WITH rather than FOR the children who are inheriting our planet. Throughout the weekend we judges find ourselves marveling at the caliber of these teenaged contestants and you hear comments like 'these kids are doing work on a par with Ph.D. students!'. We experience the elation of getting behind really powerful and unobvious solutions that can often only come from those whose youthful naivete about historical failures and disappointments makes them immune to the words "can't be done". For perhaps the first time in history, young boys and girls of a rainbow of hues and backgrounds become our peers each year, joining Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, inventors and leading professionals across disciplines in deep discussions about how we can harness the collective intelligence this creates to truly make a difference. This is light years away from the days of "children should be seen and not heard"!
The Google Science Fair is not a competition in the normal way of high school science fairs, and for that, as a National Geographic Explorer whose greatest joy is working collaboratively with others in our "Nat Geo E-team" to try and make the world better, I am grateful. I have come each year not to pass judgement and pick winners but to celebrate achievements and help young minds hone their skills and take on the Nat Geo challenge of finding common ground and synergies in service to highest principles. The greatest joy I've had is that invariably the youth who come to Google as finalists are already operating on this wavelength, devouring their encounters with one another and the judges and Google team and building life long friendships without jealousy, cheering those to whom we award further prizes with heartfelt joy and promising to stay connected through the social networking that has emerged in their lifetime to change the way we do business.
Google Science Fair is an incredible think tank that recruits dedicated young minds to join our international family of game changers. Through its emphasis on excellence and commitment to seeing 'Science in Action' (which is also another of our award categories), it sharpens the ideas and commitment of the youth who are the heirs and co-creators of our brave new world. As fellow judge and Google X Team Leader Richard DeVaul said to the kids at the awards gala (and to all who were watching around the world, young and old alike) "you are now officially moonshot makers. We need your help... to invent and launch moonshot technologies that will make the world a radically better place".
Google Science Fair has become a ripple generating pond where we get to bring these young innovators and explorers into the family and into humanity's "great conversation" to cast their stones and make waves for the future, and the brilliance, compassion, breathless curiosity, energy, commitment and sincerity they brought this year inspires in me a wave of hope that I ride with excitement back into my own work as a university professor and explorer, knowing that with these kids on our team we really will change the world for the better.